Photo from Terry Wilson/OHL Images, Aaron Bell (CHL)
Marco Rossi had a season for the ages in 2019-20.
Born a week after the cutoff for the 2019 NHL draft, Rossi had something to prove. His rookie season with the Ottawa 67s was fantastic, racking up 65 points in 53 games that was shortened due to injury. Rossi got a good taste of what Canadian major junior had to offer, but most believed there was so much more to a player shaping up to be the best in Austrian hockey history.
As expected, he lived up to the billing. he took his game to an incredible level this past season, leading all OHLers with 120 points to earn the league MVP title to the surprise of nobody. It was easy to see why. Rossi’s primary points-per-game average of 1.57 bested Quinton Byfield’s 1.51 rating, with the two swapping places when at even strength (Byfield had 1.04, Rossi finished with 1.03). Only Cole Perfetti (62) had more primary even-strength points than Rossi (58), with Rossi (28) nudging out Barrie’s Tyson Foerster’s 26 points despite playing six fewer games. Production-wise, Rossi had the OHL covered, but he’s a top-three player in the entire CHL, even when you include Alexis Lafrenière into the equation.
Rossi isn’t expected to return to the OHL next season, and rightfully so. Only Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner had more points as a first-year draft-eligible prospect in the OHL over the past decade, and Rossi’s output tied Connor McDavid’s run from back in 2014-15 (McDavid played nine fewer games, but we’re talking about a superstar in McDavid in his third OHL season compared to Rossi’s second). Where Rossi goes next is still unknown heading into July, but many believe he’ll head back to the Swiss’ NLA (could you imagine Rossi paired up with fellow Austrian Benjamin Baumgartner in Davos?). Rossi already has pro experience, skating in 18 games in the Swiss B-league as a 16-year-old – and performed well with seven points in 18 games. This time, it won’t be a second-tier outfit – he’d be playing against Europe’s best.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes Rossi a special prospect:
D.O.B – September 23, 2001
Nationality – Austria
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Weight –179 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Rossi’s Style Of Play
There’s no shortage of talented, two-way centermen in the draft this year, so what sets Rossi above the rest? Other than the numbers, which proves he’s too good for the junior level at this point, Rossi is good at just about everything asked of him. Special teams? Check. Offensive awareness? Check. Defensive reliability? Check. Creativity? Definitely check. If he had Quinton Byfield’s 6-foot-4 frame, we’d be talking about a serious threat for the No. 2 pick in Rossi.
Rossi is a smart kid, constantly talking to his teammates and drawing up strategies before a faceoff. He plays each shift like he has something to prove, but while still bringing a teammate-first mentality thanks to an always active head seeking prime passing partners. As a playmaker, very few can reach his full abilities. His 81 assists were tops in the OHL, and while primary assists typically earn more attention, Rossi’s 22 secondary even-strength assists were the most among draft-eligible CHL prospects, which suggests he’s a strong breakout passer. And that’s exactly it: he does a great job of getting the puck out of his own zone and setting up his wingers on the rush thanks to his ability to see the ice so well.
Marco Rossi with a highlight-reel goal to make it 6-2 Ottawa.
— Caitlin Berry (@caitlinsports) December 14, 2019
Rossi’s real strength was his ability to move the puck, but Rossi’s quick wrister is one of the more likable qualities of his game. It’s snappy, electric and accurate, and he can unleash in close under pressure without much space needed as well as he can while all alone. On top of reading plays well, he’s got the skillset to get creative and dance around defenders without losing the puck and can stop and start on a rush with little difficulty. Using his high-end speed to blast past opponents, Rossi is fully capable of using his speed to create scoring chances, but he also does a good job of conserving his energy for late-game situations.
As typical with smaller, skilled forwards, Rossi is a tremendous skater, using his combination of high top speed and dangerous acceleration to create his own scoring chances. He can be deceptive, and if you saw him in 1-on-1 situations this past year, you know what I’m talking about – he’ll catch the defenders guessing, yet make a move going a different way to capitalize on the chance. Rossi’s skating has always been a highlight of his game, but it continues to show big improvement each season, and having NHL coaches surrounding him will have an extraordinary effect in helping him contain and use the asset to its full extent.
Defensively, there aren’t many downsides. He’ll take an off-shift every once in a while and let an easy play pass, but rarely. Rossi is an active center that does a fantastic job of acting as a third defenseman and while he isn’t the bigger player by any means, he’s no slouch along the boards. Rossi is undersized at 5-foot-9, but he’s got an edge to his game that truly intrigues me.
Rossi has done everything possible to prove he’s a top prospect, and his skillset should have no issue transitioning over to the NHL. He has nothing left to prove in the OHL – now it’s time for him to start his path to becoming a future 90-point centerman in the NHL.
Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins
Three names that are often attributed to Rossi as a comparable are Patrice Bergeron, Brayden Point and Pavel Datsyuk. Think about that for a second: one’s one of the best two-way centers of his time, another is a lethal scoring machine with a 94-point season under his belt and the other is considered to be the gold standard of puckhandling. My favorite, personally, is the Bergeron comparison – Rossi is going to make you pay through his hard work ethic, smarts with and without the puck and simply makes everyone around him a better player.
Stats from InStat Hockey and Elite Prospects.
This prospect report was written by Steven Ellis. If you would like to follow Steven on Twitter, his handle is @StevenEllisNHL.
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