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Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens wins gold with Canada at world juniors

Dylan Cozens will have a gold medal to his name when he eventually joins the Buffalo Sabres.

Cozens, who was drafted seventh overall in June, scored the first of four goals for Canada in a 4-3 gold-medal win over Russia on Sunday at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Cozens scored his second goal of the tournament with 8:58 remaining in the second period to tie the score, 1-1, and he was on the ice in the final moments to help Canada clinch its second gold medal in three years. The 18-year-old finished the tournament with nine points in seven games.

Canada scored three unanswered goals in the third period, capped by Akil Thomas flipping a loose puck into the net with 3:47 remaining in regulation. Connor McMichael and Barrett Hayton also scored for Canada, which won its final five tournament games.

Canadian forward Alexis Lafreniere, the projected first overall draft pick in the next NHL draft, was voted by the media as the tournament's most valuable player.

This was the opportunity the Sabres envisioned when they assigned Cozens to the Western Hockey League's Lethbridge Hurricanes near the conclusion of training camp in September. He had a top-six and power-play role with Canada, and he scored on the man advantage Sunday by capitalizing on a rebound off Lafreniere's shot from the point.

 

Cozens left the game late in the second period after blocking a shot with his knee, however, he returned to help Canada rally from a two-goal deficit. He tied for the team lead with five shots on goal in 17:24 of ice time against Russia. In addition to his performance at world juniors, Cozens has 20 goals among 46 points in 30 games with Lethbridge this season.

The Sabres' top pick in the most recent draft pushed for a roster spot during his first NHL training camp in Buffalo after he had surgery on his thumb in June. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the team in July.

Fellow Sabres prospect Erik Portillo, a 19-year-old goalie, won a bronze medal with Sweden, though he did not appear in a game. Portillo did not dress for Sweden's 3-2 win over Finland in the consolation game on Sunday. Defenseman Mattias Samuelsson (United States) and forward Matej Pekar (Czech Republic) did not medal.

This was the second consecutive year a Sabres prospect won a gold medal at the event. Goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and defenseman Oskari Laaksonen accomplished the feat with Finland last January.

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