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Road to 2020 NHL draft: Marco Rossi looking to enter NHL as OHL champion

The Austrian center is the No. 5 ranked North American skater in the prospect pool eligible for the 2020 NHL draft.

Ottawa 67’s v Guelph Storm - Game Four Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

This is the second edition of Second City Hockey’s Road to the NHL draft covering top prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL draft in Montreal. Ian sits down with Marco Rossi of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67s, the fifth-ranked North American skater according to Central Scouting.

Marco Rossi has unfinished business to take care of before he begins to seriously think about the NHL draft.

The 18-year-old Austrian forward is one of the top-ranked forwards heading into the 2020 NHL draft, behind only the biggest available names — Alex Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield and Cole Perfetti.

Rossi will be no consolation prize come draft night, though. The Ottawa center has scored an OHL-best 88 points (30 goals, 58 assists), and his first-place 67s are the only team to have already clinched an OHL playoff spot.

Rossi’s unwritten OHL legacy

Ottawa largely rolled through the postseason in 2019, winning 14 straight games to get oh so close to the League title, only to drop four straight against the Guelph Storm and watch it all slip away.

That loss still stings, and Rossi is looking to finish the job in what is likely his final junior season. For even if he doesn’t make his future NHL club out of training camp, he’ll almost certainly turn pro in 2020-21.

Like Chicago’s Adam Boqvist, for example, Rossi will be eligible to jump straight to the AHL as a European import after being drafted, meaning his days in Ottawa will come to an end in April or May. Going out as the OHL’s points leader and with a ring would be pretty special.

Rossi’s roots

Rossi comes by his passion for the game honestly, seeing as his dad - Micheal Rossi - played pro hockey as a defenseman for almost two decades in Austria.

While growing up in his home country, Marco developed his game primarily in nearby Switzerland, and his dad put hundreds of thousands of kilometers on his car driving Marco to and from games and practices six days a week for four years.

It’s all starting to pay off as Rossi has become one of the best players in junior hockey, drawing comparisons to Nico Hischier from Ottawa head coach Andre Tourigny, who coached the 2017 first overall pick in Halifax.

Tourigny and Rossi have teamed up to lead the top junior club in Canada at the moment, and before coach sees another top prospect turn pro, the latter wants to keep improving his game and achieve the team success that slipped away so quickly last season.

Q: What are a few areas of your game that you’ve been working on in your draft year?

Rossi: From last year to this year I improved a lot. I got bigger. I got stronger. My shot is way better. My stickhandling is better. I improved everything where I can. There’s still room for more improvements in my game, but I’ve made a lot of improvements from last year to this year.

Q: I’ve seen a lot of scouts praise your positioning, your stickhandling. Was there anyone in particular that helped you develop those skills when you were growing up in Austria or playing in Switzerland?

Rossi: My dad. My dad was also the guy who helped me when I was young and without him I wouldn’t be here right now — the mindset, the skills I have, so yeah.

Q: How are you finding balance between excelling at the OHL level with the 67s while also knowing you could be a high first-round pick at the NHL Draft?

Rossi: I try to control what I can control. On the draft situation, I can’t control it so I’m not focusing on that. I try to be better every day, working hard.

Q: Do you have any specific goals you want to accomplish with the 67s before the draft?

Rossi: Last year was pretty tough to lose in the final, and this year we want to win it. So yeah, win the OHL Championship and then go to the Memorial Cup.

Q: What is your favorite part of playing the center position?

Rossi: Just that everyone can trust you. When you play with me, you can trust me because I’m a 200-foot player. I’m really good in defensive zone and pretty good in offensive zone.

Q: Are there any NHL players you try to model your game after or grew up watching closely?

Rossi: I always watched Pavel Datsyuk highlights. My dad played pro hockey in Austria and when I was a little kid, I always watched the games and went to the practices with him. That’s where I really fell in love with hockey. He helped me every day.

The first piece in this series feature Nico Daws of the Guelph Storm and can be read here.