With Joel Eriksson Ek still out due to an upper-body injury and the Minnesota Wild playing through a rough patch, it was only a matter of time before there was a roster shakeup.
Earning a record of 5-4-1 in their last ten games, the Wild will head into their game on Thursday against the Boston Bruins with a five-game losing streak, including a 6-4 loss in the freezing environment that was the Winter Classic against the St. Louis Blues. The five-game losing streak — the longest during head coach Dean Evason’s tenure — has led the Wild to make a move that fans have been calling for most of the year, calling up blue-chip prospects Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi.
Considered to be two of the best prospects not in the NHL, the move to bring them up to hockey’s biggest stage isn’t without cause. Both Boldy and Rossi have excelled in their time with the Iowa Wild, at times outclassing older, more experienced competition.
In his return to hockey after a prolonged and arduous battle with COVID, Rossi has notched seven goals and 23 points in just 21 games. That point total is high enough to put him at 18th in the AHL and one of only four players in the top 20 under the age of 21 (the others being Jack Quinn and John Peterka of the Buffalo Sabres and Jakob Pelletier of the Calgary Flames).
Rossi has bounced back tremendously, shaking off the rust of his recovery and looking like the best version of himself. Creating opportunities for his linemates — Boldy and Kyle Rau — while showing some defensive responsibility on the backcheck.
It may seem aggressive to pencil Rossi in for top-six minutes, but with the way he can create for his linemates, he may spark something for the struggling Kevin Fiala, which would be like getting blood from a stone. He may even contribute to the powerplay, as he was with the first unit during practice.
As for his oversized linemate, Boldy’s time with Iowa has been much shorter because of injuries, limiting him to only ten games. But boy, oh boy, has he been dynamic in those ten games.
Boldy has shown off instant chemistry with Rossi and an immediate impact on the powerplay with four goals and six assists. Last year, we wrote about Boldy’s ability on the half wall on the powerplay, and it looks like Dean Evason remembers the breakdown because Boldy was with the second unit during practice today.
It would be wise to temper expectations for what kind of impact a couple of young prospects can make early in their NHL careers, especially for those who have missed so much time over the last two years. Although it’s two players that have shown such promise at a high level — and so quickly — it is appropriate to be excitedly screaming internally right now.
Besides, it’s a win/win situation when this also likely means the end of the Victor Rask era.
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