In his latest mock 2021 NHL Draft released Tuesday (July 20), TSN draft guru Craig Button has the Edmonton Oilers selecting goaltender Sebastian Cossa in the first round Friday (July 23) with the 20th overall pick.
Considering that to this point, most draft analysts have projected Cossa coming off the board earlier, Button’s latest list raised a few eyebrows in Edmonton, as well as questions around the likelihood and pros/cons of the Oilers drafting the Edmonton Oil Kings goalie. Here’s a look at the potential of this draft choice.
A native of Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta, the 18-year-old Cossa is ranked No. 1 among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting. He has played the last two seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Oil Kings, who drafted him 36th in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.
In 2019-20, Cossa set the Oil Kings franchise rookie records for wins (21) and shutouts (4). He was named the WHL Goaltender of the Month for December 2019. This past season, Cossa posted an incredible 17-1-0-1 record while leading the league in goals-against average (1.57), save percentage (.941) and shutouts (4). He received Goaltender of the Month honors for April 2021.
At six-foot-six and 211 pounds, Cossa has a big presence in net. Central Scouting’s Al Jensen notes that “he has very good net coverage while in his stance or when dropping in the butterfly and he doesn’t leave a lot of room for shooters. When in butterfly, he seals the ice and five hole with a good leg extension to protect the low corners.”
As hockey tried to move forward with the 2020-21 season amid a global pandemic, most junior teams played significantly reduced schedules, while some didn’t play at all. And the games that did happen were often played in empty arenas.
Suffice to say, this has made preparing for the 2021 NHL Draft quite difficult for NHL teams. Many of the top prospects don’t have many highlight films from the 2020-21 season. And scouts, who would have normally been fixtures at the rink, have had to base assessments on game streams prone to buffering.
This is where the Oilers may have an advantage in the case of Cossa. Like Edmonton’s NHL team, the Oil Kings are owned by Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) and share facilities with the Oilers. The Oil Kings played all their home games at the Downtown Community Arena this past season, which is just a couple minutes walk from Rogers Place.
The Oilers would have been able to get as good a look as anybody at Cossa, as well as ample opportunity to pick the brain of Oil Kings personnel. Oilers general manager Ken Holland should have a fairly complete file on Cossa in a draft with so much uncertainty.
While the Oilers don’t know who their starting goalie will be on the opening night of the 2021-22 season, they aren’t lacking prospects between the pipes.
Edmonton currently has goalies Stuart Skinner (age 22, drafted 78th overall in 2017, three seasons minor pro experience), Olivier Rodrigue (21, 62nd in 2018, one season minor pro), and Ilya Konovalov (23, 85th in 2019, four seasons in the KHL) in its system. The crease is so crowded that the Oilers just last Wednesday (July 14) dealt 23-year-old netminder Dylan Wells to the Carolina Hurricanes for future considerations.
None of this is to suggest that there isn’t room for Cossa. For starters, the 18-year-old will be back with the Oil Kings for 2021-22. The earliest he would turn pro is after next season, at which point he could get his feet wet in the ECHL before even playing in the American Hockey League, let alone the NHL.
Dubious Draft History
If you’re gauging Cossa based solely on Edmonton’s NHL track record, he’s a double-whammy: a goalie and an Oil King.
The Oilers have drafted 44 netminders in franchise history, and while two of the first three were home runs (all-star Andy Moog in 1980, Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr in 1981), it’s been strikeout after strikeout ever since.
Of the 41 goalies drafted by Edmonton since 1982, only three (Jussi Markkanen, Jeff Deslauriers, Devan Dubnyk) have played at least 30 career NHL games. Nearly three-quarters (31) of them don’t have a single NHL appearance to their credit.
The Oilers have had even less luck when it comes to Oil Kings. Since the modern-day Oil Kings joined the WHL as an expansion team in 2007, the Oilers have drafted two players from Edmonton’s junior team, Travis Ewanyk (74th in 2011) and Mitch Moroz (32nd in 2012), neither of whom ever made it to the NHL.
Additionally, the Oilers have acquired Oil Kings’ alumni Laurent Brossoit (trade in 2013), Griffin Reinhart (trade in 2015), and Keegan Lowe (free-agent signing in 2017), none of whom played 30 regular-season games in Oilers silks.
Too Good To Pass Up
If the Oilers were to draft Cossa, it would mark just the third time in franchise history they have selected a goalie in the first round. The other two, Fuhr (8th) and Dubnyk (14th in 2004), have a combined 656 regular-season wins and counting.
There aren’t many goalies that get drafted in the first round, and the ones that are taken that high are the ones that franchises are built around. Consider that this season’s Vezina Trophy winner (Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights) and starting goalies for both Stanley Cup Finalists (Andrei Vasilevskiy of the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning and Carey Price with the Montreal Canadiens) were all first-rounders.
There’s indication that Cossa possesses key ingredients found in the aforementioned superstars. As Jensen puts it, “His confidence in his ability shows in his play. He’s got a good NHL upside.”
With all due respect to Tommy Salo, Cam Talbot, and Dwayne Roloson, the Oilers have been without a bonafide franchise goaltender ever since Curtis Joseph signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1998. And as their current situation demonstrates, that search continues in seeming perpetuity.
If Cossa, a player that many latest mock drafts, including The Sporting News and NBC Sports, are projecting to go as high as 12th to the Chicago Blackhawks, is still available when the Oilers step up to the virtual podium at No. 20, they can’t afford not to take him.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.