TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Plain and simple, it’s hockey season. five days of the NHL tournament prospects are in the books, with the red wings winning two of their three games in the final event before training camp begins on Thursday.
Here’s who and what stood out over the long weekend.
1. Sebastian Cossa had an excellent performance.
The Red Wings rotated their goalies evenly throughout the event, giving up two half-games apiece to Cossa, Jan Bednar and free-agent wild card Andrew Oke. But even with a somewhat limited workload, Detroit’s 15th pick in 2021 separated himself from the rest as the best goaltender in the tournament.
That may seem obvious, given his pedigree, but considering a tough performance at the same event last season, it was remarkable to see Cossa in such control in both of his half-games. He started the first game and made some tough stops, and then came on cold as a reliever in Monday’s finale against Toronto and stopped all 16 shots he faced.
With no current decision on where Cossa will play this season, a question that will apparently be resolved in the main camp and preseason, the athletic goalkeeper made a strong opening statement as he looks to turn pro.
Red Wings close out the prospect tournament with a 4-1 victory over Toronto. Sebastian Cossa stopped all 16 shots he faced. Next: training camp. pic.twitter.com/Rix2qgw2Vx
—Max Bultman (@m_bultman) September 19, 2022
two. The top two standouts among Detroit forwards were Elmer Söderblom and Cross Hanas.
Unsurprisingly, Söderblom was a burden to drive low protecting the puck, and you saw his very good hands and reach, but it was his passing that impressed me the most. I don’t think I ever saw playmaking as a big part of his game before, but he had three assists in three games in the tournament and the overall feel of him was noteworthy.
Unsurprisingly for a 6-foot-8 forward, Detroit put him in front of the net on the power play, which is probably where he’ll be up front most often. However, he played on the flank in Sweden, because the big man has a cannon shot. He showed it several times in the tournament, and I think part of his game, other than his size, will help him transition to North America.
Barring a strong preseason performance, though, my current guess is that he’ll likely start the season in Grand Rapids, so he can continue to adjust to the shortened time that will come with the North American game, as well as how physical opponents I want to be with him. Söderblom’s skill and size profile can certainly make the smaller ice cap work for him, possibly very soon. But I guess he’s got some seasoning with the Griffins, though I thought he was one of Detroit’s best players over the weekend.
3. Hanas, for her part, arguably entered the tournament looking to prove she belongs in the AHL rather than the juniors. And I think that was a mission well accomplished.
Showing both physicality and skill, he played hard and produced offense over the course of three games, finishing with two goals and two assists. Detroit played Hanas and Söderblom together, and the two seemed like a good fit, to the point where I wonder if we’d see them as linemates if they’re both in Grand Rapids.
As I mentioned, I usually think of Söderblom more for his goals than his passing, and interestingly, Hanas told me over the weekend that he considers himself more of a playmaker. “I like to make plays, set up guys, that’s something I find joy in,” he said. “I’ve been like this all my life.”
Those roles were reversed over the weekend, as Söderblom took Hanas out for a couple of breaks over the long weekend and Hanas finished both of them, and for Detroit, that’s probably encouraging. Both also killed penalties and created foul chances while doing so. A strong performance for both.
Four. The other two forward prospects I thought showed up remarkably well were 2022 fourth-round pick Amadeus Lombardi and 2019 seventh-round pick Kirill Tyutyayev. They are both small but played with good pace and brought pucks into the net. Lombardi has big wheels and hands and will be fun to watch in junior hockey this season, while Tyutyayev, a smart, competitive player who moves pretty well, should get a full season in Grand Rapids after missing almost all of last season.
5. On the blue line, the big news coming into camp was 2021 No. 6 pick Simon Edvinsson, who is believed to have the best shot among Red Wings prospects to make the opening night lineup. He didn’t dominate as you might expect, and while he still played well overall, he seemed a bit casual at times.
That said, Edvinsson’s poise is also a strength: He consistently and steadily builds pressure and rarely seems rushed with the puck. I think Detroit will want to see a little more urgency if it’s going to start the year in the NHL, but the Red Wings clearly have a tremendous prospect on their hands. Edvinsson has all the tools you could really want in a defender, and it will be very interesting to see him in the preseason.
6. Regardless of where Edvinsson plays, though, the Griffins are going to have a really interesting young defense corps. Brian Lashoff and steven kampfer will be the veterans, but in addition to them, Donovan Sebrango (2020 third round), Jared McIsaac (2018 second round) and Seth Barton (2018 third round) should return from last year, as well as newcomers Eemil Viro (3rd round 2020 round) and Albert Johansson (2019 second round). That’s before the Edvinsson possibility, and 24-year-old Wyatt Newpower is also in that mix.
The competition for ice time and roles will be fierce there.
In this tournament though, I thought the young group looked pretty good for most of the tournament. Johansson and Viro will adjust to the North American game, sure, and they’re both a bit smaller, but they’ve also been playing professional hockey for a number of years, which should help them adjust. Sebrango and Barton used lyrics over the weekend, and Sebrango’s jamming and physicality stood out for me on Monday.
It’s going to be a fun group to watch this season, no matter what the exact mix is.
7. There were several free-agent guests looking to turn the prospect tournament into an NHL contract this weekend, and while forward Riley Piercey stole the show at the opening with four goals, my favorite wild card as a prospect was defender Jeremie Biakabutuka. The 20-year-old right-shooting defenseman has real tools with good mobility and a good shot at 6-foot-4. I wonder if anyone will look at him after a performance that saw him finish among the tournament leaders at plus-4 in three games?
(Hanas Photo: Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)