Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman knows firsthand how much difference a highly ranked goaltender can make — and it has been on display during the semifinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Vegas Golden Knights and New York Islanders all boast goalies drafted in the first round. Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury was the No. 1 pick in 2003 (by Pittsburgh), and Montreal’s Carey Price was selected No. 5 overall in 2005. New York’s Semyon Varlamov was drafted at No. 23 in 2006, and Andrei Vasilevskiy was selected at No. 19 in 2012 — with a pick Yzerman, then GM of the Lightning, acquired from the Wings at that year’s trade deadline.
The Wings, who still had Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on the roster, needed help on the blue line, and GM Ken Holland executed a three-team trade that sent veteran defenseman Kyle Quincey to the Wings and, eventually, a future Stanley Cup champion and franchise goaltender to the Lightning.
Now Yzerman is approaching his third draft as GM of the Wings, and he needs a goaltender for the rebuild’s future. The first round of the draft is July 23, and Yzerman holds two picks — the Wings’ own, at No. 6, and the one he acquired from the Washington Capitals in the Anthony Mantha trade, at No. 22. So let’s take a look at a pair of first-round candidates in net for the Wings, as part of an ongoing series on possible first-rounders at all positions.
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At No. 6: Jesper Wallstedt
Size: 6-feet-3, 214 pounds
2020-21: Posted a 12-10-0 record with a 2.23 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 22 regular-season games for Lulea HF in the Swedish Hockey League, plus a 3.36 GAA and .871 save percentage in two playoff games. Played two games for Sweden at the World Juniors, posting a 2.40 GAA and .923 save percentage.
The buzz: The 18-year-old impresses with his ability to not allow rebounds, but has good control when he does give up a second chance. He’s a strong skater who isn’t afraid to challenge shooters, and he uses his size effectively to limit options for shooters. Handles the puck well, making swift and accurate passes to teammates. Plays with poise beyond that of a teenager.
Why he makes sense: He’s only a teenager but already shows the ability to move on quickly from a bad game. He’s a standout puck handler, a huge plus in a goaltender in today’s NHL.
At No. 22: Sebastian Cossa
Size: 6-feet-6, 210 pounds.
2020-21: Posted a 17-1-1 record with a `1.57 GAA and .941 save percentage in 19 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League,
The buzz: The 18-year-old is an athletic goalie who moves quickly from side to side and from butterfly position to standing up. By size alone, he doesn’t give opponents much net to shoot at — even while down in the butterfly pose, his shoulders still reach the crossbar. Good at getting to pucks behind his net and passing to his teammates.
Why he makes sense: Cossa boasts enviable size, skill and athleticism. He played 33 games for the Oil Kings in 2019-20, posting a .921 save percentage and 2.23 GAA. The pandemic denied him a shot at playoff hockey the past two seasons, but that should change next year. He projects to compete for Team Canada at the World Juniors next season. He’ll need time to work on his game, but Cossa could be a potential franchise goaltender.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.