BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres have assigned their 2019 NHL first-round draft pick to his junior team.

Forward Dylan Cozens will return to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the WHL.

Cozens had to have surgery in July following a thumb injury during the Sabres' development camp, but returned to play in the prospects challenge and three Sabres preseason games.

The Sabres could have given Cozens a nine-game NHL tryout before his entry level deal kicked in with a tenth game but head coach Ralph Krueger said they felt it was best to send him back to the Western Hockey League now. 

"We are just very confident that this is the right move for Dylan and his future and I am excited about coaching him again in the near future. It's maybe some pain for him at the moment but there's a pace and there's an intensity to a National Hockey League season that we just didn't feel he was quite ready for," Krueger said on Thursday after practice. 

The 18-year-old center was selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the draft.

"His speed is top notch. There's an acceleration there and a gear that you only see in the elite players in the National Hockey League but he's got the skills that can carry that speed into the offense. He's responsible and aware of what he needs to do without the puck to be an NHL centerman," Krueger explained. 

Jeff Skinner echoed those comments. 

"The first thing that stands out his is speed. For a guy that age to move as well as he does at that size is pretty impressive," Skinner said.

Cozens is expected to play for Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic that gets underway in late December. 

"He's going to be a fun player to watch I think for a long time," Skinner said. 

The Sabres now have one more preseason game on Saturday before the regular season starts on Thursday, October 3rd in Pittsburgh.