CALGARY — Sebastian Cossa is hoping to make his mark in Canada’s crease at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The 19-year-old, who plays for Edmonton of the Western Hockey League, is one of three goalies auditioning for the role of No. 1 for Canada, joining 2022 NHL Draft eligible Brett Brochu of London of the Ontario Hockey League and New York Rangers prospect Dylan Garand of Kamloops of the WHL.
“It’s a lot of sacrifice and hard work that’s gotten me to this point, so you embrace it and enjoy it,” Cossa said. “There’s a lot that comes with it, putting on the Team Canada jersey, a lot of expectations. You go out and try to represent your country and play well for them.
“Being the goalie for Team Canada definitely comes with the expectations that you’re going to do good and a lot falls on your shoulders. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to keep a pretty small mindset and do my job and stop the puck.”
The three goalies were the only ones Canada brought to selection camp Dec. 1.
They’ve been in competition ever since to become Canada’s No. 1 for the tournament, beginning Dec. 26 against Czechia at Rogers Place in Edmonton — Cossa’s home rink.
“The three of us have created a close bond and that’s just going to increase as the tournament goes on,” said Cossa, who counts World Juniors performances from Carter Hart (2017, 2018) and Carey Price (2007) among his most memorable. “It’s competitive, but not anti-competitive where you’re wishing bad on those guys. You just play your game and whoever is No. 1 is whoever is going to play the best and do the best for the team to try to help us win a gold medal.”
Cossa, selected by the Detroit Red Wings with the No. 15 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, is 15-3-3 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 21 WHL games this season.
He had a 1.57 GAA and .941 save percentage in 19 games last season.
“His stature … he’s so big (6-foot-6, 215 pounds), but I think the biggest thing is how well he moves as well,” said Canada alternate captain and St. Louis Blues forward prospect Jake Neighbours, who doubles as Cossa’s teammate in Edmonton. “He gets across the crease pretty quick for a big guy and tracks the puck well as well. I think his mentality is a big part of it. He has a lot of confidence as a goaltender and knows he’s going to to stop the puck when it’s coming at him.
“You really see how much he’s developed and grown confidence in his game, and I think that’s everything for a goalie, knowing you’re good and you can stop the puck. ‘Coss’ definitely believes that in himself and continually works on his game and doesn’t take any shot lightly in practice. That mentality and work ethic is what makes him so good.”
Canada captain and Montreal Canadiens defense prospect Kaiden Guhle, who became Cossa’s teammate in Edmonton after a trade from Prince Albert on Dec. 1, knows what it’s like to play with and against him.
“He’s going to be a big part of the team,” Guhle said. “All goalies are going to be big. He’s a good goalie. I got to play against him a couple times this year and now that he’s on my side it’s pretty nice to have him back there. He’s obviously a great goaltender and he’s going to be big this year.
“He’s an all-around good goaltender.”
Cossa’s competition in the crease has similarly impressive resumes heading into the tournament.
Garand, selected by the Rangers in the fourth round (No. 103) of the 2020 NHL Draft, is the lone goalie to return from Canada’s entry that finished second in the WJC last season. He is 15-4-0 with a 1.85 GAA and .932 save percentage in 19 games with Kamloops this season.
Brochu is 16-5-1 with a 2.48 GAA and .921 save percentage in 22 games with London this season.
“It’s a unique situation,” Cossa said. “At the end of they we’ve had chats with our mental trainer and the three of us are going to do our best and try to stop as many pucks as possible. Whoever is best and at the top of their game and going to help us win a gold medal is going to be supported by the rest.
“It’s friendship, but there is competition between us.”