The 2021 NHL Entry Draft was one of the most difficult drafts for NHL teams to scout talent for due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted most junior hockey seasons around the world, and caused some to cancel altogether. Despite some analysts calling this draft a “wash,” though, there was still top-end talent available, and the same goes for the draft-eligible goalies. Among the highest-ranked goalie prospects ahead of the draft was Sebastian Cossa, the first goalie to be selected, who was taken at 15th-overall by the Detroit Red Wings. Let’s get to know the No. 1 goalie from the 2021 draft, and the Red Wings’ hopeful future starter.
Red Wings Traded Up To Take Cossa
The Red Wings won the sixth-overall pick in the 2021 draft, and were already scouting the players that might be available to them at that position. One thing was certain: at that position, they were going to get a good player no matter what. In addition to the sixth-overall pick, general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman also had the 23rd pick, giving the Red Wings two first-round selections. If they had held on to that pick, they would have gotten another good player, but he had his sights set on his next franchise goalie instead: Cossa.
After taking defenseman Simon Edvinsson sixth overall, the Red Wings traded up from 23rd to 15th, and took Cossa, the Hamilton, Ontario, native who spent the last two seasons in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Standing at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, he is already built like an NHL goaltender and has been one of the best goalies in the WHL during his time with the Oil Kings. If Yzerman was going to trade up to take anyone, he was a good one to bet on.
Before Cossa, the Red Wings hadn’t selected a goalie in the first round of the draft since 2008, when they took Tom McCollum 30th overall. Cossa becomes the highest-drafted Red Wings goalie since Terry Richardson (11th overall) in the 1973 draft. The Red Wings have iced poor teams over the past number of seasons, and even recorded historically bad goal differential numbers just one season ago. With some depth at the goalie position finally coming to the organization, the hope is that one day soon, that will be a worry of the past.
Cossa Has Elite NHL Potential
At just 18-years-old, Cossa has ample time to develop for the NHL. But even now, he is built like an NHL goalie, and has played well enough in juniors to give reason to believe that he might develop quicker than most goalies typically do. He has impressed in both his WHL seasons with the Oil Kings, winning 21 of his 33 games played in the 2019-20 season, and posting a 2.23 goals against average (GAA) and .921 save percentage (SV%) in his first year of juniors. This past 2020-21 season saw him post an astounding 17-1-1 record, with a remarkable 1.57 GAA and .941 SV%. Both those markers led all WHL goalies.
Given his play since breaking into the WHL as a rookie starter, it’s no surprise that Cossa made his way onto the radars of NHL team scouts when he was just 17-years-old. As a result, he was ranked as the No. 1 draft-eligible North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting, and was ranked as high as 27th among all players by McKeen’s Hockey.
Elite Prospects had high praise for Cossa in their 2021 NHL Draft Guide:
He mixes things up and recovers quickly on rebounds to get in front of multiple shot sequences in order to clear his crease. He’s not afraid to use his hands, and does a good job of covering up pucks before they spring loose for scoring chances. He’ll use a wide array of save options to match whatever the shooter presents.Elite Prospects 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Cossa brings a long list of strengths that would apply to the NHL, most notably his incredible ability to control his body, which for goalies his size is sometimes an issue. Bigger goalies tend to leave some holes open under their arms and between their legs when making lateral moves, but he is able to control his limbs and stay tight and compact in the net when moving in his crease. He also has elite-level puck tracking skills, and has a high Hockey IQ, playing smart fundamentally and sticking to his effective play style. When he does finally break into the NHL a few seasons down the road, Red Wings fans will be treated to an exciting goalie to watch.
Red Wings Will Rely On Nedeljkovic For Now
I wrote last season how the Red Wings’ situation in goal was as uncertain as ever, but that was when they were icing Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss, and before they traded for Alex Nedeljkovic and drafted Cossa. Since then, a lot has changed. And just to lock things up for the future, Yzerman signed Cossa to his three-year, entry-level contract (ELC), worth $925,000 average annual value (AAV). He’ll likely return to the WHL to finish his juniors career with the Oil Kings, though, and will probably make the jump to the Red Wings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins after that. So what will the Wings do for now? Let’s not forget about Nedeljkovic.
Nedeljkovic, acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade that sent Bernier the other way, looks like the clear-cut No. 1 goalie for at least the next few seasons. In his rookie season with the Hurricanes last year, his play earned him a Calder Trophy nomination as the NHL’s best rookie, an honor that hasn’t been given to a goalie in years. He is more than capable of being a starter in the NHL, and will play a huge part in helping the Red Wings become competitive again, and if I were to wage a bet, I’d say he will still be their starter once Cossa comes knocking on the NHL’s doors. Until then, Nedeljkovic will be the Red Wings’ starter. However long it takes for Cossa to develop and become NHL-ready, the Red Wings finally have something to look forward to in goal.
Check out Sebastian Cossa’s 2021 NHL Draft Highlight Reel from the Western Hockey League:
- Cossa image from Edmonton Oil Kings