Detroit — Sebastian Cossa has two simple goals.
The first, like many athletes, is to win. The second is to do it at the highest level he’s capable of reaching.
Cossa was selected 15th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, and just wrapped up his first full season in the Western Hockey League, a junior league that features teams from both the United States and Canada.
The Edmonton Oil Kings, who Cossa played for last season, won the league and advanced to The Memorial Cup. They were eventually knocked out in the four-team, round-robin tournament, but not before the 19-year-old goalie got some valuable experience.
Cossa went 33-9-3 with a 2.28 goals-against average and had a .913 save percentage.
The conversation hasn’t happened yet, but a potential promotion to the American Hockey League to play for the Grand Rapids Griffins, an affiliate of the Wings, could be on the horizon.
Getting bumped up to the AHL would allow Cossa to get see first professional action.
Cossa, who is one of 39 players participating in development camp with the Red Wings, said he anticipates the discussion about where he’s going to play next season will be had in the next couple of weeks.
“I put a lot of work into my game, so I’m very confident in myself and in my game,” he said Monday. “I’ve already proven to myself (who I am), so it’s just now going out there and showing it and playing my game.”
Cossa stands 6-foot-6, and that large frame coupled with his ability to move and track the puck gives him a unique skillset the Wings clearly valued. Not only did they spend a first-round pick on him, but they traded up eight spots to do it.
Detroit also made him the first goalie taken off the board in 2021, picking him over Jesper Wallstedt, who the Minnesota Wild selected 20th overall.
The Wings invested in their potential goaltender of the future, and now that they have him in the building, they want him to stay. Cossa said he, along with some other prospects, plan to stay in Detroit and work with the Wings for a few weeks after development camp ends.
“They suggested it, and I’d love to stay here,” Cossa said. “It’s top-class coaches and trainers here.”
The run Edmonton went on, winning the club’s first championship since 2014, gave Cossa some exposure to playoff hockey, but beyond that, Cossa also saw what a grueling season looks like.
“(I learned) how to take care of my body,” he said. “We got lucky with the first couple rounds being sweeps, but other than that, the last couple rounds and going into Memorial Cup, obviously your body is beat up.”
Nutrition is half the battle when it comes to taking care of the body, and Lisa McDowell, the team dietician, has been a valuable resource.
“You learn a lot. I think Lisa has been doing a really good job of that since I’ve gotten drafted,” Cossa said. “I’ve also done a good job throughout my life of just being aware of what’s good to eat and what not to eat. At the end of the day, your body is your money maker and you’ve got to take care of it.”
Hearing that level of maturity and self-awareness must be a welcome sight for the Wings, who Cossa said gave him his space during this past season with Edmonton.
It wasn’t total radio silence, though, as former goalie Phil Osaer, who is now in a developmental role with Detroit, would periodically visit Cossa.
“(Osaer) was coming up to Edmonton to help me every once in a while, probably once a month,” Cossa said. “Him coming up was great, but I think they tried to keep their distance a bit and let me play my game. So, not too much contact during the season, but obviously (we’re) talking more now in the summer.”
Dan Cleary, the director of player development, made it clear on day one of the development camp that the week was about education, not evaluation.
However, that isn’t stopping Cossa from letting the competitive juices flow a little bit. He said he doesn’t like letting the puck get past him in any situation, no matter the setting. He also noted a goal of his this week was to build some relationships within the organization, as well as to get just get better as a hockey player.
It’s up in the air where Cossa will play next season, but that’s out of his control, and he’s not going to let it stop him from chasing goals, even if that means staying in the WHL.
“I’ve won the league in the Western Hockey League, but we came up short there at the Memorial Cup,” he said. “No matter where I play, there’s time for me to prove myself, and I want to win. Whatever level I’m at, when I’m playing the games, I’m very competitive.
“I just want to win.”