Sabres No. 1 draft pick Dylan Cozens appeared to be a long shot to be around come September after having surgery to repair the thumb he injured during the team's 3-on-3 tournament that closed development camp in June.
Not so fast. Even though his recovery time was listed as two to three months, Cozens has been back on the ice at Harborcenter and isn't ruling out the Prospects Challenge and training camp. That means he's also not ruling out a legitimate chance to make the NHL this season.
"I was able to get out there and feel the puck a bit, and I was able to rip it as hard as I normally can," Cozens told NHL.com Sunday during the NHLPA Rookie Showcase at the Washington Capitals' training complex in Arlington, Va. "I'm not fully cleared yet, but I hope to be as soon as possible. There's no rushing things. I don't want to rush it. But right now, I can shoot.
"I want to be cleared for that (Prospects Challenge) and I'm optimistic for that. I feel like I have a good chance of being ready for that, but you never know. We'll see by then."
The Prospects Challenge starts Sept. 6 in Harborcenter with the Sabres meeting New Jersey, which will field a roster featuring No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes. Buffalo then meets Boston on Sept. 7 and Pittsburgh on Sept. 9. Main camp starts later that week, and the Sabres open preseason Sept. 16 against the Penguins at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena.
"I believe I do have a shot at making the team," Cozens said. "Obviously not too many 18-year-olds make it, but I feel I have the size, I have the skating, I have the strength to be a guy who can step in at a young age. Obviously, I want to play when I'm ready and if they think I need another year to develop then I'll be happy with that."
As an 18-year-old Canadian junior, Cozens cannot go to Rochester. He would either make the Buffalo roster or go back to Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League.
Cozens has been working out with goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who is recovering from double hip surgery he underwent in April. Luukkonen, expected to be the starter this season in Rochester, told the league website he doesn't know if he will be ready for training camp. He is doing goalie-specific drills.
"It's just for now going on the limits of my own comfort and not to push it too much," Luukkonen said. "It's been good."