As Marco Rossi transitions to AHL Iowa, his former junior coach assures Wild fans not to worry

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Ask Marco Rossi about André Tourigny and the Wilds’ first-round pick.

“One of the best coaches I’ve ever had — the best coach you could ask for in junior hockey,” Rossi said the athlete when asked about his former Ottawa 67’s coach a few weeks ago.

In fact, during that conversation, Rossi spoke about how excited he would be to play in front of Tourigny, the sophomore Arizona Coyotes coach.

Unfortunately for Rossi, Sunday was the day of that game. And instead of skating up and down the rink in front of his old junior coach, the 21-year-old rookie spent a fourth straight game in the press box, only seeing Tourigny from high above the ice directly across from the Coyotes’ bench.

Not only has Rossi not played for less than nine minutes on November 17, the Wild used seven defenders in Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Coyotes, choosing to take Rossi and recently recalled veteran forward Nic Petan to put.

As has been speculated for more than a week, Rossi was told after the game that he would be transferred to Iowa for the first time this season, according to two people who had direct knowledge of the call and spoke anonymously because the move won’t happen announced by Monday.

(Editor’s note: Indeed the wilderness announced the move on Monday.)

Rossi, who set an Iowa rookie record with 53 points in 63 games last season, will fly to San Jose, Calif. and is expected to line up against the Barracuda in Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wild general manager Bill Guerin and coach Dean Evason have conceded for more than a week that sending Rossi to Iowa was probably in the cards. In fact, the Wild are believed to have nearly brought down Rossi last week until Brandon Duhaime picked up an upper body injury and then kept Rossi for a while longer due to some game-time decisions in the last two games due to illness and some Punches gave -up bodies among the strikers.

The Wild won’t play again until Thursday, so the timing of Rossi’s decision makes sense. In fact, Evason telegraphed it after Saturday’s practice session, saying: “You don’t want a guy obviously sitting that long, so we talked about that? Yes, I would be lying if we didn’t obviously do it. Have we made a decision? Most likely.”

Tourigny said the Wild and their fans shouldn’t be worried at all about the 2020 first-round pick, which has had just one assist in 16 games, 11 shots and a 45.5 faceoff winning percentage and no goals in 18 NHL career games this season .

“He’s in a good place, in a good organization and he has a bright future ahead of him here,” said Tourigny the athlete after the Coyotes trained at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday. “It’s not that they don’t like him, it’s just a matter of the situation they’re in. They try to win, they work with him and he grows at his game. Marco Rossi is going to be a really good NHL player.

“Trust me. He’s an amazing professional. Takes care of his body, takes care of every detail, he’s super motivated, super competitive. He’s really dodgy. He has an incredible IQ and a great sense of hockey. It’s his It’s just a matter of getting more mature in all of this. But Marco Rossi is one hell of a player. On and off the ice, he’s about as low maintenance as you can find. He’s the most prepared guy you can find. It’s been a great one Time to coach him.”

Tourigny saw the best of Rossi, who made it clear to all Canadian Hockey League teams prior to the import draft that he was keen to play in Ottawa and would play in Zurich, Switzerland if another team called him up.

Rossi played two years in the ’67s for Tourigny, scoring 65 points in 53 games in his rookie year. Then, during his draft year, Rossi scored 39 goals and 120 points in 56 games, becoming the first European in history to lead the Ontario Hockey League in scoring and the first European to lead the entire CHL in scoring led since Alex Radulov had 152 points for Quebec 2005-06.

Rossi led the OHL with 81 assists, up 69, and became the second European import in OHL history to be named MVP. His 2.14 points per game placed second in the CHL behind 2020 No. 1 Alexis Lafrenière (2.15), who played for Rimouski in the Quebec League.

“For me, that’s his IQ, that’s first class,” said Tourigny. “I often compare him to Ryan O’Reilly, who I coached (with the Colorado Avalanche). Read the game, really competitive, good with and without the puck. I don’t think they’re the greatest, but they’re really, really competitive and they understand the game and what they have to do to be effective and how the opponent can generate their offense. So they are highly intelligent, special players.

“Wild fans need to understand that this is a process. It’s a tough league. Look at many of the recent first rounds and how long they are taking to adapt. I’m not nervous at all about Marco Rossi. Not at all. But I always say Marco is not a point producer. He’s a Ryan O’Reilly. Have you ever seen Ryan O’Reilly be a top 10 league goalscorer?

Now O’Reilly, the 31-year-old St. Louis Blues captain who is four inches taller than the 5-foot-9 Rossi, has 682 points in 959 games (0.71 points per game) to finish 19thth in the 2020-21 standings and tied for 31St 2018-19. But you understand Tourigny’s argument. He believes Rossi will be an effective all-around player like O’Reilly, able to check good players, win important faceoffs and contribute offensively.

That hasn’t happened for Rossi yet as he continues to adjust to the pace of play in the NHL and learn how to play in a league that’s tightly controlled and has little time to make games. The Wild want him to be more assertive, not just with the puck but when it comes to playing in high traffic areas and not being intimidated by physical teams. It’s clear that a recent game against Nashville, in which Rossi struggled, was eye-opening for management that Rossi might need more spice in the minors.

Guerin spoke last week about the Rossi situation and the Iowa option. Rossi, who led the NHL in the preseason, had played with almost every linemate except two in the regular season.

Rossi had a couple of games alongside goalscorer Matt Boldy earlier this season, but on a team that gives unwanted Anaheim Ducks first-round winner Sam Steel a try on the top line and used Tyson Jost and Freddy Gaudreau earlier this season after Ryan Hartman was injured , the only place the Wild hadn’t given Rossi a chance was between Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello.

But it was clear Evason wouldn’t just give him that spot unless he deserved it.

“Of course we don’t want anyone sitting outside for a long time. They don’t want a young player sitting out for a long time,” Evason said on Saturday. “But here too we talked a lot about making positive changes and learning. There’s a lot to think about and evaluate, and as long as it doesn’t get really negative, you can steer it in the right direction. His attitude was really good. The exercises were really good. He’s done really well so far. He’s obviously not happy. We don’t want that.”

When Tourigny was told it sounded like Rossi would be sent to the minors after Sunday’s game, he rolled his eyes and said: “Who cares?”

“For me it’s long term, for him it’s a marathon and when it happens it happens and it will be good for him to go there and play a lot of minutes, play a different role and have the opportunity to play really well,” said Tourigny. “For me, I have zero worries. He will overcome anything that gets in his way.”

(Photo by Marco Rossi: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)