With all the buzz about the Minnesota Wild, there’s one name that has crept up in everyone’s minds: Marco Rossi, the team’s hope for a strong, young center who can lead the way for years to come. The Wild already have great pivots in Ryan Hartman, Frédérick Gaudreau, and Joel Eriksson Ek, but Rossi is their future.
The team has Eriksson Ek locked up for a while, and he’ll most likely be a mentor for Rossi as he steps into a full-time NHL role. That leaves Hartman, who has two seasons left under contract, and Gaudreau with just this season. While the Wild have a several veteran centers for this season, going forward, a spot will open up for Rossi to fill.
Rossi’s Time is Now
During the 2021-22 season, Rossi played in 63 games for the Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League (AHL) where he tallied 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists). He was tied for first on the team in points and led the team in assists. While he did great in the AHL, the transition to the NHL was a bit more difficult.
Rossi played in two games for the Wild during the 2021-22 season when they lost many players to injury. He joined the roster at the same time as Matt Boldy but didn’t find the same success as quickly. As a result, he only played two games in Minnesota before returning to Iowa once the parent club got some of their players back.
In those two games, Rossi didn’t record any points, but it wasn’t from lack of trying, as he did have five shots on goal. He also averaged 15 minutes of ice time per game and accumulated four penalty minutes while helping out defensively with a hit, blocked shot, giveaway, and takeaway. He had small contributions, and hopefully, once he’s in the lineup more consistently, he can make a bigger impact.
Where Rossi Fits
This season Rossi is expected to join the lineup permanently. However, it won’t be on the first line. He has to earn his spot, and it’s likely that he will be centering the fourth line because that’s the easiest spot to slot him in. His placement also depends on whether management makes a trade or signs someone to fill Kevin Fiala’s wing position because that will cause more line shuffling.
Related: Wild’s Boldy & Rossi Leave Good Impressions in First NHL Games
If Rossi fits in well on the fourth line with Brandon Duhaime and Connor Dewar, he may stay there for a while. However, if it doesn’t work out, they could move Gaudreau to the wing, and Rossi could center him and Boldy on the second line. The third line is unlikely, even if Jordan Greenway is not back from injury, because that trio, also known as the “GREEF” line, is pretty solid with Greenway, Eriksson Ek, and Marcus Foligno.
Obviously, everyone would love to see Rossi on a line with Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, but Hartman is the perfect center for those two at the moment. However, Hartman could also work well with the physicality that the fourth line brings. He has a slight edge to his game that could give the fourth line the boost it needs after the departure of the feisty Nicolas Deslauriers. If he switches to the fourth line, that would give Rossi the opportunity to showcase his talent on the first line with players who are also quick and good with the puck.
On paper, it seems like there’s only one place to slot in Rossi, but there are other opportunities if he can prove himself. Other than the “GREEF” line, which is pretty well established, Rossi has a potential spot on the other three lines.
Rossi’s Future with the Wild
If Rossi can step up this season and produce some points, he has a permanent spot on the Wild’s roster for years to come. If he does start on the fourth line, it’ll be interesting to see if he can adjust to working with the more physical attributes that line usually plays with. If he can do that, it’ll show what kind of player he is and that he has the ability to play on any line.
Rossi is a very fast and skilled player who shouldn’t have any trouble once he’s given more than a couple of games to adapt. Again, all of these line combinations could be changed depending on whether the Wild can pick up a player this offseason or if they’re going to promote some of their young prospects to the big leagues. Regardless, it’ll be fun for fans to see how Rossi handles the NHL and what line he’ll end up on.