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An in-depth look at Ottawa 67's forward Marco Rossi
The New Jersey Devils will be picking 7th overall in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
That’s not nearly exciting of a situation as they could have found themselves in – they didn’t win a top-3 selection and actually dropped in the lottery due to Team X surpassing them – but they will still be able to choose between a few really enticing prospects.
In the coming weeks and months I’ll be going into detail about names they could, or should, be targeting – both from an analytic perspective and a scouting perspective.
I’m going to start with the latter. Up first is one of my favorite players in the 2020 class, Austrian center Marco Rossi.
Rossi may not be an absolute burner in terms of straight line speed but he is still a monster through the neutral zone. He has the skill to beat his man in one-on-one situations and enough speed that defenders have to respect him. As you’ll see in the clip below, he’ll make opponents pay for giving him *any* space. After gaining possession of the puck Rossi realized he had space to work with. He carried the puck through the neutral zone and went straight at the Hamilton defender, which forced him to back off a little bit. Upon gaining the line, Rossi stopped and made a cross-ice pass to hit a teammate jumping into the play.
Rossi’s playmaking ability is nothing short of exceptional. He has the vision to find the smallest of holes in defenses. He’ll put a backdoor pass on the tape. He’ll make a finesse pass into space. He doesn’t need an open target; he’ll make you open. What makes Rossi such a special creator is that he can pick defenses apart in so many different ways. He’ll use a teammate in a give-and-go to get himself more open ice. He’ll slow down or change angles to create lanes that weren’t previously enticing (much like Nikita Gusev). Rossi consistently finds innovative ways to get teammates the puck in positive situations and he’s not afraid to pass up a good look to get somebody a great one.
Rossi doesn’t possess an overpowering shot but I still think he’ll be a capable goal scorer at the next level. He knows how to get himself open in high-danger areas of the ice, and he has a great pair of hands to help him beat goaltenders once he gets in tight.
Rossi also has a very quick release and accurate shot that allows him to score from mid-range. He is not somebody who is going to blast 100MPH one-timers; and he doesn’t need to be.
I absolutely love Rossi’s commitment without the puck. Some players with his talent tend to check out when they don’t have it. Rossi is not remotely like that. The second Ottawa loses possession he’s pressing to get it back. He backchecks extremely hard. He’s relentless with his stick checking. He always knows which man to pick up. You’re going to get the same effort from him whether he’s racing for a breakaway or trying to get a stick in the lane to prevent a shot.
He isn’t just an awesome defensive player because of his work ethic. His smarts play a big role as well. Rossi knows when and where to pressure opposing puck carriers. He’s also good at reading plays before they even happen. If he realizes Player X is the best passing option, he’ll put himself in position to jump the pass as soon as it’s made and go on the attack in transition.
Rossi is a lot like Nico Hischier in many ways. Despite a smaller frame, or lack of pure power, he is still effective forechecking because of his ability to leverage position and a relentless work ethic. Below you’ll see Rossi completely ruin Hamilton’s breakout in just a few seconds. He pressures the initial puck carrier into a quick pass to his defenseman behind the net. Rossi continues to pursue the puck, seals off the other defender, and forces him into giving the puck away.
That’s par for the course with Rossi.
Rossi is not a dependent player. He doesn’t need linemates to do the heavy lifting in any area of the ice. He is effective regardless of the situation or who he is playing with. Rossi can carry the mail through the neutral zone. He can dissect defenses with precision passing. He can use his elusiveness to create extra space for himself. He knows how to find soft spots to make himself open. He’s also quite capable of finishing plays off in dangerous areas of the ice. Unlike some smaller skilled players, getting there with regularity is not much of an issue.
I think Rossi is the perfect player for a modern, possession-first style of game. Rossi is very good at exiting the defensive zone and entering the offensive zone with control of the puck. He also hates giving it up. Rossi is the type of player that is only dumping the puck in if there is real purpose behind it. He’s not going to do it if he thinks he’s handing it over. Rossi will exhaust all other options – changing angles to try and create a lane, waiting for teammates to catch up, retreating and restarting an entry attempt, etc. – before he throws it in the corner with a low percentage chance his team is going to recover the puck. And I love that about him.
One nitpick with Rossi’s game is that his desire to *always* make a play can get him into trouble. That’s the price you pay for creativity – and well worth it in Rossi’s case – but it doesn’t blindly excuse all errors. There is some room for improvement with Rossi in terms of picking spots.
For example, Rossi backtracked in the defensive zone to regain possession for his team. He tried to make a skill play as the last man back, rather than deferring and sliding a pass to a teammate on either flank, and the end result was an egregious turnover.
Below you’ll see another example of Rossi making a risky play to try and help his team maintain possession.
I love the creativity. I love that Rossi always wants his team to have the puck. But it’s probably not the best idea to make a drop pass to a defender on his off-hand directly in front of the net. Those are the unnecessary mistakes that can get your team in trouble, especially if said team is defensively weak.
Size is what everybody will point at. I don’t think it will be much of an issue - Rossi plays bigger than he is and is very strong on his feet - but obviously, in a vacuum, you’d rather have his skill package on a guy 6’2’ than 5’9’. He is never going to be somebody who bulldozes over an opponent or overpowers a defender on the way to the net. He doesn’t need to be successful. I just don’t see much else you could ‘knock’ him for.