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Sebastian Cossa: 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; A Large, Athletic Goaltender, With Excellent Puck Tracking

Sebastian Cossa is one of the top goaltenders available in the 2021 NHL Draft and is projected to be a 1st round pick. In today’s post, we will take a closer look at Cossa to see why he is such a highly rated prospect.

Edmonton Oil Kings v Calgary Hitmen
Sebastian Cossa is a large goaltender that has dominated the WHL the past two seasons. Some scouts even think he may be the best goaltender in this draft class.
Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

The 2021 NHL Draft features two goaltenders that are expected to be selected in the opening round. Jesper Wallstedt is considered by most scouts to be the best available goaltender but some view Sebastian Cossa as a similar talent to the Swedish netminder. Cossa is a large goaltender that has performed well in the Western Hockey League (WHL) for the Edmonton Oil Kings over the past two seasons. In today’s profile, I want to take a closer look at how Cossa has performed and what he brings to the table as a prospect.

Before we get to know more about Cossa, I should also note that when it comes to talking about goaltenders there are a few additional metrics I like to look at for more context. These are Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), GSAA per 30 shots (GSAA/30), GSAA per 60 minutes (GSAA/60) and Goals Allowed % Minus (GA%-). I also like to take a look at Quality Starts, Really Bad Starts, and Bail Outs.

Goals Saved Above Average = Saves-(League Average SV%*Shots Against); (Developed by Hockey Reference)

Goals Allowed Percentage Minus = 100*((1-player save %)/(1-league average save %)); (Developed by Hockey Reference)

Quality Start = The starting goalie must stop at least a league average number of shots or play at least as well as a replacement-level goalie (88.5%) while allowing two goals or fewer. (Developed by Robert Vollman)

Really Bad Starts and Bail Outs = The Really Bad Start, where a goalie fails to stop even 85% of the shots, leaving his team barely a 10% chance of winning. The opposite of a Wasted Quality Start is a Bail-Out, which is defined by being awarded a win despite failing to achieve a Quality Start. (Developed by Robert Vollman)

For GSAA, you obviously want to have a positive value. For GA%- you want to be below 100 which is league average. For example a 92 GA%- would mean you were about 8% better than league average while a 108 GA%- would mean you were 8 percent below league average. Now, let’s learn more about Cossa.

Who is Sebastian Cossa?

According to his WHL player page, Cossa is a 6’6.5”, 203 lbs. left-handed catching goaltender from Fort McMurray, Alberta. However, his Elite Prospects profile list him at 6’6”, 212 lbs. and that he was born in Hamilton, Ontario before moving to Fort McMurray, Alberta. He was born on November 21, 2002. Thanks to his Elite Prospects profile, we can see that his youth team was Fort McMurray MHA. He spent his age 13 season in 2015-16 with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons U15 AA team in the Northern Alberta Hockey League U15 AA. His .926 SV% in 14 games ranked 4th in the league and 1st among U14 goaltenders.

The 2016-17 season, his age 14 year, would prove to be his breakout season. He spent the season with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers U15 AAA team in the Alberta Elite Hockey League U15 AAA (AMBHL). He went 15-4-0 with a 1.80 GAA and .934 SV% in 19 regular season games. That 1.80 GAA and .934 SV% led all goaltenders in the AMBHL. In the playoffs he went 8-4 with a 2.36 GAA and .924 SV% in 12 games as he led the team to the AMBHL Championship. As Elite Prospects notes, Cossa was named the Top Goaltender and Most Valuable Player in the league. This impressive season led to the Edmonton Oil Kings selecting Cossa 36th overall in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.

In 2017-18, his age 15 season, he moved up to player for the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers U18 AAA team in the Alberta Elite Hockey League U18 AAA (AMHL). As the team’s main starter, he went 6-10-3 with a 3.37 GAA and .915 SV% in 19 regular season games. That .915 SV% ranked 8th in the league and 1st among U16 goaltenders. In the playoffs he went 4-3 with a 2.28 GAA and .943 SV%. He was a part of Team Alberta that captured a Silver Medal at the WHL Cup that season with a 3.15 GAA and .882 SV% in 3 games as he split time with Garin Bjorklund.

Cossa would spend his age 16 season, in 2018-19, with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers U18 AAA team again. In just 13 regular season games he went 6-5-2 with a 3.01 GAA and .919 SV%. His .919 SV% ranked 6th in the league and 3rd among U17 goaltenders. He once again stepped up in the playoffs by going 5-3 with a 2.03 GAA and .938 SV%. Cossa also represented Canada White U17 at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge where he went 1-1 with a 3.03 GAA and .895 SV%.

The 2019-20 season, his pre-draft year, would see Cossa really make his mark as one of the top goaltenders for the 2021 Draft. As a rookie for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League (WHL), he played in 33 games (31 starts) with a 21-6-2-1 record, a 2.23 GAA and .921 SV% along with 4 shutouts. His .921 SV% ranked tied-5th in the league and was tied-1st with Dylan Garand for the lead among U18 goaltenders. His 4 shutouts ranked tied-4th in the league.

That season Cossa had a 80 GA%-, 17.97 GSAA, 0.61 GSAA per 30 shots, and 0.57 GSAA per 60 minutes. He had 23 Quality Starts (74.19%), just 5 Really Bad Starts (16.13%), and just 2 Bailouts (6.45%). Among the 36 goaltenders to play in at least 20 games, Cossa was ranked tied-3rd in GA%-, 10th in GSAA, tied-3rd in GSAA per 30 shots, and 4th in GSAA per 60 minutes. It is worth noting that he had the 12th lowest Workload (shots faced per game) out of this group at just 26.88.

Back in July of 2020, the Oil Kings website featured this article about Cossa and the adversity his hometown of Fort McMurray faced in his life, including fires in May of 2016, floods in April of 2020, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic. In the article, Cossa talks about having to evacuate due to the fires and being displaced for almost three months. He also talks about the time he was able to spend with his family due to the pandemic.

The shortened season in 2020-21 for the WHL would see Cossa limited to just 19 games (all starts) for the Oil Kings in his draft year. He went 17-1-0-1 with a 1.57 GAA and .941 SV% along with 4 shutouts. He led the league in GAA, SV%, and was tied for the lead in shutouts.

He further improved upon his numbers with a 57 GA%-, 22.21 GSAA, 1.32 GSAA per 30 shots, and 1.16 GSAA per 60 minutes. He had 15 Quality Starts (78.95%), no Really Bad Starts (0.00%), and just 2 Bail Outs (10.53%). Among the 24 goaltenders to play in at least 10 games, Cossa was ranked 1st in GA%-, 2nd in GSAA, 1st in GSAA per 30 shots, and 2nd in GSAA per 60 minutes. Once again, I should note that Cossa didn’t have a high Workload as he faced the 5th lowest shots per game amongst this group at 26.58. Mitch Brown notes in the Elite Prospects Draft Guide (which you can get here with a subscription) that Cossa’s numbers are a bit inflated by playing in a weak division, though he certainly has a lot of positive attributes to his game. Just something to keep in mind that these numbers, while very promising, need to be kept in some context. Now let’s see where Cossa is ranked and what scouts had to say about his playing style.

Where is Sebastian Cossa Ranked?

Below are the rankings for Cossa from a number of different public outlets. For the most part, Cossa is ranked as a mid to late 1st round prospect though Hockey Prospect seems really high on him while Dobber Prospects and The Draft Analyst are not compared to the others.

When Scouching ranked Cossa 25th, he had this to say:

Sebastian Cossa? I dunno, he’s huge, has stopped pucks for years, outperformed his xGA according to InStat, and seems to be excellent tracking pucks with lateral mobility staying square to pucks and locked into his technique. My gut tells me he’s legit, but I’d let my goalie people help me take the chance on him.

I thought it was interesting to read that Cossa’s InStat data shows he has outperformed his Expected Goals Against. That seems right in line with the GSAA data I was able to gather above. A large goaltender that makes more stops than the average goaltender certainly seems worthy of a 1st round ranking. It will be interesting to see where he is selected as I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team in the top 15 take a chance on him. On the other hand, if a team has a chance to get him if he slips into the latter part of the 1st round then that could be a worthwhile gamble to take.

What Others Say About Sebastian Cossa

Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports has this scouting report on Cossa. He breaks down Cossa’s game by skating and talent, mental make-up, and projection and comparison. I’ll pick out a few highlights below.

Regarding his skating and talent:

He gets out to the top of the crease and cuts down angles well...His puck tracking is very good and he gets side-to-side quickly, always being in the right position to challenge the shooter...Cossa’s legs are strong and he gets up and down in the butterfly quickly.

Cossa is so tall that when he does go down in the butterfly, his shoulders still reach the crossbar and his frame takes up much of the net. His glove as well as his blocker are solid.

Cossa is also a good puck handler. He gets out of his crease quickly and retrieves dump-ins. He can act as a third defenceman for his teams, starting the breakout and moving the puck up the ice.

There is a lot more in the report but these are a few aspects of his game that stood out to me. I get the idea that Cossa knows how to use his large frame effectively to cut angles and I am encouraged to see that he his agile enough to use his legs to move side-to-side as well as up and down. I always find it interesting to read that a goaltender can act like a “third defenseman” due to their puck handling ability. Perhaps it was years of watching Martin Brodeur handle the puck, but I always enjoy watching goaltenders that can move it effectively.

Regarding his mental make-up:

Playing on a team where you don’t see a lot of shots can test a goalie’s focus but Cossa has come through this with flying colours...Even when he gives up a goal, he doesn’t let it get to him. Cossa is ready to make the next save and does not linger on mistakes.

As I noted earlier, Cossa typically doesn’t see a lot of action when playing for the Oil Kings as they are effective at keeping the puck out of their zone. Still, it’s encouraging to read that he does well to keep his focus. It’s also good to see that a young goaltender like Cossa doesn’t dwell on mistakes and is able to keep a positive mentality no matter what happens on the ice.

Regarding his projection and comparison:

Expect Cossa to need at least a couple of years of AHL action after his junior career is done. Cossa’s game is reminiscent of Ben Bishop, but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.

Considering Cossa only has played 52 WHL games over the past two seasons due to the pandemic, it’s not surprising to read that he’ll need more seasoning in both the WHL and AHL. I’m also not surprised to see him compared to Bishop as they are both very large goaltenders.

Next, we have this scouting report from Josh Tessler of Smaht Scouting. He breaks down Cossa’s style of play by stance, athleticism and speed, post security, vision, saves, rebounds, decision making, and stick handling/passing. Here is some of what he had to say about Cossa:

Sebastian Cossa is a hybrid goaltender. With his size, he is able to stand tall and make saves with ease. But, on the grand scheme of things, Cossa makes more butterfly saves than saves when standing tall.

But, the speed and quickness that Cossa embodies is what truly wows me about his athleticism...Cossa deploys quality edge work to help push him from side to side. In addition, his reaction time is quite fast when closing up the five hole and when jumping back up to standing stance from the butterfly.

The only issues that Cossa seems to have with his blocker is that he will get beat on occasion on the top blocker side...he tends to give up the most goals top blocker and mid-to-low glove side.

While Cossa is solid at controlling rebounds, his rebound rate to low danger is less than the average of the goaltenders that I’ve tracked.

Something that Cossa generally struggles with is puck manipulation. On breakaway goals at net front, he can be manipulated and drawn to one side...Cossa will also sometimes struggle with depth perception and go a bit too far out of the crease when facing a shooter dead on.

As we just mentioned in the decision making section, Cossa is a quality passer. In fact, this season, Cossa was 89% accurate with his passing per InStat. That passing rate is 15% higher than his rookie season in the WHL.

There is a lot of information and a nice graphic courtesy of InStat in that scouting report so I recommend checking out the full thing. Out of the excerpts I posted above, I find it interesting that Cossa is a hybrid goaltender. It’s also worth noting that he seems quite athletic despite being a very large goaltender. One of the knocks against Jesper Wallstedt is he isn’t above average athletically so this seems one area that Cossa has Wallstedt beat. Cossa seems to need to work on his rebound control but that's something true about a lot of young goaltenders. Same with his depth perception and decision making. Finally, the InStat data seems to back up the idea that Cossa excels at playing the puck and is a solid passer.

Next, we have this profile of Cossa by Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst. When talking about Cossa’s style of play, Kournianos seems to have a different observation than the one from Tessler when it comes to the goaltender’s positioning:

He’s not much of a risk taker and if Cossa gets beat, it’s rarely from his own egregious mistake or over-committal to one side. Cossa also doesn’t venture too far from the crease when facing a breakaway.

It is possible that they viewed him in different games but these reports do clash when it comes to whether or not Cossa is prone to being moved to one side when facing a breakaway.

Regarding his post integration:

Cossa exclusively uses the RVH for post integration once the puck is moved closer to the goal line, although he seems to switch rapidly between remaining upright when his team controls the puck to dropping down when it’s lost. He grasps the importance of a tight post seal, and being 6-foot-7 allows him the option of using his shoulder rather than his mask to cover the top corner

It’s encouraging to read that Cossa has a good grasp of the reverse vertical horizontal (RVH) technique that goaltenders in the NHL use to great success. It’s also noteworthy that his height allows him to utilize his shoulder to seal the post and keep his head free to utilize his vision more.

Regarding his glove and blocker:

Of course, neither his glove nor blocker should be considered a soft spot or weakness, as Cossa simply plays deep in the crease and covers the lower half so well that the upper half is all that’s available to shooters.

Regarding his quickness and footwork:

Cossa is impressively quick for a goalie of any size, let alone one who stands around 6-foot-7. His post-to-post movements are both explosive and clean, and it isn’t often that Cossa pushes himself well out of position.

It’s interesting to see another report have a glowing review of Cossa’s quickness and explosiveness. It certainly seems like a real plus attribute to his game.

Next, here is some of what Nick Richard of Dobber Prospects had to say about Cossa back in February:

Standing at 6-6 and weighing 212 pounds, the Alberta native possesses the combination of size and athletic ability that NHL teams covet in the goaltending position. He has good fundamentals and uses his big body to square up to shooters, cutting down angles while being agile enough to get across his crease quickly. His height is an advantage when it comes to tracking pucks through traffic and his rebound control is quite good for a young goaltender as well.

Finally, the Hockey Prospecting Model gives Cossa a 50% chance of making the NHL which is actually higher than the chance it gives Jesper Wallstedt (46%) and quite high for the model to give to any goaltender.

A Little Video

The first video we have is from Devils in the Details Podcast channel on YouTube. The video features his action from a 3-1 victory over Red Deer on March 20, 2021:

The next video is a TSN video shared on YouTube by Hockey is life. In this video, Craig Button gives his opinion on Cossa and explains why the tall, athletic, and talented goaltender is a high quality prospect:

An Opinion of Sorts

Overall, I have a fairly high opinion of Cossa as a prospect. He has the size that teams covet in goal but most importantly is able to utilize it effectively. He cuts down angles well, uses his RVH technique to close either post, and is athletic enough to use explosive motions to get across his crease to make saves. His glove and blocker seem solid enough and while his rebound control could be better, that is an area of his game that he can iron out with more time in the WHL and then the AHL. It’s important to remember that due to the pandemic he hasn’t played as much over the past two seasons as you would typically expect from a goaltender in normal times.

His numbers may be a bit inflated from playing on a stacked Oil Kings team in a weak division but there’s no denying that he’s been a huge part of their success. He’s succeeded everywhere he’s been throughout his career which has included playing up from his age group on numerous teams. Goaltenders are difficult to project and develop but I think a team in the mid to late 1st round would do well to take a chance on Cossa. He has the talent, mentality, and size that makes him a very promising prospect.

From a Devils point of a view, I would have interest in Cossa. I should note that I don’t expect him to drop to the 29th pick (28th really after Arizona’s forfeited pick at 11). I think he’ll be drafted somewhere shortly after Wallstedt and I think it’ll be somewhere around the middle of the 1st round. However, if he does fall then I think the Devils have to at least consider selecting him at 29th overall. Personally, I would still lean towards drafting a forward or defenseman at that spot but I think it would be defensible to take a chance on Cossa if he fell that far. The Devils have Mackenzie Blackwood in the NHL, Nico Daws and Akira Schmid about to compete for playing time in the AHL, and Cole Brady in the NCAA. Gilles Senn remains in the system but now that he’s back in Europe, I think it’s safe to not expect him to make an impact in New Jersey. The Devils could really use another quality goaltending prospect in their system.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on Sebastian Cossa? Where would you rank him? Do you think he gets drafted in the first half of the first round or do you see him sliding past that? Would you want the Devils to take him if he’s available with their second first round pick? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!