Red Wings Prospect Rankings: #5 Sebastian Cossa

The Hockey Writers

Sebastian Cossa is a polarizing figure in the Detroit Red Wings’ prospect pool. Most rebuilding teams need to find a top goaltending prospect who turns into a great NHL goalie, and Cossa was the team’s first attempt at filling that role during the Steve Yzerman era. Whether it’s fair or not, his NHL story will always be defined by Detroit’s decision to trade up in the 2021 Draft to select him rather than Jesper Wallstedt. 

Sebastian Cossa Detroit Red Wings
Sebastian Cossa, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Cossa is a massive goaltender with the height and athleticism to succeed in the NHL. He has come a long way since being drafted but there’s still a lot of work ahead for Cossa if he wants to be a good starting goalie in the NHL. While his development is still very much in progress, I am still a big believer in Cossa’s talent and I think he will become a great goalie in his prime years.

Scouting Report

Cossa has excellent physical traits for a pro goalie prospect, standing at 6-foot-6 and with a level of explosive strength in his lower body that’s not common for someone of his size. He’s also a fierce competitor who hates getting beat and it’s not uncommon to see him trash talking opposing forwards during stoppages and even sometimes during the play.

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A lot of young goalies with similar size to Cossa struggle to change directions quickly either after making a save or while following a lateral pass, but Cossa excels in that area. He also has great hands which allow him to make lots of saves on reflexes alone. There are games where he looks absolutely locked in and nearly unbeatable, patiently awaiting shots and making tough lateral saves look routine.

However, Cossa also has games where the confidence and poise aren’t there at all and he lets goals in that he clearly shouldn’t. Cossa is great at out-waiting shooters but he has a tendency to bite too early on dekes, putting him way out of position and making his job a lot more difficult. He also struggles to close his five-hole quickly because of his long legs, and that has been a common issue for him in the last few years across a variety of leagues. 

Draft Year

Cossa’s draft season was phenomenal and was a huge reason why he rose not only into the first round of the 2021 Draft, but all the way to the 15th overall selection. The 2020-21 WHL season was the strange COVID-shortened year that saw each team play only 24 regular season games and Cossa was a dominant force in that short season. He finished with a 17-1-1 record to go with a .941 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.57 goals against average (GAA). 

This wasn’t simply a flash-in-the-pan either, he had a 21-6-3 record the year before as well so his excellent performance in his draft year was more of a confirmation of his greatness than a surprise. Obviously the Edmonton Oil Kings were an excellent team around Cossa, but he was a huge reason for their success, leading the WHL in SV% and GAA. 

Cossa followed up his draft year with another great WHL season which he capped off with a remarkable run through the playoffs, leading the Oil Kings to the WHL championship. He was named a first team All-star for the WHL’s Central division and was ready to take on the world of professional hockey.

The 2022-23 season was an interesting one for Cossa, as he spent the majority of the season in the ECHL, a rather unusual place for high-end goalie prospects to play due to the league’s reputation for being hard on goalies as a result of poor defensive structure. Cossa started off rocky in pro hockey but really came into his own as the year went on. 

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Cossa was even named ECHL goalie of the month in March with a 6-1-1 record, 1.73 GAA, and a .944 SV%. He finished the year tied for the second-most wins in the league (26) and had the second most shutouts as well (4). By the end of the season it became clear that his time in the ECHL is almost certainly complete and he is ready for a new challenge.

What’s Next for Cossa

The apparent plan for Cossa at this point is for him to play in the AHL for the entire 2023-24 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Red Wings added both James Reimer and Alex Lyon in free agency with the hopes that one of them could be the NHL backup while the other is capable of holding down the starting goaltender spot in the AHL to allow Cossa to ease into a tougher league.

I expect Cossa to be a full-time backup for the Griffins this year, with Lyon being the most likely to make it through waivers and into the AHL in my opinion. Lyon could handle a heavy workload in the AHL if Cossa needs breaks but could also shift into more of a tandem goaltender role if Cossa adapts to the AHL game quickly.

When Could Cossa be in Detroit?

If the hope is for Cossa to be a backup in the AHL this season, then I’d expect him to be at least a tandem goalie the year after. Personally, I wouldn’t make him a full-time NHL goalie until he has had at least a full year of good-to-great play as a starter in the AHL so I expect he’ll play at least two but maybe three more seasons in the AHL before making the Red Wings full-time. 

Sebastian Cossa Edmonton Oil Kings
Sebastian Cossa of the Edmonton Oil Kings (Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

I think there’s a chance he gets games in the NHL as the third stringer as soon as the 2024-25 season but I don’t expect him to be a regular until at least the 2025-26 season. Ville Husso’s current contract expires following the 2024-25 season but I don’t expect they’ll rush Cossa to the NHL immediately following that unless he has shown that he can handle it yet.

Bottom Line

Goaltenders are the truest test of patience in the hockey world, for team executives, coaches, development staffs, and fans. It has only been two years since Cossa was drafted in the first round and the fans deciding that Cossa is a bust are already getting pretty loud. The rule of thumb around high-end goalie prospects is that they take at least five years to develop into good NHL goalies and it seems like lots of people have already given up on Cossa in only two years.

I’d caution against pure pessimism here because, although he has already taken a pretty unorthodox route from junior hockey to the pro level, Cossa hasn’t lost anything that made him great and is making steps in the right direction. Maybe Red Wings fans have been spoiled a little bit lately with both Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond arriving in the NHL as serious contributors quicker than most prospects, but patience is going to be the name of the game for Cossa going forward.

I believe Cossa will be a good starting goalie in the NHL and his massive frame coupled with the athleticism he has shown in the ECHL tells me that he has the potential to be a whole lot more than “good”. It will take time and so all we can do for now is wait.

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