It’s been over three months since we last watched hockey, and we still have to wait until the season returns. However, there is one thing we can do — speculate about who the Anaheim Ducks will select at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Before the season was suspended, the Ducks held the fifth-overall pick. The NHL Draft Lottery will ultimately determine where the team ends up picking. Either way, they will have a strong group of prospects to choose from. One player who’s name could still be on the board is Austrian forward Marco Rossi.
Depending on who you ask, Rossi might not be available for the Ducks if they draft fifth or later. Our prospect experts have him ranked throughout the top ten with him coming in at fifth on Josh Bell’s Final 155 Rankings and eighth on Larry Fisher’s Final Top-500. The Ducks’ only real position of strength is at center, but it would be hard to pass up on one as supremely skilled as Rossi.
Austria’s Best Since Thomas Vanek
Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but Rossi is well on his way to surpassing him sooner rather than later. Playing for the Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he posted 29 goals and 65 points in 53 games played in his rookie season. This past year he followed that up with 39 goals and 120 points in 56 games played and led the entire league in scoring. He added to those accolades by collecting the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player.
Despite coming in at only 5-foot-9, Rossi could be closer to the NHL than most of his peers. Whether that happens in 2020 or 2021 remains to be seen, and has a lot to do with when the NHL plans on starting the 2020-21 season. Either way, he’ll have options this fall as he’s not returning to the 67’s in the OHL. There is a good chance he could head back to Europe and continue his development if the NHL doesn’t start on time.
Rossi enters the 2020 NHL Entry Draft with likely the most complete skillset of any of his peers. He just simply does it all, and he does it all at an extremely high level. He’s an excellent skater who not only has a quick first step, but also above average top speed. Elite vision, NHL-level awareness, a lethal shot. You name it and Rossi has it. A player that thrives with the puck on his stick and isn’t afraid to take on defenders one-on-one. As we said with Anton Lundell, the lack of a blue-chip prospect at center and the uncertainty if Trevor Zegras will play center in the NHL provides the Ducks with plenty of reasons to consider drafting the Austrian.
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The only argument used against Rossi is his size. There is always a concern if he can actually play center at the NHL level. However, he has shown that he understands the position and was just as good in the defensive zone for Ottawa this season. He’s also deceptively strong on the puck for a player of his size and has thrown his weight around effectively at times.
On the ice, Rossi does everything. He played most of the season as the top-line center. He created offense almost every time he stepped on the ice. He has a knack for knowing when to turn up the dial or when to hold back to wait for a better opportunity. His awareness and vision are off the charts. But then in a flash, he’s gone because his skating is very much above average in both acceleration and straight-line speed. He can beat opponents on the rush and can also track you down from behind if necessary.
The Ducks are in desperate need of a player who can break a game open with dynamic offensive skill and Rossi has that in spades. At this point in the draft, a team should be taking the best player available and he could very well be at the top of the list for Martin Madden and the Ducks scouting staff.
Where Does He Fit in Anaheim?
The same problem persists with Rossi as we mentioned in our Lundell piece. The Ducks’ arguably have only one position of strength when looking at their prospect pool and that’s at center. With Sam Steel and Isac Lundestrom already seeing time in the NHL and Trevor Zegras on his way in 2020-21, there isn’t a lot of room. Add in that Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique are still under contract and something would have to give to make room for Rossi.
Benoit-Olivier Groulx will likely make his debut for the San Diego Gulls after graduating from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He joins a strong group that will consist of Antoine Morand, Sam Carrick, and Lundestrom. It seems like it’s either the NHL or Europe for Rossi next year so he’d have to win a roster spot over Getzlaf, Henrique or Steel.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he jumps in and immediately has a major impact on the Ducks’ offense. If he does, he may just force the team’s hands in moving out one of their current centers. However, I could see the Ducks opting to allow him to return to Europe for another season and push back any decisions until after the 2020-21 season.
Rossi Fits the Ducks’ Mold
Over the last five NHL Entry Drafts the Ducks have selected centers with 6 of their 11 picks in the first two rounds. Those consisted of Zegras, Lundestrom, Groulx, Morand, Steel, and Julius Nattinen. Other than Zegras, the trend has been to take responsible two-way centers with some offensive upside. Rossi’s upside is significantly higher than those listed, but he shares similar traits and fits the mold of what the Ducks have been looking for in their centers.
The Ducks may not be the physical, rough-and-tumble team of years past, but Rossi blends exceptional skill with a willingness to engage physically and isn’t deterred by his size.
We’ll likely know where the Ducks’ will be drafting come June 26, but unless they are selecting first overall, it’s likely that Rossi’s name is high on their list. He might not fit an organizational need, but down the road people might be wondering how teams let him fall outside the top four.