Goaltender is the most difficult position to evaluate ahead of any NHL Draft, let alone one impacted by a global pandemic. But Sebastian Cossa, as a late 2002 birthday, has two impressive WHL seasons on his resume and is turning a lot of heads this time around.
Spencer Knight and Carter Hart have shown in recent years that the development cycle for a goaltender is shrinking and if Cossa continues to progress as he has, he could be the next goalie to make that early jump.
Here’s everything you need to know about Sebastian Cossa.
Age: 18 (Nov. 21, 2002)
Weight: 212 pounds
Current team: Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Cossa is one of the largest goalies in the draft, standing at six-foot-six, but he doesn’t let his size slow him down. He models his game after two giants in the NHL, six-foot-five Pekka Rinne and six-foot-six Jacob Markstrom, and it’s easy to see why. Cossa is very agile moving across the net and doesn’t waste energy doing it, making smart, tactical decisions to get his body in front of the puck.
“You can’t teach size at that position and you know the way the position is trending in the NHL with larger goalies,” Aaron Vickers, a WHL scout for FC Hockey, said in an appearance on the NHL Draft Class podcast. “The thing is that he’s just as quick as he is tall. His lateral movement is really good, he’s good at using his reach in terms of his blocker and glove… and he’s got the flexibility and the lateral movement to extend a leg as much as he needs to.”
As a rookie in 2019-20, Cossa posted a .921 save percentage in 33 starts to finish tied for third-best in the WHL before the pandemic paused play. He followed that up in 2020-21 with a WHL-best .941 save percentage in 19 starts, 17 of which were wins. Cossa was a finalist for the WHL goaltender of the year award this past season, led the Oil Kings to the best record in the league and likely would have gone on a long playoff run had the pandemic not cancelled the post-season.
“There’s a lot to like in Cossa’s game,” John Williams of NHL Central Scouting said on the NHL Draft Class podcast. “I think this guy with his size, his athleticism, I think he’s got the chance to be a No. 1 and a franchise-type goalie.”
Cossa and his family are survivors of the 2016 Fort McMurray, Alta., wildfires which forced an estimated 88,000 people from their homes and destroyed more than 2,400 buildings.
Cossa was 13 at the time and he, along with his father Gianni, mother Sandra and brother Nicholas spent three months living with relatives in Calgary that summer. Luckily, their home was not destroyed by the blaze.
“We walked outside and the entire sky was just red and black,” Cossa said in an interview about the fire with oilkings.ca. “Once we finally got back home there was a lot of smoke damage, but we were extremely lucky that it didn’t burn down. The fire came as close as two blocks away from our house.”
Four years later, in the midst of the pandemic last spring, Cossa and his family were again caught up in a disaster when jamming ice caused flooding in Fort McMurray, forcing 13,000 people to flee their homes. Again, the Cossa home avoided serious damage but the flooding nearly closed key access points out of the city which could have left Cossa and his family trapped.
“It was crazy to see another serious thing like that happen here,” he said. “We were lucky again in that our home was safe, but the biggest worry for us was the bridges. The water was rising, and if it flooded the bridges we would be stranded without a way to access downtown or travel south to exit the city.”
These experiences have shaped who Cossa is as a goaltender. Like Carey Price and other greats at his position, Cossa is calm and focused in the net, never letting his emotions dictate his actions. And after living through the challenges he’s lived through, it’s easy to see how nothing he faces on the ice will shake him.
“The thing that I really like about him is his demeanour in net,” Vickers said. “You never really see him get panicked, you never really see him get excited even if he gives up a bad goal he can shake it off really quickly.”
For a good cause
Cossa is an ambassador for Hockey Gives Blood, an organization that partners with Canadian Blood Services to help promote blood donation.
The organization was founded by Stu Middleton -- a former minor hockey player who lost his father in a car accident -- in response to the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Luke Pierce, a vice president with the organization and Oil Kings assistant coach, encouraged the entire team to donate blood which is how Cossa first got involved.
Cossa now participates in PSAs for the organization and uses his social media account to promote the cause. But he also made an impact on the ice this past season. Alongside fellow WHL goalies and ambassadors Dylan Garand and Trent Minor, Cossa helped raise more than $7,600 for Canadian Blood Services by collecting $8 in donations for every save made. Cossa himself raised $3,800 by making 475 saves.