It’s only a 186-mile drive from Toledo, Ohio to Grand Rapids. But it takes time to get there if you are a Detroit Red Wings prospect.
Sebastian Cossa wasn’t ready to make the trip last season. His call-up to the Grand Rapids Griffins resulted in an ugly 5.57 goals-against average and .771 save percentage. But a few months of continued improvement with the Toledo Walleye in the ECHL last season prepared him to be an impact performer in the American Hockey League early this season.
“It’s early, been feeling pretty good, just trying to give my team the best chance to win every night,” he said.
— Hockeytown West Podcast (@HockeytownWpod) October 22, 2023
Cossa plays every other game, like he did last season in Toledo. Through three games, he owns a 2.38 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. Those are the kind of numbers the Red Wings want to see from Cossa, the 15th overall pick in 2021.
“He’s a great young kid,” said Michael Hutchinson, an ex-NHLer who was put in Grand Rapids to mentor Cossa. “He’s a good person, first and foremost, which goes a long way. We’re both excited for each other when we’ve had good games early on. He’s got an insane amount of talent. My role is just to be there for him if he has any questions or anything he needs. It’s fun working with someone that young and talented.”
Hutchinson a Mentor
The 33-year-old Hutchinson has logged 153 NHL games and been on the roster of several AHL teams. He acquired considerable goaltending wisdom during his tour of the NHL, which includes playing time with five NHL teams. The Red Wings asked him to go to Grand Rapids on a tryout contract. Part of Hutchinson’s mission, which isn’t in his contract, is to drop some knowledge on Cossa.
“When it comes to hockey, I’ve been through a lot over the years, many ups and downs,” Hutchinson said. “Learned a lot of things along the way I reflect on, maybe not in the moment but end of the season and given time, little things I handled well, things I didn’t handle well, things I wish I would have handled differently at the time. Tried to learn from that moving forward. That’s the kind of stuff in talking to him, I have that experience, been though it all, let in an overtime goal in Game 7, had to figure out a way to get over that. I’ve been called up, sent down, healthy scratched as a goalie. I’ve got a ton of different experiences, highs and lows. If I notice something and can give him a little tip here and there on how to mentally handle some stuff, I’m pretty much an open book and he knows he can ask me a question anytime and I’ll try to give him some advice from my own experience.”
Cossa Back With Watson
Cossa is appreciative of Hutchinson’s stories.
“A lot of experience there,” Cossa said. “He’s been really great. We’ve been talking every single day and each goalie session we have I feel like I picked something up each day. Kind of helping me progress my game, giving me pointers here and there. Our relationship has been growing. It’s been really good so far.”
It has also helped Cossa that his coach this season is Dan Watson, the same coach he had with the Walleye. Cossa played impressively for him down the stretch and in the postseason.
“Just the comfort level,” Cossa said. “Obviously, he makes me feel comfortable here. He’s done a really good job just integrating his culture into the Griffins room and guys are really going to battle with him.”
There’s still a learning curve.
“But it was nice to come up here and play a couple of games last year, see what to expect,” Cossa said. “It’s been a good start to the season. My defensemen have helped me a lot back there with some key blocks and stuff like that. Just continuing to grow. Definitely some more learning curves along the way but confidence is high right now. I go into each game confident in my abilities.”