Rossi knows he has to 'earn that spot' in Wild's opening-night lineup
Marco Rossi knows nothing is guaranteed.
The Minnesota Wild top prospect is widely expected to make the team out of training camp as a rookie, but he's not taking anything for granted.
"(General manager) Billy Guerin just told me, 'Be ready for camp,'" Rossi told The Athletic's Michael Russo. "That's the first thing I heard when I came to Minnesota, that you always have to earn that spot. He's not going to give you anything. You have to earn that spot, and that's the way it should be. So, even though the spot is open, I know I better have a good camp."
Rossi, the ninth overall pick in 2020, is coming off an impressive debut campaign in the AHL in which he set the Iowa Wild rookie scoring record with 53 points in 63 games. He was limited to just one professional game the year prior after COVID-19 complications put his hockey career - and life - in jeopardy.
"I'm just happy that I'm still alive," Rossi said back in April 2021.
The 20-year-old center did get a taste of the NHL last season, suiting up in a pair of contests. Rossi agrees that spending the majority of his 2021-22 season in the AHL was best for his development, despite Wild fans clamoring for his promotion.
"I believe in Billy Guerin and what his plan is for me," Rossi said. "I kept seeing fans on social media saying, 'Bring up Rossi, bring up Rossi, this is unfair.' Maybe if I played the entire year before, maybe I would feel different.
"But after playing no games because of COVID, and then my heart, I knew playing 20 or 22 minutes a game in Iowa was the best thing I could have right now. As a player, I knew Iowa is where I could grow. Fans see it different. They don't see the player's development. They just want you in Minnesota."
Limiting his NHL appearances will also help the Wild financially moving forward. By playing fewer than 10 games, his entry-level contract slides for another year, so his cap hit will stay at $863,000 for the next three seasons. That is key because the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts take up at least $12.7 million on the cap for the next three years before lowering to $1.6 million in the three following campaigns.