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2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Marco Rossi could be the highest drafted Austrian in history

The small but feisty Austrian forward has a chance to wreak havoc in the NHL.

Ottawa 67’s v Guelph Storm - Game Four Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is coming up, and this year’s draft class has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory. For the entire month of May, we will be profiling each of the top prospects available in the draft — many of whom could be candidates to be selected by the Minnesota Wild. Follow along as we dive deep into the strengths and weaknesses of each notable player eligible to be drafted.

You don’t see a ton of Austrians in the NHL these days. Believe it or not, there are only two Austrians currently active in the NHL — Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl and Arizona Coyotes speedster Michael Grabner. Former Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek also hails from Austria, but he announced his retirement in February. Aside from those three players, there really aren’t many other notable Austrian NHLers, past or present, to speak of.

However, that’s probably going to change very soon. Marco Rossi, a native of Feldkirch, Austria, is expected to be one of the top selections in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. And despite coming from a country known more for its alpine skiers than hockey players, Rossi has the potential to be one of the very best players in the 2020 class.

The son of former hockey player Michael Rossi, it’s easy to see how Marco got involved with the game so early on. Playing well above his competition in Austria, Rossi started playing junior hockey in Switzerland, where he quickly turned into a dominant player as a teenager. After several years of playing in Swiss leagues, the next logical step for Rossi would be to cross the pond and play in North America. In 2018, that finally became a reality when he debuted for the Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League. Rossi impressed right away in his first season in North America, collecting 29 goals and 65 points in 53 games. In the playoffs, he was even better, scoring six goals and 22 points in 17 postseason appearances. Deservedly, Rossi earned a spot on the OHL’s Second All-Rookie Team.

Not bad for a kid from Austria, huh?

2019-20 season review

After such an impressive rookie season with the 67’s, many were hoping to see Rossi continue to develop into an OHL superstar. But what he accomplished in his second year in Ottawa far surpassed anyone’s expectations.

In 2019-20, Rossi averaged over two points per game while leading the entire OHL in points (120), assists (81) and plus-minus (a very nice plus-69 on the season). He was the best player on the best team in the league, and it would have been a blast to see how his performance from the regular season translated to the playoffs. But, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the playoffs being cancelled. An unfortunate ending to what was a flat out magnificent season from the 18-year-old.

Skill set

Simply put, Rossi does literally everything. Not only is he deadly offensively, as evidenced by his 120 points in 2019-20, but he’s also one of the better defensive forwards in junior hockey. He earned a ton of shorthanded minutes last season due to his defensive capabilities, and it wouldn’t be out of the question to argue that he’s the best two-way skater in the draft.

“He’s a phenomenal player. Phenomenal. A few teams that have picked up on it,” 67’s general manager James Boyd told The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler. “I’m biased, but I think he’s the best player in our league. It’s not often you’ve got a player on your team who is the best offensive player, the best defensive player, the best guy on faceoffs, the best guy on the power play, the best guy on the penalty kill and probably your No. 1 shootout shooter.”

Watching Rossi, there is no doubt that he has the potential to be a dynamic 200-foot player in the NHL. Rossi is very good at supporting his defensemen and advancing the puck out of the defensive zone, and that doesn’t end at just 5-on-5, either. He is just as valuable on the penalty kill thanks to his sound positioning and intelligence with the puck.

As a forward, of course, most spectators will have their eyes fixated on Rossi when he has possession of the puck, and this is where he really shines. Few players in this year’s draft class can distribute the puck as efficiently as Rossi, and that’s saying something — especially considering the 2020 class is expected to be one of the deepest groups of prospects in years.

In the clip below, Rossi darts through the neutral zone and pulls off a slick move to get around an enemy defender before sending a dish to his linemate for a high-danger scoring chance. His teammate unfortunately was not able to corral the feed, but it was still an excellent one-man effort from Rossi that wound up drawing a penalty.

Plays like this aren’t out of the ordinary for Rossi. Frankly, he’d been making defenses look silly all season. He’s right up there with Alexis Lafreniere as the best passer in the draft, and it’s not hard to see why.

While many consider Rossi more of a playmaker than a pure goal-scorer, he is still extremely dangerous with the puck on his stick. He can score from anywhere on the ice, and despite being on the smaller side, he plays an aggressive game and commonly attacks the net to create scoring chances. What Rossi lacks in height, he makes up for in confidence and deceptive strength.

Bottom line

Marco Rossi is the total package. He’s gifted offensively and also plays extremely well away from the puck. While he is more than capable of playing center in the NHL, it is possible he could end up shifting to wing due to his size. But despite only being 5’9, he is ridiculously strong and hardly ever gets pushed around.

Born in September, Rossi is one of the oldest prospects eligible for this year’s draft, but that should not ward off any team’s interest. Rossi is absolutely one of the best players in the 2020 class, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he winds up being the best Austrian player ever drafted into the NHL one day.