Marco Rossi - C - Ottawa 67s - NHL CSS NA6
56GP - 39G+81A
So here we are. Marco Rossi, the somewhat diminutive Austrian who likely will be the face of Austrian hockey for the foreseeable future is finally draft eligible. I’ve had my eye on this player since his days of playing with Zurich before coming over to Ottawa in 2018. He is a player who would’ve been an extremely high draft pick in 2019 but fell short of eligibility by just over a week. Had he been drafted, his D+1 year could only be described as spectacular. With a pace of 145 points over a 68-game season, including a 98 assist pace, Rossi led an absolute powerhouse Ottawa 67s to the best record in the OHL, and the best points percentage by just under 10%. I absolutely had to take a look and I was absolutely not disappointed. The kid is good, so let’s find out why and how.
If you haven’t read the background on my work and approach, please read the embedded article before continuing below.
Once you have read the article, or are familiar with Scouching, here is the full video
Things start off very positively here. Rossi is a smart, refined, and fearless two-way centre who has all the potential to be an excellent centre at the NHL level, regardless of his size. There’s a real no-BS approach to the game, which is something I love to see. He isn’t the flashiest player with speed and skill because he doesn’t need to be. He has the capability of flashing great raw talent, but he only pulls out the tools he needs to do what needs to be done. This capability translates into a real feel for what needs to be done to get out of defensive zones, through the neutral zones, through defenders, and deep into the offensive zone. He constantly is willing to use teammates and move pucks with possession. A selfish player, he is not. Rossi evades pressure effectively and can skate his way out of pressure scenarios and look for better options.
Away from the puck, he supports and anticipates play extremely well, especially in the offensive zone and can be the first player to loose pucks often. On rushes, he is highly responsible defensively, perfectly able to tie players up in front and block passing lanes. On defensive cycles he can sneak up on forecheckers and strip them of pucks in multiple different ways, be it grinding play down with his body or using his stick to separate pucks and turn play up the ice. He isn’t a perfect player here though. I found that he could be caught a little too laid back defensively and not be as assertive as he can be, and at times be hasty to make decisions that leave teammates out to dry.
There were also some disciplinary issues and, in my tracking, some questionable decisions may have been evident that may lead to unnecessary penalties removing him from play. If he can sort out his discipline and stay focused during play more often, he could be a true two-way centre with a brilliant offensive mindset. He’s determined, he anticipates play well, adapts well as he faces pressure, and he knows what needs to be done to get the puck where it needs to be.
We’ll start with this: 82% of offensive transitions that Rossi was involved in were done with control, the best of anyone profiled, and trails only Brett Berard in all my tracking so far. He dethroned Marat Khusnutdinov’s rate of 53.3 controlled offensive transitions per 60 with 53.9. The guy just knows how to move pucks with control up the ice, whether it’s passing or carrying it; using skill, speed, or raw determination to do so. He’s excellent with his edgework and hands navigating around the ice, can play dynamically at high or low speeds, works hard on backchecks, and knows how to create space between himself and opponents very effectively.
There were times where he could get caught holding on to the puck too long, and there’s a bit of a lack of focus from time to time, especially away from the puck. He could track the puck a little too much and lose track of other forecheckers, or just coast a little bit too much and fall behind on rushes.
In terms of his raw speed, Rossi went blueline to blueline in 1.61 seconds, which tied Tim Stützle’s fastest time, but didn’t showcase his top gear a ton, preferring to play with more pace and rely on smarts, going back to his ability to pick tools from his toolbox as they are needed. Rossi appears to be highly in control of his skill, without constant flash, but plenty of purpose to his talent when he does showcase himself. He uses skill to simply place the puck where defenders and goalies are not. He’s resilient under pressure, can make plays and carry pucks at high and low speeds, and can keep defenders on their toes. If he can keep improving his acceleration, skill and how often he’s willing to use some explosive footwork defensively, he could be a truly special player everywhere on the ice.
It would be remiss to not mention that Rossie is not the biggest player out there, especially for a centre, but with his intelligence and ability to anticipate play, he’s able to stay responsible positionally away from the puck, track when he may be able to cause turnovers, and use his stick and willingness to engage physically to cause trouble for opponents. Again, he’s a player who just seems to know what needs to be done, and “gets it”. His hands, feet, body, speed and skill all work together intelligently to effectively get pucks back and turn play around quickly.
His controlled defensive zone transition rate was 48%, which is fine for a centre, but was involved in just 29 defensive transitions per 60. This seemed to be more because Ottawa didn’t let opponents have the puck a whole lot, but he did sometimes feel like a player who let play happen around him rather than chasing things down. This isn’t a bad thing considering his skillset and his role as a centre, just something to be aware of in terms of style of play. There are times where he can fall asleep at the wheel defensively and make weak attempts at breaking up play, but this goes back to his focus. Being more consistent in his spatial awareness will help refine his two-way game even more than it is.
Overall, Rossi is a highly intelligent and reliable player away from the puck. He works hard and he’s great with his body and stick to separate pucks and create rushes offensively. There may be some focus issues from time to time, and he can be a bit flat-footed once in a while, but there’s a great two-way player here to work with.
Completing 79% of your passes as a premier OHL centre is no small feat. Rossi had 76 5v5 pass attempts with 60.5 completed passes, and these metrics combined makes him the best forward profiled so far. Rossi could push to have more dangerous passes, but 9.15 per 60 isn’t poor, and had one game with seven dangerous attempts. In my view, it does feel like while he may not make a ton of these attempts, he makes them count, often hitting targets in dangerous areas. He’s a crisp, clean passer who looks for the right option often, and can be lethal around the net. He’s smart with utilizing teammates and can hit his targets often.
This is a player who yes, scored at a 47-goal pace in the OHL, but could’ve potentially hit 100 assists. The guy is an excellent passer, plain and simple. He shows exceptional patience and can thread dangerous passes with ease. While he can exhibit a bit too much patience and lose control of play, he attempts to make his opportunities count, rather than hopelessly shoving puck in front with nobody there to finish play off. It’s really hard to find a ton of flaws considering he’s passing the puck a ton, completing a ton of passes, and makes his dangerous attempts count, leading to a tremendous amount of assists.
With 70% of his shots coming from danger areas, and 32.5% coming from high danger, Rossi has tremendous offensive potential to score goals on paper. His skill and attacking mentality gets him to the net and he can move pucks into even better scoring areas to open up as much of the net as possible. 12.21 high and medium danger attempts per 60 trails Cole Perfetti, Seth Jarvis and Brett Berard, but surpasses Quinton Byfield and even Alexis Lafreniere as of today. Only Seth Jarvis has a higher share of total team attempts from dangerous areas.
Rossi finds open space away from the puck effectively, but with the puck he’s more than able to cut into dangerous areas for scoring chances on his own. He’s dangerous all around offensively and absolutely deserved the goals he scored. Again, this is a player that could’ve gotten close to 50 goals had he played a full season, and he does it from dangerous areas often. While I’m a bit skeptical of just how good this area of the game will translate, he plays hard, attacks the net, and has great skill in tight to open up goaltenders and find easier ways to put the puck in the net.
The Best Part
If the puck is on his stick, he’s simply ridiculous. He can move it up the ice with control, be it with his own stick or passing it, he can make a play offensively cross ice, or passing into the crease with purpose, he can get to or find open space offensively to get himself into scoring position, and there’s a reason he was on pace for 145 points over a full OHL season. I love Joseph Gareffa as much as anyone, but without Rossi, I don’t imagine he and Austen Keating would’ve had seasons this good. Rossi’s talent pushing play with the puck on his stick is second to none as of today in this draft, and to me, that’s a pivotal part of the game that every NHL could use more of.
The Good Part
I find that Rossi is highly underrated away from the puck. He’s smart and careful with his defensive play, but sometimes a bit too passive and hesitant to play physical. He can use his edges to navigate away from pressure to look for open teammates, or he can push hard to get up the ice with control. He’s a true “postmodern” two-way centre with excellent offensive tools but will need some time to improve his footwork if his defensive potential is to be fully unlocked in the NHL.
The Not-So Good Part
There isn’t really not a whole lot here. Yes, he’s small, but I don’t think he has the same shortcomings a lot of smaller players have. A bit more agility and quicker feet could help. He seemed a bit heavy-footed at times and could get taken for a walk a little bit for someone who mainly relies on anticipation and intelligence. His discipline and consistency when it comes to engagement could be improved over time as well, but it didn’t often bleed into his ability to play selflessly and focus on pushing play positively. I wouldn’t expect Rossi to be a physical force in the NHL, but I certainly don’t believe that will hold him back as a potentially great NHL centre.
Put as simply as I can, the guy is just plain really good at hockey. He understands what needs to be done to get the puck up the ice and into the net far more often than not. He clearly isn’t a player that relies on his talent, but there’s plenty of skill and speed to go around if need be. He’s determined, often clearly working hard on the ice, and is extremely resilient with the puck. While he’s sneaky and intelligent defensively, he isn’t perfect. Nobody is, if I’m being honest, but Rossi does a lot of meaningful things in this sport very well and caps it off with being able to score and set up scoring plays with the best of them. If he can get a quicker first few steps and move his feet a little more effectively in close quarters, he could be a premier two-way player. He may be a little bit undersized, but I can’t see him not projecting as a centre, especially after a little bit of time in a good professional strength development training program. A motto of mine is and always will be “If you can play, you can play”, and Marco Rossi certainly can play this game at an extremely high level.
Data tracked includes controlled and uncontrolled zone entries and exits the player is involved in, as well as shot attempts, their location, the player's pass attempts, and the percentage of those pass attempts that are directed to high or medium danger areas. The grades referred to in the video are assigned with a number and a letter grade. The number from one through four indicates the general tier of talent, with one being highest, and the letter indicating the consistency around that tier of talent.
Final Ranking: Think - 1B, Move - 1C, Get - 1B, Pass - 1B, Shoot - 1C, Overall - 1B
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