Now that most hockey seasons are either over or coming to a close, we’re starting to get a clearer picture on where certain prospects are at in their development, as well as where they might be playing next season. In today’s Detroit Red Wings Prospect Report, we’re taking a look at a few prospects whose seasons are over, and one whose season continues due, in part, to their strong play.
We’ll start by discussing Finnish defenseman Antti Tuomisto and where he has decided to play next season. Next, we’ll stay in Europe and discuss two players who seem poised to come to North America next season. Finally, we’ll close it out with a look at the top goaltender in the Red Wings’ system: Sebastian Cossa. Buckle in – this report has big-time 2022-23 season implications.
Tuomisto Heading Back to Finland
Tuomisto, the 35th pick in the 2019 draft, recently signed a two-year deal with TPS of the Finnish Liiga after spending the past two seasons playing with the University of Denver. While a member of the Denver Pioneers, the 6-foot-5 defender recorded 20 points through 59 games while also playing a role in their run to a national championship this season. This season, he played alongside fellow Red Wings prospects Shai Buium and Carter Mazur.
While Tuomisto did not produce the offensive numbers one might expect from a player drafted early in the second round, his defensive game did seem to take a few steps while playing with Denver. To that point, he recorded the fifth-most blocks for the Pioneers this season, and he had one of the best plus/minus rates (plus-19) for a team where all but one player recorded a positive rate. That being said, his game was only taking baby steps forward at best, and completely stagnating at worst. Playing in the top league in Finland should provide an opportunity to correct course.
“The feelings are very good that I got a chance to play in TPS and Turku,” Tuomisto told the TPS website. “I am especially in the mood to get into a club where I have the opportunity to succeed and, of course, develop as a player.”
With a healthy dose of size and skill, Tuomisto still has the makings of a dangerous middle-pairing defender. He is surprisingly mobile for his size, and he possesses good stick skills, allowing him to make plays with and without the puck that can feed his team’s attack. Playing against men in Finland should give him ample opportunity to take his game to another level, and the European game should allow him to rediscover the offensive game that made him such an intriguing prospect in the 2019 draft class.
Albert Johansson, Eemil Viro Set to Come to North America Next Season
Speaking of the Liiga, Red Wings defensive prospect Eemil Viro (70th overall, 2020) is expected to cross the pond and play next season in North America. Signed to an entry-level contract (ELC) on May 19, 2021, the Finnish defenseman has spent the last three seasons playing for the same TPS team that Tuomisto now heads to.
Over 134 regular season games with TPS, the two-way defenseman had 7 goals and 24 points. He followed that up with 9 points through 28 playoff games. Viro is not the biggest defensive prospect in the Red Wings’ system, but he still has good size, standing at 6-foot and 170 pounds. He was one of my favorite prospects in the 2020 draft class (I thought he was small steal coming out of the third round) and he has all the tools to become a steady, two-way defenseman in the NHL that can compliment a high-octane defensive partner. He will most likely spend all of next season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL).
Joining Viro in his first season in North America will be Swedish defenseman Albert Johansson, whom the Red Wings selected with the 60th pick in the 2019 draft. After celebrating a Swedish Hockey League (SHL) championship with Färjestads BK this season, the smart, skilled defenseman revealed his intentions for next season:
Johansson led all SHL defensemen under the age of 22 in scoring with 25 points – six points ahead of the next closest player (fellow Red Wings prospect William Wallinder). I ranked him as the Red Wings’ fourth-best prospect in our most recent Red Wings prospect rankings, and I think there’s a real possibility that he pushes for an NHL roster spot as early as next season, likely in a third-pairing role.
Like Viro, Johansson stands at 6-feet tall and a somewhat slender frame. If Johansson can add some strength, that will help his chances at making his NHL debut right away. He already possesses NHL-level skill as a playmaker on the blue line, and he’s equally adept in his own zone. His well-rounded game should give him the opportunity to become a middle-pairing defenseman capable of playing north of 20 minutes on any given night. He could also become the reason the Red Wings are able to split up Moritz Seider and current top prospect Simon Edvinsson, giving them the opportunity to be “the guy” on their own pairings. Johansson has the goods to carry his own pairing, or compliment an elite talent like Seider.
Before accounting for the prospects the Red Wings will add in the 2022 draft, Johansson may be the most intriguing player to watch at training camp because starting the season in the AHL is not a foregone conclusion; if there’s one prospect that “could come out of nowhere” and grab a roster spot, it’s him.
Cossa, Oil Kings Head to the WHL Final
With the help of Cossa in net, the Edmonton Oil Kings punched their ticket to the Western Hockey League (WHL) Final, defeating the Winnipeg ICE in five games. The Oil Kings now await the victors of the series between the Kanloops Blazers and the Seattle Thunderbirds.
The 6-foot-6 behemoth whom the Red Wings selected with the 15th pick of the 2021 draft has had a relatively disappointing season after recording a lights-out 2020-21 season where he posted a 1.57 goals-against average (GAA) and a .941 save-percentage (SV%). This season, he finished with a 2.28 GAA and a .913 SV% while finishing with a record of 33-9-3. Cossa is 12-1 in the playoffs this year and holds a 1.97 GAA and a .909 SV%.
While hiss numbers in this year’s WHL playoffs aren’t the prettiest you’ve ever seen, he’s making the stops necessary to give his team a chance to win. That the Oil Kings have only lost one game through three rounds is a testament to the strength of their team and the timely saves provided by Cossa. You don’t want to see a goalie drafted in the first round (or any goalie for that matter) fold under pressure and, so far, the Red Wings’ top goaltending prospect seems to shine when the lights are brightest.
With a blend of size, talent, and confidence, Cossa has all the ingredients needed to become a top-tier goaltender in the NHL. This season was a particularly challenging one for the 19-year-old as he arrived at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament last Fall and looked way out his depth in the one game he started, and then he lost out on being Team Canada’s starter at the World Junior Championship after many labeled him as Canada’s presumptive starter for the winter tournament. He is weirdly susceptible to losing the puck in his feet, and he’s been beaten by a few too many “easy’ shots throughout this year. To that point, last month when the media asked Red Wings general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman if he thought the young goaltender was ready for the NHL, the GM offered a diplomatic response:
Cossa has one more year of junior eligibility, but he could also start next season in the AHL or even in a European league. He has already signed an ELC with the Red Wings, which means Detroit is directly in control of where the goaltender plays. With Grand Rapids starter Calvin Pickard needing a new contract and the status for next season of late-season signee Magnus Hellberg is unknown, it will be interesting to see what kind of workload Cossa will shoulder if/when he joins the Griffins next season.
More Reports on the Way….
With the 2022 draft a little over a month away, we are more than likely going to start hearing more and more news regarding the Red Wings’ prospect pool. Not only will they be adding some new faces to the bunch, but it will start to become clear what the 2022-23 season holds for the majority of their prospects. When that news comes out, you can expect more Red Wings Prospect Reports to follow.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.