Red Wings’ 3 Most Improved Prospects of 2023-24 Season

The Hockey Writers

Even though the Detroit Red Wings finished a point shy of making the playoffs this season, their top priority is still the growth and development of their young players and prospects. The “Yzerplan” – the name fans have given the team’s rebuild under general manager Steve Yzerman – has always been about drafting and developing, and any team that has recently been through a rebuild will tell you that development is the most important part of that plan.

To this point in their rebuild, the Red Wings have generally been lucky as most of their young players and prospects have progressed over the years, though some have grown more than others. Development is rarely linear; you should expect bumps along the road as young players acclimate not only to the level of competition, but to life as a professional hockey player as well.

This season, the Red Wings enjoyed growth and improvement from several of their prospects. However, the three prospects on this list stood out the most in terms of how much they progressed as well as how important their progression is to the Red Wings organization. From a player that put his name on the map to one that reestablished himself, these are the Red Wings’ most improved prospects of the 2023-24 season.

(G) Sebastian Cossa

Starting off with the most consequential prospect mentioned here, Sebastian Cossa was the 15th pick of the 2021 draft and is largely considered to be the Red Wings’ goalie of the future. But after a couple of so-so seasons following his draft season, folks seem to be back on board with him as a prospect following his first full season in the American Hockey League (AHL).

After spending most of the 2022-23 season in the ECHL, Cossa proved to be up to the challenge the AHL posed this season. Through 40 appearances in the regular season, he had a 22-9-9 record, two shutouts, a .913 save-percentage (SV%), and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.41. After spending most of the season in a tandem with veteran Michael Hutchinson, Cossa was the go-to guy down the stretch and into the playoffs for the Grand Rapids Griffins. In nine playoff appearances, he had a 5-4 record, a .900 SV% and a 2.72 GAA.

Sebastian Cossa Grand Rapids Griffins
Sebastian Cossa, Grand Rapids Griffins (Jonathan Kozub / Manitoba Moose)

Though the chatter around Cossa is mostly positive, it is important to remember that that was not necessarily the case at the start of the season. Some pointed out that high-end goaltenders rarely spend time in the ECHL, let alone a whole season. He wasn’t exactly impressive at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament and throughout training camp either. Over the course of this season, however, he managed to completely shift the narrative. While his success as an NHL goaltender is still far from guaranteed, Cossa has reasserted himself as one of the best goalie prospects in the world. Depending on how things go, he may get his first taste of NHL action next season.

(W) Emmitt Finnie

Perhaps the most surprising name to appear on this list, Emmitt Finnie was a seventh round pick, 201st overall, in last year’s draft. But the young forward had such a strong season with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League (WHL) that he was rewarded with an entry-level contract with the Red Wings in late March.

As an alternate captain with the Blazers, Finnie showed the ability to translate a strong forecheck into offense this season. In 62 games, he led his team in both goals (19, 3-way tie) and points (59), and he excelled at frustrating his opponents with his speed and persistent puck pursuit. After a successful season in the WHL, he appeared in three AHL games with the Griffins late in the season.

Related: Griffins Notebook: End of Season, 2024-25 Outlook & More

In his draft season, Finnie had just nine goals and 35 points in 64 games. The tools were there – his tenacity isn’t something that appeared after the summer – but he wasn’t able to translate his efforts into offense. He looked overmatched at times, though the Blazers unfortunately haven’t had an abundance of talent in his time with the team. If anything, his ascension this season only stokes the imagination of what he could be capable of alongside a more talented group of teammates – with all due respect to the young men he played with this season.

Finnie’s successes this season officially put him on the map in terms of the Red Wings’ prospect pool. The organization gave him his first contract – the first vote of confidence a team can give a prospect – and now he has had a taste of what the next level is like. He should be a fun prospect to monitor next season.

(D) Antti Tuomisto

Antti Tuomisto has been in the Red Wings’ system for five seasons now, but this season might have been his biggest in terms of proving himself as a legitimate prospect.

A second round pick, 35th overall, in the 2019 draft, Tuomisto has been on a bit of a journey since the Red Wings called his name on the draft floor five years ago. The right-handed defenseman played a season of U20 hockey in his native Finland during the 2019-20 season, and then spent two seasons at the University of Denver, including their run to a national championship in 2022. After a couple of good, not great seasons with the Pioneers, he returned home to Finland for the 2022-23 season and seemingly rediscovered some of the offensive potential that made him such an appealing prospect back in 2019.

This season, he spent most of his time with the Griffins, recording five goals and 17 points in 50 games while playing in various roles on the blue line. Where Tuomisto looked his best, however, was alongside Simon Edvinsson on Grand Rapids’ top pairing. With Tuomisto standing at 6-foot-5 and Edvinsson at 6-foot-6, the two of them almost mirrored each other, both being big-bodied puck-moving defenseman. The two of them also played with a sense of composure that typically can only be learned with experience at the professional level. With both Tuomisto and Edvinsson having had pro-level experience over in Europe, they each had a good understanding of when to push and when to pull back as defensemen.

With Edvinsson slated to join the Red Wings on a full-time basis next season, Tuomisto will need to establish chemistry with someone else to keep this momentum going. Considering his similarities to Edvinsson, William Wallinder may be a good option. Another one would be Shai Buium, Tuomisto’s teammate on that championship Denver team. Regardless of who Tuomisto’s partner(s) is/are next season, he has reasserted himself as a blue line prospect to keep an eye on in a pool that has several of them.

Improvement All Around

Naturally, these three players aren’t the only ones that progressed in the Red Wings’ system this season.

  • Marco Kasper looked better over the course of the AHL season and you could tell when he was playing with full confidence.
  • Carter Mazur made the jump from “collegiate athlete” to “pro athlete” look easy.
  • Buium really started coming into his own this season with the University of Denver and is set to begin his pro career next season.
  • Trey Augustine was a standout at Michigan State University this season and he looked extremely comfortable while representing the United States at the World Championships.
  • Several other players made some strides as well.

The Red Wings’ front office has to feel good about the progression throughout their system this season. To achieve the ultimate goal of ending this rebuild and contending for championships, however, they’ll need even more development from their youngest players as they slowly start to turn over their roster and add homegrown players to the lineup.

The Hockey Writers Substack banner Detroit Red Wings

Articles You May Like

Detroit Red Wings’ 2018 Draft Regrets
Detroit Red Wings’ 2024 Offseason Blueprint
3 Potential Destinations for Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault
Red Wings 2024 NHL Draft: 5 Draft Day Mock Trades

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *