Cossa leads crop of six Red Wings prospects to watch in the Canadian Hockey League playoffs
Photo credit:Edmonton Oil Kings on Twitter
By Scott Ony1 year ago
Late last week, the Detroit Red Wings were officially eliminated from playoff contention for the sixth consecutive season. As fans of the Red Wings, one of the only logical things to do at this point is to turn our attention to the team’s prospects.
Over the next few weeks, all three leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League will begin their respective playoff competitions and there will be several Red Wings prospects taking part.
In total, there will be six players drafted by the Red Wings competing for their respective league championships and entry into the Memorial Cup Tournament in June. Of these players, three are in the Western Hockey League (WHL); two are in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL); finally, one is in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Here’s a look at these half-dozen prospects vying for a spot in this year’s Memorial Cup. We’ll start in the WHL and move east from there.
Sebastian Cossa (G)
Selected 15th overall by the Red Wings in the 2021 NHL Draft, Cossa is looking to lead a star-studded Edmonton Oil Kings team to its first WHL championship since 2014. The Oil Kings currently sit second in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and are one of the favorites to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
At just 19 years of age, Cossa has been the Oil Kings’ starting goalie for the last three seasons. This will be his first chance to win a WHL title as the 2020 and 2021 playoffs were cancelled due to COVID-19.
This season, Cossa has posted a respectable .911 SV% and 2.33 GAA while racking up 32 wins in 45 appearances with the Oil Kings.
With this year’s World Junior tournament being postponed and the previous two WHL playoffs being cancelled, these will be the most meaningful games Cossa has played in a couple of years and should be very valuable to his development.
Anything short of a league championship for Edmonton would be a disappointment. They boast one of the strongest rosters in the entire CHL, including three other recent first-round picks: Dylan Guenther (ARI), Jake Neighbours (STL), and Kaiden Guhle (MTL).
Cross Hanas (RW)
A second-round pick in 2020, Hanas is having a massive year with Portland. His 85 points in 61 games currently rank eighth on the WHL scoring leaderboard.
The 20-year-old winger is having a breakout season for the Winterhawks and has shown why the Red Wings used such a high pick on him just two years ago.
While the Winterhawks’ roster doesn’t have as many big-name players as the Oil Kings, they’ve been a strong team all season and are currently one of the hottest teams in the WHL.
Hanas is an electric playmaker with a relentless effort on the forecheck and often forces turnovers that quickly become scoring chances. His highlights this season have been impressive, most notably this Trevor Zegras-esque assist to James Stefan.
Whether Portland goes on a deep playoff run or not, every game Hanas is on the ice is a must-watch.
Alex Cotton (D)
The Red Wings’ fifth-round pick in 2020, Cotton will be looking to help the Vancouver Giants reach the WHL playoffs.
Cotton had started the first five years of his WHL career with the Lethbridge Hurricanes but was traded to Vancouver earlier this season.
The 6’2″ defender has taken a small step back offensively this year with just 35 points in 48 games after posting 93 points in 87 games over the previous two seasons.
Unlike Portland and Edmonton, Vancouver has yet to clinch a playoff spot but is expected to eventually get in. If the season ended today, Cotton would face off against Hanas’ Winterhawks in a battle between the third and sixth seeds in the WHL’s Western Conference.
This will be Cotton’s last chance to win a WHL championship and his final junior games to impress Red Wings management to sign him to an NHL contract this summer. His exclusive NHL signing rights will expire on June 1, 2022.
Pasquale Zito (C)
With their final selection in the 2021 NHL Draft, Detroit chose Zito in the sixth round (166th overall). Like many others from the OHL, Zito was difficult to project entering this season because the 2020–21 schedule was cancelled.
While some OHL prospects played in lower-level junior leagues or in Europe, others, like Zito, didn’t play in any meaningful games in 2020–21. Despite missing an entire calendar of games, Zito has seen a huge improvement in his offensive production this year.
In 2019-20, his rookie OHL season, Zito registered 13 points in 46 games with the Windsor Spitfires. This year, he has improved to 41 points in 49 games, including 22 goals.
Led by OHL scoring leader and Dallas Stars first-round pick Wyatt Johnson, the Spitfires have a high-powered offense that has helped them clinch the top berth in the Eastern Conference.
Zito may not be the top offensive weapon on the Spitfires, but he’ll have to chip in to help the team make it far in the OHL playoffs. The Spitfires should be considered one of the favorites to be the OHL representative at the Memorial Cup.
Jan Bednar (G)
Bednar was a fourth-round pick out of the Czech league in 2020. After being selected by the Red Wings 107th overall, Bednar came over to the QMJHL and has been with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan for the last two seasons.
The 6’4″ Czech goaltender played in just 12 games in 2020-21 but has emerged as the starter for the Titan this season, posting a 25–10–4 record and a .912 save percentage in 40 appearances.
Acadie-Bathurst currently sits two points behind the Memorial Cup-bound Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL’s Eastern Conference and has already clinched a playoff spot.
Like Cossa, Bednar was representing his country in Edmonton before the World Junior tournament was postponed. These playoffs should be a positive experience for Bednar after missing out on competing for a medal earlier this year.
Bednar has an NHL frame but limited experience. The 19-year-old has played in just over 50 games the last two seasons and will need significantly more playing time before he is anywhere near NHL-ready.
A deep run towards the QMJHL President’s Cup could help push the Red Wings to sign Bednar to an entry-level contract.
Oscar Plandowski (D)
Selected by the Red Wings in the sixth round of the 2021 NHL Draft, Plandowski is in his third season as a member of the Charlottetown Islanders.
With 16 points in 51 games, Plandowski doesn’t provide much offense (his output actually decreased a little from last year). Nevertheless, he’s a strong skater and reliable defender who shoots right.
Charlottetown sits three spots above Bednar and Acadie-Bathurst for first in the QMJHL’s Eastern Conference. While they don’t feature as many NHL-destined prospects as some of the other teams mentioned here, the Islanders do have one of the most experienced rosters in the QMJHL (something that could help them go deep in the playoffs).
At just 18 years old, Plandowski should be back for his fourth season next year in Charlottetown and could be a strong candidate to take on a bigger role. These playoffs will provide a challenge while also giving him more opportunities to learn from the Islanders’ veteran players.
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