Welcome to the fourth profile in our 2021 NHL Entry Draft coverage. We’ve taken trips to the SHL, the USHL, and the QMJHL to profile Oskar Olausson, Matthew Coronato and Zachary L’Heureux thus far, and now it’s time to take a trip out west to the WHL. Sebastian Cossa is the top ranked North American Goaltender according to NHL Central Scouting and could be available when the Huricanes select in the first round. As always, these profiles will be split into three parts: paper stats, the scouting report, and a summary of the player and team fit.
Cossa could very well be classified as “An Absolute Unit,” coming in at 6-foot-6 and 212 pounds. On paper, that’s enough to get NHL GMs to salivate at the thought of drafting him. The league has been more welcoming to taller goalies, while goalies under six feet typically get passed over due to their height. With Cossa’s height, there’s almost a guarantee that he’ll at least see a handful of NHL games.
Cossa has been a force in the WHL since he broke into the league, compiling a 38-7-4 record, a .928 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average over the course of two seasons. Edmonton has been next to unstoppable these past two seasons, and it’s largely in part due to Cossa. EliteProspects’ consolidated rankings has him at 23rd overall across all scouting services that they list. Bob McKenzie has Cossa ranked the highest at 14th overall, while Dobber Prospects ranks him at 36th overall. Clearly, Cossa will be gone in the early stages of the second round if he is not taken in the later half of the first round. Let’s explore what makes him such an interesting prospect on the ice.
Cossa stands out on the ice because he’s such a tall goalie. He takes up so much of the net that it makes it that much harder for players to get anything past him. He has an active stick and can poke the puck away if a player gets too close to the net. I don’t see the poke check taking him out of position or being the only thing he relies on, however. He makes a quick attempt to poke the puck away and immediately prepares for a shot, just in case. Cossa moves well for a big goalie and can react to the play almost instantly. It doesn’t take long for Cossa to get square to the puck due to his size, so he doesn’t have to lean on his quickness as much as smaller goalies like Saros or Nedeljkovic have to.
He makes one push and he’s already square to the shooter without having to scramble. Cossa takes up so much of the net and I’m noticing that junior players don’t seem to have an answer for that. They’re clearly not able to beat Cossa unless he makes a mistake at this level, and that’s difficult for him to do. Cossa is such a steady presence in net and doesn’t get rattled or out of position often. If you want to beat Cossa, your shot has to be perfect, and a lot of shooters at the WHL level aren’t able to do that often. Cossa is able to locate the puck through traffic, largely in part due to his size, but it allows for him to make saves on screened shots .
The only negative thing that I was able to find in Cossa’s game is his rebound control. A lot of pucks hit his pads because he’s such a big goalie, and so a lot of pucks bounce off of him and back into the slot. He’s smart enough to try and cover the puck on a lot of occasions, but sometimes a rebound can bounce off of him and onto a forward’s stick. WHL players might not be able to take advantage of that, but NHL players certainly will. He’ll have to tighten up on those rebounds in order to have sustained success at the NHL level.
There were two questions that kept popping up when I watched Cossa play. The first is: is he good, or is he just tall? The second is: How much of his success is due, in part, to WHL skaters not being a challenge for him? I now have an answer to both questions. I believe that Cossa is a very good goalie that happens to have outgrown the WHL, both in the literal and physical sense. He is clearly a step or two above the competition and has little else to prove in the WHL. The team that drafts him might have to wait a little longer for Cossa to adjust to the pro game, since he’ll have to stay in the WHL for at least two years before making an impact at the professional level. The WHL isn’t a tough league for Cossa to play in anymore, and if he’s the top goalie in the league, there isn’t a ton of room for him to grow.
I like Cossa as a player and I think that whichever team picks him will have a starting goalie on its hands. I don’t know if he’s a franchise-defining goalie at this point in time, but he’s at least going to be a top-15 goalie in the league someday.
That being said, I think the Hurricanes pass on Cossa and take a skater. The Canes already have goalies like Eetu Makiniemi, Jack LaFontaine and Pyotr Kochetkov in the system, so adding Cossa will only crowd the pipeline further. Both LaFontaine and Kochetkov have high upside, and Makiniemi is a dark horse to become an NHL starting goalie as well.
Alex Nedeljkovic has emerged as the Hurricanes’ starter and the fact that he is 25 years old means that the Hurricanes could have a long-term starter on their hands. It doesn’t make drafting Cossa a futile effort, but I believe the Hurricanes will benefit from drafting a forward or a defenseman in the first round rather than a goalie. Given that there are only two roster spots available for goalies in a normal year, I think that the Hurricanes bet on the goalies that they have and try and take one in the later rounds.
The final draft profile will be out next week. We’ll take a look at Sasha Pastujov of the USNTDP and explore what makes him a first round prospect.