The Buffalo Sabres are just over the one-quarter mark of the season, and two skaters have drifted in polar opposite directions.
Buffalo Sabres forwards Casey Mittelstadt and Dylan Cozens enjoyed what you could call breakout seasons last year. Cozens’ efforts earned him a seven-year contract extension and he ended the year with 68 points, 31 goals, and 37 assists. But this season, the Workhorse from Whitehorse has been nowhere near as productive offensively, snagging just nine points in 20 games.
Do the math, and Cozens is on pace for a measly 36 points this season, which is a letdown considering how well he played in seemingly every game last year. He also has an astounding 15 giveaways, which is just five less than he had in 81 games in 2022-23, putting him on pace for 60 this season.
If there is any upside to Cozens’ game in 2023-24, you can look to the Sabres on-ice save percentage when he’s out there in at 5-on-5, where the team’s on-ice save percentage sits at 90.8. But for the time being, Cozens has taken a substantial step back, so we’ll see if he can rebound during the second quarter.
Buffalo Sabres once again proving they were right all along with Mittelstadt
What if someone said in November 2022 that Casey Mittelstadt would be leading the Sabres in points on a near points-per-game basis 12 months later? Nobody would have believed them, but here we stand as November 2023 reaches its twilight and Mittelstadt has 20 points, four goals, and 16 assists.
He’s still on pace to play in 82 games, meaning he is also setting himself up to score between 74 and 75 points this season. An incredible number if you put things into perspective, and it once again shows how far the former first-round pick has come.
Mittelstadt still struggles with turning the puck over at times and often makes the ill-fated pass in the offensive zone when he should take a shot. But he also has 17 takeaways, putting him on pace to snag roughly 68 this season, and at 5-on-5, the Buffalo Sabres on-ice shooting percentage with Mittelstadt in the game sits at 14.3 percent.
If Cozens can turn things around, the Blue and Gold will inch one step closer to rediscovering what made them so formidable offensively last season. And if Mittelstadt keeps going what he’s been doing for the most part, he will warrant serious consideration for the 2024 All-Star Game.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)