Red Wings being patient with goaltending prospect Sebastian Cossa

Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings are likely going to be searching for a goaltender to tandem with Alex Nedeljkovic.

Sebastian Cossa, the Wings’ second first-round pick last summer, 15th overall — after the Wings moved up from 23rd in a trade with Dallas —  continues to get closer to the NHL.

But it’s still going to take time.

Particularly for a hockey goaltender, the transition to professional hockey — and especially into the NHL — is a major step for a young player.

“Is he ready to play in the NHL next year? Today, I’d have to say no,” general manager Steve Yzerman said during his end-of-season media conference. “He’s a ways away. To manage the expectation of him, he’s on a very good team in Edmonton in the Western League. I’m following their playoffs closely, and for the most part, he’s had a pretty good year.

“Selfishly, I’m hoping his team goes very far. That would be great experience for him.”

The pressure of competing in the playoffs, and for one of the favored teams in the tournament, would likely go a long way in terms of Cossa’s development.

Thus far in the playoffs, Cossa is carrying over his success. Cossa is 13-2 with a 2.11 GAA and .906 SVS, leading Edmonton into the Western Hockey League championship against Seattle.

The best-of-seven series is tied, 1-1.

Cossa had another tremendous season playing junior for Edmonton in the WHL. Cossa was 33-9-3 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.

“He’s had a pretty good year,” Yzerman said.

It’s not that Cossa isn’t talented or athletic enough. But playing such a demanding position, particularly mentally, and the pressure associated with the position, is a lot to ask of anyone.

Particularly a 19-year-old like Cossa, who has to yet to play one minute of professional hockey.

“He’s a good young prospect (but) that’s a tough position (goaltending), as we all know,” Yzerman said. “Not that I want to rush anybody, (but) I’m definitely not going to rush a goaltender. I’m just going to let his play determine at what level he’ll play at, even next year for that matter.”

Goaltenders are rarely rushed to the NHL. Most, generally, need several years of seasoning in the American League before getting an opportunity in the NHL, learning to deal with professional hockey, the quality of shooters, but mostly, dealing with the pressure and expectations of the unique position.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Cossa was regarded as one of the top two goaltending prospects in the 2021 draft class. The Wings, in need of having a prime prospect at the position, were agreeable to moving up in the draft to snare the athletic, rangy Cossa.

Cossa was coming off a pandemic-shortened season in which he was 17-1-1, with a .941 save percentage for Edmonton. If the Wings weren’t going to pick Cossa, some other team likely would have, in that 15-25 range of the first round.

Drafting Cossa was vital, in that the Wings remain a bit unsettled at the goaltending position.

At the NHL level, Alex Nedeljkovic has one year left on his contract ($3 million salary-cap charge), and he showed enough potential this season, after being acquired in a trade with Carolina, to be a part of the Wings’ future for the foreseeable future.

But Thomas Greiss, an unrestricted free agent, is likely to not be re-signed after a disappointing season, and there’s little depth at the minor-league level with Calvin Pickard, Victor Brattstrom and Kaden Fulcher all unrestricted free agents and their future in the organization unsettled.

Cossa, who signed a three-year entry-level contract last summer, is likely to begin his pro career in October with Grand Rapids.

“Where he plays next year, we won’t determine that until the offseason,” Yzerman said. “I don’t expect to see him at the NHL level next year at all. To the extent when (we do), I really have no idea at this point.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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