The Buffalo Sabres have drafted and developed a number of youngsters currently playing in the NHL (Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Dylan Cozens), and the club under former GM Jason Botterill and current GM Kevyn Adams have been able to replenish the organization with young prospects. Throughout the month of August and leading into training camp next month, we will rank the club’s top prospects over the upcoming weeks based on their progress in either the NCAA, CHL, Europe, ECHL, or AHL and their potential to make the Sabres roster and make a contribution in the future. Players are eligible for the list if they have not played more than 40 NHL games and are 25 years old or younger:
#26 Tyson Kozak
The Sabres had 11 picks in the 2021 NHL Draft and a number of them are on a longer development path in Europe or the NCAA, but like first-rounder Isak Rosen and second-rounder Aleksandr Kisakov, seven-rounder Tyson Kozak played one more year as an amateur before playing his first professional season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. The 20-year-old scored 29 points with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL in the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season and played only 18 games in 2020-21 before being selected by the Sabres in the seventh round (193rd overall).
Tyson Kozak buries the excellent backhand dish from Isak Rosén to get the Amerks on the board first. pic.twitter.com/AgruXtUntg
— Kris Baker (@SabresProspects) May 6, 2023
Kozak showed significant growth offensively after being drafted, averaging over a point per game (32 goals, 37 assists in 66 games) in 2021-22, but the reason he was able to make an earlier-than-expected jump to the pros was his two-way ability and physicality in spite of being only 5’11” and 173 lb. After signing his entry-level contract last August, the 20-year-old made an impression at the 2022 Prospects Challenge and instead of being sent back for another year of junior, he made the Amerks as a depth player and penalty killer. While his scoring numbers were not spectacular, Kozak was valuable at the defensive end of the ice and contributed two goals in 14 playoff games.
“I’m so impressed by what he’s done over the last four months and how he continues to grow and be a big part of our team,” former Amerks assistant Michael Peca said in a Buffalo News article last May. “When we’re down a goal or up a goal late the game, he’s the first guy over the boards. That’s a massive responsibility for a kid that’s (20 years old) and a first-year pro. … The thing that I’m most proud of, and that I’m most excited about, is that he’s trusting himself. He’s trusting what he sees and he’s not hesitating.”