If you needed another reason to tune in for the World Junior Championship later this month, you’ve got it. Marco Rossi, the Minnesota Wild forward who led the OHL in scoring last season, will soon be assigned to Team Austria for their training camp that begins this weekend according to Michael Russo of The Athletic. The Wild believe it is a “great opportunity” for Rossi to lead the Austrians, where he will likely be the team’s best player in the tournament.
Rossi, 19, is currently on loan to the ZSC Lions in Switzerland and has played one game for the pro club. The undersized center was one of the best players in the entire CHL last season, scoring 120 points in 56 games for the Ottawa 67’s and winning the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL Most Outstanding Player. Considered one of the most NHL-ready prospects in the draft, he was selected ninth overall by the Wild and was hoping to jump right into the league.
As with everything else right now, that is entirely up in the air. The NHL doesn’t have a firm start date or even a training camp schedule, leading to the decision by the Wild to send him to the World Juniors. Rossi’s agent, Serge Payer, told Russo that he will report to Minnesota after the tournament in Edmonton.
The development of Rossi is paramount in Minnesota. The team has been searching for a new franchise center for years, and though GM Bill Guerin has acquired names like Nick Bonino, Marcus Johansson, and Nick Bjugstad this summer, all of whom have experience down the middle, it’s Rossi that still carries the hope of an entire fanbase. If he is able to fulfill his potential and find any sort of chemistry with Kirill Kaprizov, the Wild could have a duo to build around for years to come.
Even though the Wild haven’t often been considered real Stanley Cup contenders, they still have been mired in the middle of the pack and haven’t received prospects like Rossi very often. In fact, he’s the highest draft pick they’ve had since Matt Dumba went seventh overall in 2012.