Marco Rossi is starting to solidify himself in the top 10 of a lot of draft rankings. He’s only played 24 games so far this season, but his 56 points have him first in the CHL in points per game. He’s currently centering a line with overagers Austen Keating and Joseph Garreffa, which could make some wonder how much of his production is thanks to his linemates and how much of it is truly his work. Of course, this is one of many reasons why point production can be deceiving for junior players, and goes to show the importance of evaluating a player’s skills.
First and foremost, Marco Rossi’s game is built around puck retrieval and the ability to hold onto the puck for seemingly however long he wants. He’s only 5 foot 9 inches tall, but based on the way he wins battles in the corners and his ability to outmuscle almost anyone he wants, he certainly doesn’t play like it. It’s incredibly impressive to see how easily Rossi can come out from behind the net with the puck on his stick after going in without it. He has a sneaky quick stick and forces turnovers as well. He’s a very smart player and uses his body very effectively to block opposing players from stealing the puck from him.
All these elements make Rossi a player capable of driving offence on his own. However, when he combines this with his vision and patience, he becomes deadly. As soon as he gets the puck on his blade, he’s ready to make a smart pass through lanes that are sometimes not even visible while rewatching clips. But what’s even more impressive is that he’s never pressured into making that kind of play if it is in fact not available. He has such great patience and whether he’s left unchecked or has 3 guys on him, he seems to almost never make mistakes with the puck.
In 2018-19, Rossi was an average skater. He said himself his main focus in the offseason was to become a better skater, and there’s absolutely no doubt he reached that goal. He added 15 pounds in the summer and has become a faster player capable of getting around defencemen on the rush and going to the net. He has a low center of gravity that makes him tough to knock off the puck, even for a player as short in stature as him. Not only has he become an above average skater in terms of top speed, but he’s also a very agile player who has the ability to weave his way through the neutral zone multiple times a game.
As it stands, Rossi is shooting 22.5%, which is an improvement of 5% on his final stat line from last year. His shot, of course, isn’t comparable to some of the elite OHL shooters, which leads me to believe he could see a slight decrease in goal totals based on his currently high success rate, but nevertheless he has a quick release and good accuracy. He only averages 3.33 shots per game, but the reason for this is he tends to only take shots when he finds himself in a higher-danger type area, since he’s more of a passer than shooter. Last year, he played on his off-wing half wall on the power play and displayed a tremendous one-timer from the top of the circle, but he was switched to the other side this season (other than on 5-on-3s).
The biggest hole in Rossi’s game is his inconsistency with respect to being in the best spots without the puck. At times, he’s a great option for teammates, especially skating up through the neutral zone. However, in both the offensive and defensive zone, Rossi has a tendency to watch the puck a bit when it isn’t on his stick. This is also the issue that can be found in his defensive game, which isn’t concerning, simply to be worked on. Considering he has shown flashes of it before, I wouldn’t consider it a major issue.
Statistically, Rossi’s 2.38 P/GP has him in elite company. In the last 20 years, the only first time eligible CHLers with a higher P/GP than him are Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, and Patrick Kane. While Rossi is an older birthdate for this draft, it’s still an impressive list to be on and makes for an exciting stat line to keep an eye for the rest of the season, as he’s also on track to win the OHL scoring race at this pace.
Rossi is looking to become the 30th Austrian to ever be drafted into the NHL, and only the 4th to accumulate significant time in the league. The 2020 Draft is looking like it could go down as one of the best of all time, and Rossi is right up there with some of the best players available.