Jesper Wallstedt was dominant. Detroit Red Wings prospect Sebastian Cossa was grabbing some bench.
Is this cause for concern for the Red Wings?
As the IIHF World Junior Championship was reaching its conclusion on Saturday, Wallstedt was backstopping Sweden to a bronze medal. Cossa was winning a gold medal with Canada in the easiest manner possible.
Cossa was sitting on the bench as Canada’s No. 2 goalie. The Canadians edged Finland 3-2 in overtime to win gold.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) December 13, 2021
A little over a year ago, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman was trading up in the NHL entry draft to acquire a second first-round selection. With that pick, he was tabbing Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Cossa 15th overall. Five picks later, the Minnesota Wild selected Wallstedt. Most draft pundits rated Wallstedt as the top netminder eligible for the 2021 draft.
Did Yzerman pick the wrong goaltender? At this juncture, to suggest that is patently unfair, perhaps even bordering on foolhardy.
World Junior Success Not Always Pathway To NHL Greatness
As much as everyone likes to see their team’s prospects shining when on the game’s biggest stages, the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t always mean greatness is blooming. Judging a goaltender’s quality off of a world junior performance is akin to writing off a 19-year-old netminder because they didn’t step to the fore.
Looking back at the netminders who were earning golden moments at the World Juniors, there isn’t a track record of NHL success on most resumes. For every Juuse Saros (Finland, 2014), John Gibson (USA, 2013) and Carey Price (Canada, 2007), there are countless guys like Dmitri Shikin, Jeff Glass, Tomas Duba and Tyler Parsons.
In 2006, after Justin Pogge was leading Canada to gold, the Toronto Maple Leafs were certain they’d found their goalie of the future. So certain, in fact, they traded the rights to the guy who was No. 3 in the goalie stats at the World Junior tourney. Fellow by the name of Tuukka Rask. Maybe you’ve heard of him.
Carter Hart (2018) and Kaapo Kahkonen (2016) are gold-medal winners from whom the jury remains out regarding long-term NHL success. Certainly, that ship has set sail for journeymen puckstoppers Zach Fucale (2015) and Dustin Tokarski (2009).
Red Wings Cossa Takes Back Seat While Wallstedt Shines
Wallstedt was named top netminder and to the all-tournament team at the world juniors. He was posting a .940 save percentage and 16.2 goals-against average. Wallstedt clearly stood out as Sweden’s most important player.
“He is such a great leader,” Swedish coach Tomas Monten told Expressen.se. “If you could put a “C” on a goalkeeper, I would have done it. Minnesota has something good to work with now.”
Wallstedt is thinking that he’ll be using his World Junior success as a launching point to his North American career when he’s going to camp with Minnesota next month.
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) August 21, 2022
“This was perfect timing,” Wallstedt was explaining to Expressen.se. “It was really good for me to play on smaller rinks. Now I’m ready for Wild’s camp in a couple of weeks.”
Cossa, meanwhile, saw action in one game. He beat Latvia 5-2. He suited up as backup to Dylan Garand for Canada’s other six tournament games.
While no one in the Red Wings organization is stating it for certain, all signs are pointing to Cossa, 19, returning to play in the WHL with the Oil Kings in 2022-23.
That he didn’t play a starring role at the World Juniors really isn’t that big of a deal. History is displaying this fact quite succinctly.