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Wild prospect Marco Rossi not taking NHL for granted: ‘I have to earn that spot’

Looking back at last season, Rossi did everything he could to prove himself with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.

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With Kevin Fiala now a member of the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota Wild are hoping young talented players such as Marco Rossi will be able to fill the scoring void.
Star Tribune / TNS file photo
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ST. PAUL -- Most people are already projecting top prospect Marco Rossi to be in the Minnesota Wild lineup for the Oct. 13 season opener against the New York Rangers. He spent most of last season getting valuable experience in the minors, and with star winger Kevin Fiala no longer with the team, the 20-year-old Rossi seems like a natural fit to fill the void.

Just don’t tell him that.

“I’m thinking day by day right now,” Rossi said at Wild development camp this week. “Just trying to be the best I can be right now and not think too much ahead. I know I have to earn that spot. Nobody gives it to me.”

That’s been the message from Wild general manager Bill Guerin so far this offseason. Whenever he has been asked about Rossi making the team, Guerin has gone out of his way to make sure everyone knows it’s not a guarantee.

“We want those guys to push for jobs,” Guerin said. “If they can come in and push and make the team and help us win, then that’s great.”

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Looking back at last season, Rossi did everything he could to prove himself with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League. He finished with 18 goals and 35 assists in 63 games in the AHL, playing big minutes on a nightly basis.

Eventually, his prowess in the minors earned him a call-up, and Rossi made his NHL debut on Jan. 6 against the Boston Bruins. He played the following game against the Washington Capitals, too, before getting sent back down for good.

Asked if it was difficult to stay patient last season, Rossi responded, “I trust the process.” He added that he felt like his time with the Iowa Wild was the best thing for his development as a player.

That’s music to the ears of the Wild director of player development Brad Bombardir. He’s a firm believer in letting prospects fully develop before throwing them into the fire.

“There’s always a goal to play in the National Hockey League as fast as possible,” Bombardir said. “But it’s never, ever hurt any player to play in the American Hockey League. I think over-ripe is a heck of a lot better than under-ripe.”

What’s the next step for Rossi?

“He’s got to come to training camp and play his game and perform well,” Bombardir said. “If he does, and he takes a spot, then that’s great. If he doesn’t, then he starts in the American Hockey League, and at some point he gets back up here. He will be here eventually.”

The timeline will be up to Rossi and how he performs. As for the rest of the summer, he plans to go back to his native Austria to continue training before returning for training camp in the fall.

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What does he feel like he needs to show at training camp?

“Just be myself,” Rossi said. “That’s it.”

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