Whitehorse teen to play in first WHL games this weekend

15-year-old Dylan Cozens will play in two exhibition games against the Medicine Hat Tigers for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

15-year-old Dylan Cozens will play in 2 exhibition games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes

Dylan Cozens, at the Lethbridge Hurricanes camp this past week, will be playing in two exhibition games against Medicine Hat this weekend. (Lethbridge Hurricanes)

Whitehorse teen Dylan Cozens is playing his first games in the Western Hockey League this weekend.

He made history this spring when he was drafted in the WHL bantam draft by the Lethbridge Hurricanes, becoming the first Yukoner ever picked in the first round.

Cozens has been at the Hurricanes' training camp for the past week. He'll play with the team this weekend when it takes on the Medicine Hat Tigers in exhibition games Friday and Saturday.

"I'm really looking forward to that, it's going to be a super high-tempo game with a lot of big, strong guys," said the 15-year-old forward, who stands six feet, two inches tall. 

Cozens will return to Abbotsford, B.C., after the games, where he's enrolled in the Yale Hockey Academy.

General Manager Peter Anholt says Cozens has made a good first impression at the camp. (Lethbridge Hurricanes)

The general manager of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Peter Anholt, said Cozens is eligible to play up to five regular season games this winter with the team and then in the playoffs. He could be chosen as a full-time team member next fall.

Cozens has done well at the camp, Anholt said.

"You only really have one chance to make a first impression, which is something that he's done very well at this point. He's very, very astute, he listens, he's coachable, so those are important things for us," said Anholt.

He said Cozens will play a full set of shifts during the games this weekend, but he has to "earn his ice time."

It's really up to the player, says GM

"It's important for them to be self-starters, they have to push themselves both on and off the ice," said Anholt.

"You know, we aid them as best we can by talking to them, by working with them as best we can, but really it's up to the player, and I think we've seen that over the years and I think that's where we're happy with what we have in Dylan because we believe that he's going to be a real determined player for us."

Cozens said he was able to ease into the training camp by attending the rookie camp and then joining the full team for the main camp. It's everything he hoped it would be, he said.

Cozens goes in on the net at the Hurricanes camp in Lethbridge. (Lethbridge Hurricanes)

"The way everything's worked out, what the way the rink is like, all the players, the veterans," said Cozens.

Cozens and his parents also learned more about Lethbridge in anticipation of his being chosen for the team next year.

He said it will be a nice place to live.

Anholt said the team is an important part of life in the southern Alberta community of almost 100,000 people.

"It's really the only game in town. Major junior hockey is a big business. On some nights we'll draw 5,000 people," Anholt said.

"The kids are asked to do lots of community work around the community and it's a very important part of our community. You know our budget is a $3 million budget and it's a big, big part of the Lethbridge fabric."