Marco Rossi’s Comeback Story; Potential Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and Calder Trophy Winner?

Kirill Kaprizov won the 2021 Calder Memorial Trophy. Scoring 27 goals and 51 points in 55 games, the Minnesota Wild forward was the first to get this award in franchise history, and soon, the organization might get two in two years; something that hasn’t been done since 1954 by the New York Rangers. With the ninth overall selection in a stacked 2020 NHL draft class, the Minnesota Wild selected an undersized center from the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL); Marco Rossi. There was a debate for him to go in the top 3, but ultimately it was the fact that he was 5’9 that held him back from this. Rossi, expected to be on the Wild’s opening night roster for the 2021-22 season, will have had one of the best comeback stories in the league. Along with being a Calder favourite, he will be one of the clear cut Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominees. Here is his story.

He was selected by the 67’s in the first round of the 2018 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft and immediately made an impact in his rookie season. He posted 65 points in 53 games, helping the 67’s win the Hamilton Spectator Trophy for most points in the regular season. He then put up another impressive 22 points in 17 playoff games as the 67’s made it to the OHL finals before losing in six games to the Guelph Storm. Being named to the OHL Second All-Rookie Team, some scout’s heads started to turn onto the 17-year-old.

The following season, Rossi was all over the CHL’s awards and all over the highlight reels as he had more ‘OHL Play Of The Night’ moments in the season than anyone else. Achieving an amazing 120 points in 56 games, he won: CHL Top Scorer Award, Eddie Powers Trophy (OHL Most Points), OHL Most Assists Award, OHL Best Plus/Minus Award, and the Red Tilson Trophy (OHL Most Outstanding Player). On top of these, he was named to the OHL First All-Star Team and CHL Top Prospects Game. Unfortunately, the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. If Rossi played the rest of the season and the playoffs, who knows what could have happened?

Leading up to the draft with a shortened season, Rossi uploaded many pictures and videos of him working out and training. His work ethic is unmatched, he really wants to be the best. Rossi had many draft interviews with multiple teams, but ultimately it would be the State of Hockey that would take him. The team and the fanbase were both very excited to have an amazing player like Rossi come into their system and help them for the future.

In Fall of 2020, things seemed to start getting more normal, at least in Europe. Many leagues were opening up so many NHL players and prospects started their season there. This included Wild prospect Marco Rossi. He would go to the Swiss-A league and take the ice for the Zurich SC. Heading into this, the Zurich club had lost three games straight. He would prove to be a force. Providing an amazing stretch pass on the backhand to get his first point on the third goal of the game. Following this game, the entire team of Zurich, Rossi included, had to quarantine due to the majority of the team contracting COVID-19. The outbreaks across the league would not stop , and unknowingly, Rossi had played his last game with Zurich SC.

Next up on his road to the NHL was the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship. Team Austria was not a powerhouse, to say the least. Captain Marco Rossi would lead his team into action with some great rushes and opportunities but would be crushed in the first game, 11-0. The whole tournament would be much the same. Austria would be outscored 29-1 in the tournament, but Rossi would stay at a great -6. He would then be awarded forward of the tournament for his team despite putting up no points.

Following the World Juniors, some scary news would come out regarding Rossi and his health. When he traveled to Minnesota for the NHL Training Camp, he was diagnosed with Myocarditis. This medical condition stops the heart from being able to pump. It was revealed he gained this from returning symptoms when he had COVID-19. It was a scary time for the youngster as he couldn’t even walk down his bedroom hallway before getting out of breath and needing to lie down. The Athletic’s Michael Russo interviewed Rossi about this tough time. Rossi told him he was scared beyond the sport, not that he wouldn’t play hockey again, but that he wouldn’t wake up when he went to sleep each night. This feeling would continue for months. No underlaying conditions before he had COVID-19, but that didn’t stop the virus from keeping him in his household for six months. It wasn’t until June 5th that Rossi hit the ice for the first time since the World Juniors in December.

He started to skate on his own and workout to prepare for the upcoming 2021-22 NHL season. In late August, Rossi had the chance to represent Austria once again while partaking in the 2022 Olympic qualifiers. Unfortunately, the team would fall short going 1-2 in the tournament. Rossi posted two assists in his three games.

The 9th overall pick from the 2020 draft would finally wear the green jersey on ice when he engaged in the Minnesota Wild’s 2021 Prospect Showcase. A debut to remember for sure, Rossi posted two goals and two assists in his two games. He looked phenomenal playing with other Wild prospect, Matthew Boldy. Rossi also drew a penalty with some great puck protection. Although it was just a rookie game, his skill looks like it will transfer over to the NHL.

Rossi ties the game with four seconds remaining with a perfect snipe.

Now, we arrive to the present day. September 25th, Michael Russo has confirmed Marco Rossi will start as the first line center for the Wild tonight against the St. Louis Blues in the first preseason game of the year. He’ll be playing in the middle of Jordan Greenway and linemate from the Prospect Showcase, Matthew Boldy. Rossi will be facing his most experienced goalie yet in Ville Husso. Even if it is “just preseason”, keep your eyes peeled for the small but skilled #23. We could be watching the first “real” game of the potential Calder Trophy and Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner.

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