Alright Hockeytown, you can catch your breath now.
Related: Red Wings 2021 Draft Coverage
In the hours leading up to the 2021 Entry Draft, the NHL was abuzz with trades involving Seth Jones, Rasmus Ristolainen and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Not to be outdone, Steve Yzerman, general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, entered the draft holding picks 6 and 23, and came out of it having made selections at 6 and 15. The selections were defenseman Simon Edvinsson at sixth and goaltender Sebastian Cossa with pick 15.
I think it’s safe to say that very few, if any, people predicted the first round was going to play out like this for the Red Wings. Now that the wow-factor has died down a bit, it’s time to take a look at these picks and what they mean for Detroit’s rebuild. One thing is for certain: Yzerman and his scouting team have pushed on the gas pedal by taking some seriously big swings in the opening round.
The Red Wings sure love their Swedes, eh?
Ranked as high as the third-best prospect in this year’s draft class, Edvinsson has drawn comparisons to another towering Swedish defenseman in Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. At 6-foot-5, Edvinsson stands tall on the blue line, displays strong defensive play, and has the creativity to produce offense from the back-end. Yeah, maybe those Hedman comparisons aren’t entirely far-fetched.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In my opinion, this particular player is a bit rough around the edges, and a lot of it stems from trying to be something he’s not. Edvinsson has a reputation as a risk-taking offensive defenseman, and that is simply not the case. Instead, he’s more of a two-way guy that takes a few too many risks when he tries to make things happen offensively. He’s creative, but his decision-making needs some refinement. It’s the process of learning when to take those chances that, I think, will be the biggest thing he has to work on before making the NHL.
That being said, there is still a strong defensive base that Edvinsson can build on. If anything, this is why he is highly projectable as an NHL defenseman: even if the offense doesn’t translate (and I think it eventually will) he can still develop into a big-bodied shutdown defenseman. It’s just going to take some time.
Looking into the future, this left-handed defenseman seems to be a perfect long-term match as fellow prospect Moritz Seider’s defensive partner. If Edvinsson’s offensive game can mature, he and Seider will log big-time minutes for the Red Wings while playing in all situations and being relied upon when the stakes are at their highest. This is the most exciting thing about this pick: the Red Wings may very well have the pillars of their future defense in place following this pick.
If you would have told me that the Red Wings were going to move up from pick 23 to select a goaltender, I would have said that I told you so. If you would have told me that the goalie they were drafting was Sebastian Cossa, I would have said, “that makes sense.” Now, if you would have told me that Detroit was going to trade up to draft Cossa while Jesper Wallstedt was still on the board, I would have insisted that you were joking.
Alright, now that we’ve addressed the elephant in the room, let’s take a look at this pick for what it is.
With a 6-foot-6, 215 pound frame, Cossa already fits the physical mold of an NHL goaltender. For the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he was downright dominant with a 17-1-1 record, a 1.57 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. That being said, this was an odd year in the midst of a pandemic, and the Oil Kings were a fairly stacked team this season. Cossa was a big piece of his team’s success this season, but he benefited from the team in front of him just as much as they benefited from him.
As far as his toolkit is concerned, he has the makings of an NHL starting goaltender.
“We think he has the talent (to be a starting goaltender)”, Yzerman told the media at the conclusion of the first round. “It’s going to take awhile…but we’re excited, we think he’s a really good prospect.”
Cossa is the first goaltending prospect since Petr Mrazek that Red Wings fans can point to and confidently say, “that guy is the goalie of the future.” That is HUGE for this team going forward. Cossa uses his size to his advantage in the crease, squaring up to the shooter with ease, and his strong technique prevents him from flopping around in the crease like some of the more acrobatic goaltenders in the NHL. He exudes confidence, telling the press that he believes he will be the best goaltender to come out of this draft after he was selected by Detroit. The only thing that really stood out to me as something he needs to work on is his ability to play the puck. He doesn’t always look confident in doing it, but I don’t think that’s a make-it-or-break-it skill.
The biggest takeaway from this pick for me is that it coincides with the team’s move to acquire 25-year-old goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes just a day prior. In just over 24 hours, the Red Wings’ goaltending situation looks completely different. Nedeljkovic has the opportunity to become Detroit’s goaltender for the present and the near-future. In the meantime, this allows Cossa to develop at his own pace – a fact that Yzerman confirmed following the pick.
This situation is eerily similar to when Yzerman was the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning and he had Ben Bishop in place while Andrei Vasilevskiy developed elsewhere. If Nedeljkovic and Cossa can pan out anywhere near as well as Bishop and Vasilevskiy did for the Lightning, then Hockeytown should have a lot to look forward to in the coming years.
There’s Still More Draft to Go!
The rest of the draft is today (July 24) and the Red Wings hold picks 38, 70, 102, 128, 134 and 166. There are still plenty of first round talents on the board following the first round, and Detroit should be able to snag one of them with their second round pick. After addressing the team’s need for a blue-chip, left-handed defenseman in Edvinsson and a blue-chip goaltending prospect in Cossa, Yzerman and his scouting team have an opportunity to continue to boost the Red Wings prospect pool, which is only getting better and deeper with each pick.
How do you feel about the Edvinsson and Cossa picks? Share your thoughts in the comments section down below!
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I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.