Welcome to our annual 31-in-31 Summer Series here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft, notes from their development camp, and insights into their off-season moves so far. Following this up, the August 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check in often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all summer long!
The Buffalo Sabres only had six draft picks at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, but Sabres general manger Jason Botterill vastly improved his farm system. He originally had a few more picks, but he used them as bait to move up in the draft to snag prospects that his scouts were incredibly high on. The Sabres had an extra first round pick from the Ryan O’Reilly trade with the St. Louis Blues, but they didn’t have a second round pick as it was included in the Jeff Skinner trade with the Carolina Hurricanes. But, as I mentioned above, they had a bunch of late round picks that they were able to use to move up in the draft board.
The Buffalo Sabres aren’t shy about taking big-bodied centremen in the draft. In the past, the Sabres have selected Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt (while Eichel pre-dated Botterill’s time in Buffalo, he did draft Mittelstadt). Botterill loves his strong-built centremen and he decided to grab another one in Cozens.
Early last season, Cozens was high up on draft boards. There were a few analysts that felt that Cozens’ skill-set was worthy of him being selected top-five. However, a few forwards such as Alex Turcotte had their stock rise over the course of the year and Cozens began to fall in the rankings as a result. With Cozens coming to the Sabres, Buffalo can have three outstanding lines. Cozens will make his line-mates more efficient and he’ll take the pressure off of Mittelstadt and Eichel. He’ll be an asset on the power-play and could potentially use his big-body to frustrate goaltenders by eliminating their sight lines.
Unfortunately, Cozens suffered a thumb injury at Sabres’ development camp. He recently had surgery and will be on the shelf for the next two to three months. With that being said, there is a chance that Cozens might miss rookie camp and training camp. If he does miss both camps, Sabres fans shouldn’t be overly concerned. He’s bound to spend more time in the WHL with the Lethbridge Hurricanes anyway. There is no need to rush Cozens. He’ll be a dynamic two-way centre at the NHL level soon enough, but he could definitely benefit from additional time in the WHL.
Round 1, 31st overall: Ryan Johnson, D
After Rasmus Dahlin and Lawrence Pilut, the Sabres don’t have a ton of left handed defensive prospects with a high NHL certainty. John Gilmour and Mattias Samuelsson have a great chance of cracking the Sabres’ lineup down the road, but it’s always good to add more talented left handed defensemen to your system.
Johnson is a great two-way defenseman who is coming off of a strong season with the Sioux Falls Stampede and is ready for his first season with the University of Minnesota. Throughout last season, he showed that he’s a fantastic defensive-minded left hander, who possesses great skating and edge-work. Johnson has solid speed and is always looking for the optimal poke check in the defensive zone. He’s by no means a puck-carrying defenseman. Johnson often relies on his defensive line-mate to get the puck up the ice, but he does showcase strong stay at home defensive qualities and can be lethal in the offensive zone.
As mentioned previously, he’ll be playing for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers next season. Johnson might end up playing on his wrong side in Minnesota as the Golden Gophers don’t have a ton of right handed defensemen. If that’s the case, the Golden Gophers could line him up with Jackson LaCombe, Anaheim Ducks defensive prospect. LaCombe and Johnson could be special together and could be a great combo.