Best Savage Hope Marco Rossi Healthy and Thriving in AHL After COVID Fear

DES MOINES, Iowa – With less than five minutes to play in regulation in a Friday night AHL game, the Iowa Wild trailed the Grand Rapids Griffins 5-3. Needing a spark on the power play, top prospect Marco Rossi was ready to light the fuse.

In a game that summed up many of his best traits, Rossi had just popped into space as the puck fled towards AHL veteran Joe Hicketts at midpoint. Hicketts found himself, released a shot that missed the target. But with his high-end anticipation skills, Rossi was already in the net as soon as Hicketts started his backswing. When the puck hit the back panels, it came out just as Rossi was skating to the perfect spot. The 20-year-old Austrian star once hit the puck just under the crossbar and passed a slippery Calvin Pickard to bring the Wild back in a goal and remind everyone at Wells Fargo Arena enjoying the « $ 2 Beer. Night ”why he was a top-10 pick in the NHL Draft. It was an elite level finish on a broken play that started more out of desperation as a power play was about to expire and ended with Iowa gaining momentum in the game.

The Wild would tie the game, only to lose in overtime, but coming back two less goals with less than five minutes in regulation, it was a well-deserved point.

For Rossi, it was another positive step in the right direction for a player coming out of a nightmarish 2020-21 season that had nothing to do with performance on the ice.

Rossi has appeared in just five total matches between the Swiss National League and the 2021 Junior World Championship as he faced a serious fight with COVID-19. After being found to be cured of COVID-19, unbeknownst to Rossi, he had developed myocarditis, a disturbing heart disease that many COVID-19 survivors contracted as a result of battling the virus. The myocarditis was spotted thanks to Rossi’s physical pre-training camp with the Wild, but it kept him off the ice and unable to exercise for months.

As Rossi told The Athletic’s Michael Russo last spring, there were nights he would fall asleep not knowing if he would wake up in the morning due to the severity of his heart problem.

Under the doctor’s orders, Rossi couldn’t do much for a long time, but it helped him regain his health. He was cleared to skate over the summer and later to play in real matches for Austria in the Olympic qualifiers. From there, he headed straight to Minnesota training camp in hopes of proving he was back and ready to carve out a niche in the NHL. He was eventually sent to the AHL, a move that prioritized Rossi’s development and allowed him to regain his playing speed and learn the professional game while ensuring his strength and fitness continued. to progress after a long layoff.

With Iowa, Rossi is in the role the Wild hope to eventually reach at the NHL level. He centers the farm club’s front row, plays huge minutes in every game, leads the best power play unit from the half-wall, and even plays on the PK. He’s been given the AHL-level confidence that takes a lot longer to gain in the NHL and the more reps he gets in his role as a top player, the better.

“For me, it’s just important that I play as much as I can at the moment. Now I play every game, I think over 20 minutes, about 20-25 minutes and that’s the best I can get right now. I play so many minutes every night, on the power play, on the penalty kill, ”Rossi said in a phone interview a week after scoring that big goal.

Rossi rewarded Iowa and his coaching staff for their confidence in him with a solid production. He has accumulated 11 points in nine games so far, with three goals and eight assists, most of which have been primaries. Overall, the Wild also had a better number of possessions with Rossi on the ice. According to InStat tracked data, Rossi has a 58% percentage of Corsi in nine games.

The number of minutes Rossi plays has proven to him and the Wild organization that while he’s not quite recovered from his health issues, he’s very close.

“I feel really comfortable,” said Rossi. “I had to do a lot of work, because after a few months where you don’t do anything, it’s really hard to come back. But I had a great summer with my personal coach. We have done a lot of good things. Then I went with the Austrian team, I had five games with them. Those first games were really tough, but then I felt comfortable. With Minnesota at training camp, I was able to build my confidence there too. I feel really good, my physical condition is better than before, so everything is going very well. « 

Even when the Wild had issues with players in the COVID protocol, they called a number of prospects from the Iowa Wild, but left Rossi in Des Moines. It might have been tempting to inject more skill into training with him there, but long-term vision remains the most important thing for the Wild.

For Rossi, not getting the call didn’t affect him in one way or another. He says the Iowa coaches, who include former NHL assistant Tim Army as the head coach, have really helped him develop. He can tell he’s making progress, which allows him to stay focused and not worry about that first call. He will come in his time.

“I don’t think too much about it,” he said of the chance to play for Minnesota. “My goal right now, here with the Iowa Wild. I am 100% focused here. I want to give the best of them. If I think too much about Minnesota, my goal is not in the right place. I just need to be patient. It will come one day.

At the moment Rossi lives just outside of Des Moines with his girlfriend. He says having her with her really helped him feel at home as she often cooks many meals that he used to eat in Austria. That little dose of comfort made life in the heart of America quite enjoyable for the young striker, allowing him to focus on his performance on the ice and keep improving.

The Wild have been very involved with Rossi, helping him get the medical attention he needs and giving him the space to regain his health and now giving him the best development opportunity to get him back on track. after his health crisis. Now, they monitor him regularly and make sure he has the necessary support. Meanwhile, the Iowa coaches gave him every chance to learn how to be a go-to player at the professional level.

What happened to Rossi could have affected him a lot more than just his hockey career. Sometimes there were real concerns about his quality of life. Through hard work and determination, under the supervision of medical professionals, Rossi got his career back on track much faster than he possibly could. He plays, he is comfortable and above all, he is in good health.

Peters Scouting Report

I went to see Rossi play in Des Moines on November 5th against the Grand Rapid Griffins. He scored one goal and one assist in the game, four shots on goal and was squeezed nearly 22 minutes of ice time in the overtime loss. He had an unlucky turnout that led to a goal against, but generally had a positive impact on a shift basis.

I also came back and watched more of Rossi’s games this year on InStat to get a better idea of ​​his performance this season and watched his pre-Olympic qualifying matches with the Austria squad to see where he is now compared to where he was. so. Here are some of my general thoughts:

Two things have been particularly noticed in Marco Rossi’s play from his return to action in pre-Olympic qualifying so far: his skating feels much faster and more powerful, and his ability to fight and win pucks is at. a much better level. These are two things where strength and conditioning can play a big part. It is much more advanced in this regard.

One thing that has always been true of Rossi is that he has an elite level hockey sense. His ability to make plays through anticipation, quality readings, and a good understanding of time and space, has never really been lost. He’s just able to perform better now because he’s getting that timing back. Everything goes faster at the pro level and he never seemed to be behind the game.

Rossi looked really comfortable on the power play, dictating the game from the half-wall. He got a main assist on a Mason Shaw goal, where he was able to place the puck perfectly for Shaw just before an oncoming defenseman dropped a stick. Everything was perfect timing and execution on Rossi’s part. Same with Rossi’s power play goal described above, as he anticipated the carom on the back wall and was able to skate there for an elite level finish.

In other games that I have watched this season, Rossi finds the soft pockets where he can make plays and be a more dangerous scoring threat. He reads defenses well and can sneak into high percentage areas just in time for a chance to score.

Rossi is in the right place right now in Iowa and the Wild don’t really need to push him around. Both the team and the player are much better served with him regularly playing 22 minutes a night, being a star offensive player for his team and continuing to build confidence. With his conditioning in the right place now, he can focus on rebuilding his offensive toolbox and become a more dominant player at the AHL level. He is not very far from being able to do so. Once at this point, the Wild can easily call him when he needs an extra dose of skill.

Finally, considering what Rossi has been through over the past year, seeing how he fought back and recovered. The fact that he was able to return to this high level of performance quickly shows how serious he is because it took a ton of work. All this alone makes one wonder how far he will take his career. The Wild knew they had a good player from the moment they drafted him, but after seeing what he’s been through and how far he’s come in such a short time, they might have a really special one.

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