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  • Does Losing Marco Rossi Hurt the Wild In the Playoffs?

    Cam Jensen

    The Minnesota Wild drafted Marco Rossi 9th overall in 2020 because they did not have many options at center. Fans were pessimistic about how good the Wild could be without a true No. 1 center.


    But in a shocking twist, the 2021-22 Wild set a record with 109 standings points despite not having a bona fide No. 1 center. Or Rossi. Ryan Hartman and Freddy Gaudreau were big question marks coming into this year, and they surprisingly found their home on the first and second line, respectively.


    Even with those performances, though, the Wild had a unique predicament. Should Rossi, who finished his season with the Iowa Wild, be inserted into the playoff lineup?


    Rossi finished the AHL season with 18 goals and 35 assists in 63 games. There is no doubt that he has earned more NHL playing time. And even though Rossi has a smaller build, Rossi offers elite playmaking and stickhandling ability. He’d be a complement to Fiala and Boldy.



    So what was the reason for the debate in the first place? Read between the lines, and the answer is contracts. If he plays in less than 10 games, including the playoffs, his entry-level contract will start next year instead of this year – lining up perfectly with much of the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter dead cap hits expiring.


    Most thought this issue was settled. Rossi wouldn't play those 10 games. That is until The Athletic's Michael Russo speculated that Rossi would see some games coming up. That resurrected the debate: Can they afford to keep Rossi in the press box? They had a similar center group last season and lost in the first round. 


    Now it appears that the hope of Rossi getting playoff minutes is gone again. An injury kept him out of the Iowa Wild finale Wednesday night. While we don't know entirely what the issue is, it's looking more and more like he won't play.


    So now, we have to ask, is that a bad thing?


    It would probably have been worthwhile to give Rossi a bite at the playoff apple this year. But at the same time, where does he fit? Most assumed he'd be centering one of the top two lines by now. Is that still the case?


    Suddenly they have Hartman centering the top line. He's now tied for fifth in franchise history with 34 goals. Plus, his physical presence complements his skilled linemates, Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello.


    Then there's Gaudreau, who has come into his own this year and has played very well on the second line with Kevin Fiala and Matt Boldy. The second line has been crucial in stealing the Wild a few wins when the first line couldn’t find the scoresheet.


    Gaudreau's also showing skill of his own, notching 31 points in his last 43 games. Fiala and Boldy make headlines for their chemistry, but Gaudreau is a big part of making them click.



    Past them, there's Joel Eriksson Ek's shutdown line, which is one of the best in the NHL. The Wild shouldn't touch it. Finally, Minnesota bolstered the 4th line at the trade deadline to have grit for the playoffs. It is unlikely that, even if healthy, Rossi would play on that line. Not to mention, the Wild would be wasting his talent by playing him with grinders.


    A team that was mocked for not having many viable centers suddenly has enough center depth to keep their top prospect in the minor leagues for almost a full season. What about Rossi's injury changes that? Rossi would have needed to wait for injuries or poor performance to get a chance in the playoffs, anyway. I can’t imagine the Wild would mess with what has worked so far.


    However, if he can be around the team this postseason, not playing may not even be such a bad thing. Rossi is a smaller center, standing only 5’9”, and the Wild have three of the best small players in the league in Kaprizov, Zuccarello, and Jared Spurgeon. Both Spurgeon and Zuccarello are leaders, and it would be very beneficial for them to pass their knowledge along to Rossi. It would also be beneficial for Rossi to watch them play from the press box. He can get an up-close look at playoff intensity and see how smaller players can succeed in the NHL.


    Hartman, Gaudreau, and Eriksson are showing they’re a good Plan A this postseason. Because of this, Wild fans will have to wait until next fall for Rossi to make the impact they’d hoped when they drafted. But hey, if the State of Hockey could wait six years for Kaprizov, two years for Rossi shouldn’t be too tough.

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