The Detroit Red Wings drafted their top goaltending prospect, Sebastian Cossa, with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Level Draft. In fact, general manager Steve Yzerman traded up to assure them of his services. When the trade was announced, many expected (myself included) that the goaltending-needy Red Wings were eying Jesper Wallstedt, who would eventually be selected No. 20th overall by the Minnesota Wild.
Looking back at the trade, Yzerman gave up a ton to acquire Cossa. Detroit sent the Dallas Stars the No. 23 pick in the draft, which turned out to be Wyatt Johnston. Johnston is coming off a breakout season for the Stars, where he played in all 82 regular season games totaling 24 goals and 41 points while maintaining a plus-6 rating.
Detroit also sent Dallas a second-round selection in ’21. With that choice, the Stars picked Artem Grushnikov. The Russian defender spent last season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot-2 defender recorded eight goals and 17 points over 65 games. And the third piece Detroit sent Dallas in the Cossa deal was a fifth-round selection, also in ’21, which turned out to be defenseman Jack Bar. Bar spent the past two seasons playing for Harvard University. The 6-foot-3 defender has totaled one goal and 11 points over the past two years.
Cossa, 20, enjoyed a stellar junior career where he backstopped the Edmonton Oil Kings to a Memorial Cup bid in his final season with the program. During his last season in Edmonton, Cossa started 46 regular season games posting a 33-9-3 record backed by a .913 save percentage and a 2.28 goals-against average. This followed a Covid-shortened season where Cossa appeared in just 19 games but posted video game-like numbers going 17-1-1 with a 1.57 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. You can certainly see why he appealed to the Detroit Red Wings.
I also brought up Wallstedt because Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ($) recently released his ‘Top 10 drafted NHL goalie prospects, summer 2023 edition.’ Wallstedt, again, who Yzerman elected to pass on, headlines the group. Cossa currently ranks fifth in Wheeler’s ranking, and here is part of what he had to say about Detroit’s top goaltending prospect.
Cossa is a huge (6-foot-6), powerful, athletic goalie, and those last two things don’t always come with the first. He’s a fiery, confident, talkative competitor who doesn’t like to get beat (which contrasts with the stoic demeanor we see in many goalies) and wants to command the net and the room.
There are questions about the tools, including some of the trouble he faces closing his five-hole because of his size (this is a major recurring issue, even though he does a really good job kicking pucks aimed for the lower corners) and the way he can occasionally lose himself in his net on scramble plays (those strong pushes to get to tough lateral saves can pull him off his lines). He can get pulled out of his net overcommitting on dekes, too.
I’ve seen him look unflappable and make point-blank save after point-blank save when he’s dialed in. I’ve also seen him look rattled as shots sneak through holes they shouldn’t be finding. I still think he’s got starter upside due to his combination of size, dexterity and explosiveness in the net, but he’s got work to do, and patience will be imperative.
Detroit Red Wings top goaltending prospect Sebastian Cossa is prepared for his next challenge.
That final line really stood out to me. Patience will be imperative. We must constantly be reminded to pump the brakes regarding NHL prospects. It is such a ‘what can you do for me now’ social media-driven world we live in today. Many of us expected Cossa to make a bid for the starting job in Grand Rapids last season, his first year playing professional hockey. He struggled in limited opportunities, with the Griffins posting a 5.57 goals against average and a .783 save percentage in his three chances. Wisely, instead of running the risk of destroying any confidence he may have had, the Detroit Red Wings sent him to Toledo for the season, where he was able to excel. With the Walleye, Cossa posted a 26-16-4 record with a .913 save percentage and 2.56 goals against average.
The top prospect is expected to follow his head coach, Dan Watson, from Toledo to Grand Rapids to begin the 2023-24 season.
Recently Cossa reflected on making the leap from junior hockey to the pros and acknowledged what he needs to work on moving forward as he continues his development.
“I didn’t really know what to expect going down there,” said Cossa, who was Detroit’s 15th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. “It was tougher than what I thought. I had some ups and downs along the way but had a strong second half and a good push in the playoffs there.”
“I’m a big guy,” he said. “Sometimes, I don’t have to be at the top of my crease to make saves. It’s more realizing the game and getting used to that level.”
“Guys are bigger at the pro level and know how to use their body a little bit better,” Cossa said. “In the second half, I started to feel more comfortable and confident in it.”
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