ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Marco Rossic has high hopes that when the Minnesota Wild sets their opening night roster, his name will be on it this season.
The No. 9 in the 2020 NHL Draft spent most of the 2021-22 season, his first in North America, playing for Iowa in the American Hockey League. Rossi played two games with the Wild and had no point.
“I feel ready,” Rossi said. “Last season that was really good for me. I was able to play a lot of minutes in Iowa. I played in every situation and I played a lot, so I think that was the best thing for me to get better as a player. So I feel there now ready.”
The departure of attackers Kevin Fialatraded to the Los Angeles Kings on June 30, and Nick Bjugstad and Nic Deslauriers, who were free agents, are creating an opportunity for the 20-year-old center this season.
“Rossi has to make it,” said Wild general manager Bill Guerin. “It’s competitive, so we want those guys to push for jobs. If they can come in and push and make the team and help us win, that’s great.”
Rossi led Iowa in assists (35) and took first place in points (53) in 63 games last season. It was a nice rebound after missing most of the 2019-20 season due to COVID-19 and then being diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, after reporting to Wild’s training camp in early January. He played one game with Zurich SC of the National League and four games for Austria at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships, all before the end of December, before resuming training in June 2021.
Last season, Rossi put health problems behind him and worked to improve his game against adult men in the American Hockey League.
Brad Bombardir, Wild’s director of player development, noted that for players, especially those as experienced as Rossi, staying patient can be a challenge. He said he’s glad it was one that Rossi accepted.
“It is always a goal to play in the National Hockey League as soon as possible,” said Bombardir. “But it has never hurt a player to play in the American Hockey League. I think overripe is much better than underripe.
“He has to come to training camp and play his game and perform well. If he does, and he takes a spot, that’s great. If he doesn’t, he’ll start in the American Hockey League and at some point he’ll come back here. He’ll be here eventually.”
Rossi said he knows nothing will be handed over to him this season.
“Of course I know in training camp that you have to earn that place,” said Rossi. “Nobody gives it to you. So you have to be prepared for that.
“Just be myself. That’s it.”