Wild 2021-22 Roster Could Really Use a Healthy Marco Rossi

After a terrifying situation with the Coronavirus that has been ever-present since Spring of 2020, Minnesota Wild prospect Marco Rossi is back in the driver seat. At times it looked like the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft wasn’t going to be able to fulfill his NHL dreams. Luckily, with the help of doctors, physicians, and the power of rest, he has been able to return to his pre-Covid-19 form or at least close to it. With that in mind, it means he’ll be headed to Minnesota for development camp, with hopefully a large chance at making the opening night roster. So what exactly can fans look forward to, and what does he bring to a lineup that younger players are slowly taking over?

Rossi’s Numbers Are Ridiculous

Rossi falling in the 2020 draft was seriously incredible, especially with the idea that the Ottawa Senators needed a player that could be a franchise center. Rossi played in their backyard with the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Instead, the Senators took Jake Sanderson with the fifth overall pick, and he continued to drop. The Buffalo Sabres took Jack Quinn with the eighth overall pick, and while he does have some upside, his numbers were never as good.

Rossi, throughout his time in Austrian leagues, was clearly head and shoulders above his peers. He then moved on to better things in the OHL, and, guess what, he was heads and shoulders above his peers there too. Not so much his first year, where he still scored 65 points in 53 games and tallying 29 goals. Instead, it was his draft year that really put him up in the rankings. Everyone knew he was a great player full of skill but he scored an impressive 120 points (39 goals) in 56 games with the 67’s. He led the entire league in scoring (From “67’s Marco Rossi wins OHL scoring title”, Ottawa Sun, 5/7/20), and it wasn’t necessarily close. The gap to the next player–Winnipeg Jets prospect Cole Perfetti–was nine points.

Marco Rossi Team Austria
Marco Rossi, Team Austria, 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

In the 2021 World Junior Championships, the Austrian team was a bit of a meme to all the hockey fans watching. The tournament got started with a bang, as the USA obliterated them 11-0, and it went downhill from there. They scored only one goal in four games to add salt to the wound and gave up 29. Germany was the only team worse than them defensively, but it was only by one goal in one more game. Rossi was the only player who consistently impacted that team, but even he couldn’t score a point. It was hard to watch, but he led by example even in the worst times, and that’s a major asset for a young Wild team.

Not playing hockey for 18 months can seriously damage a player’s feel for the game at a higher pace. However, he looked to be catching up to speed in the games he participated in during the international tournament. His numbers are clearly excellent, and if he can get back up to speed in an ample amount of time, we could see him producing at an excellent rate.

What Does Rossi Bring?

His numbers are really self-explanatory. But if you haven’t watched Rossi perform at a high level, you’ve missed out. He’s an extremely creative player with lots of innovative moves. Rarely, a player who can escape traffic as well as he does comes around in a draft. Whenever there is an odd-man rush, or there’s a situation in which a defender gives up the advantage, he takes it. It’s interesting how steady of a presence he is out on the ice. Even when it feels like the puck will fly around in the offensive zone, he finds a way to settle it down and create a scoring chance. He’s an excellent leader and stoic in his mannerisms in seemingly every scenario.

Rossi’s skating is something that can go underrated at times. He helps create lanes for his teammates by gathering the puck and keeping his head on a swivel and his feet moving. In tandem with his above-average shot, he puts himself in the best positions to score for himself and others. In this clip, he receives a pass off the wall in the middle of the ice and strides forward to fake a shot. He gets the defender to commit, and as soon as he does, he shifts to the left side of the ice and gets the defender to reach. He moves down in the zone and drops a pass to the oncoming forward, who winds up and takes the shot for a one-timer goal.

This is one play, but all of Rossi’s game is based around deception. For example, here’s a clip of his sweet hands in tight around the crease.

And here’s his speed in combination with his shot:

Overall, Rossi is the complete package. There isn’t much that he can’t do, and I’ve mostly just touched on his offense. His defense is solid too, and although it’s not as good as his skills with and without the puck in the offensive zone, it’s still great. He’s anything but a liability in his own zone, and the IQ that he uses so well on offense works just as well on defense.

The Wild Have a Center Problem

Tons of scouts around the hockey world have raved about Rossi since before his draft year. The Wild are extremely fortunate to have gotten a player as skilled as him, especially when considering he’s a center. The situation down the middle is dire. Joel Eriksson Ek is the best center on the team, and while he’s no slouch, he’s certainly not a first-line center. He’s a player that is consistently in the Selke Trophy conversation, but it’s just not enough for a team looking to make their way back into playoff contention. The same can be said for Victor Rask, who had a coming-out party centering both Kirill Kaprizov and Matz Zuccarello in the 2020-21 season but definitely isn’t first-line center material a team that’s serious about the postseason.

This is where Rossi comes into play. His leadership capabilities, paired with one of the best combinations of hockey IQ and physical attributes, make him one of the best prospects in the league. The Wild are certain to boost morale and skill, having another young and hungry presence in their top-six. It’s only a matter of time before we see what he can do against his peers in training camp and hopefully in the NHL.