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Sabres top draft pick Dylan Cozens could miss up to 3 months after surgery

Dylan Cozens' slim chance of making the Buffalo Sabres may be over two months before training camp.

Cozens, the seventh overall pick in the NHL draft last month, underwent "successful" surgery on his left thumb Wednesday and is expected to need two to three months to recover, the Sabres announced Friday.

That timeline makes the 18-year-old center questionable to participate in the start of Sabres training camp and likely further decreases his odds of making the NHL roster. Following Cozens' selection at the draft in Vancouver, General Manager Jason Botterill told the media Cozens would likely need one more junior season before earning a full-time role in Buffalo.

The injury occurred on the final day of Sabres development camp June 29, when Cozens was upended by defenseman Brandon Hickey during his team's first game in the 3-on-3 French Connection Tournament. Cozens took off his glove, revealing his thumb in an unnatural position before leaving for the dressing room in Harborcenter.

Cozens, who was ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the fifth-best North American skater in the draft, scored 34 goals among 84 points in 68 games for the Western Hockey League's Lethbridge Hurricanes last season, tied for 10th in the league.

He became the first player from Yukon to be selected in the first round of the NHL draft and could become only the third player in Yukon to appear in an NHL game. The others are Peter Sturgeon (six games from 1979 to 1981) and Bryon Baltimore (two games in 1979-80).

The injury won't prevent Cozens from skating for the duration of summer, however, his surgically repaired thumb could limit his on- and off-ice workouts. He will also miss this summer's World Junior Summer Showcase, a tournament showcasing some of the world's top junior players, but should be able to represent Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship this winter.

Lethbridge opens the season Sept. 20, and the Sabres play their first preseason game Sept. 16 against Pittsburgh in State College, Pa.

Although Cozens was a long shot to make the Sabres' roster, the injury could force Botterill to add another center this offseason. The team signed forward Curtis Lazar to provide depth at the position, but otherwise the position has not been addressed.

Lazar, Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt and Vladimir Sobotka are the only centers currently under an NHL contract for next season, although Evan Rodrigues and Johan Larsson are expected to be re-signed as restricted free agents. Additionally, Zemgus Girgensons can play center.

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