There was some hope that Minnesota Wild first-round pick Marco Rossi would be able to participate in Friday’s scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center. That won’t be the case as Rossi still needs to finish up his mandatory quarantine.
He arrived in the Twin Cities last weekend after participating in the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta. Asked to clarify when Rossi would be cleared, Wild coach Dean Evason said Thursday, “I don’t know when he’s going to be back. I just know he won’t be available tomorrow.”
It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff uses Rossi whenever he gets on the ice. If he’s cleared to participate in Sunday’s scrimmage, that would only leave a few days of practice before the Jan. 14 season opener against the Los Angeles Kings.
It might make sense to ease the center into the mix so he doesn’t bite off more than he can chew. It also might make sense to throw Rossi into the deep end of the pool and see how he reacts.
Those decisions will be left up to Evason. He said he will chat with trainer John Worley, the rest of the coaching staff, and of course, Rossi, and together they will come up with a game plan. Whether that means Rossi will immediately slide into the top six remains to be seen.
As for expectations of Rossi, Evason tried to temper those, much like he has with the rhetoric surrounding Kirill Kaprizov.
“We are expecting him to come in and compete,” the head coach said. “We are excited to have young people injected into our line and we are excited to have skill in positions. We are excited about a lot of different things on our hockey club.”
With veteran Greg Pateryn back in the mix, it looks like he and fellow defenseman Brad Hunt might rotate this season. That’s a luxury the Wild are happy to have as as Pateryn brings more of a defensive presence and Hunt brings more offensive prowess.
“That’s exactly what we’re looking for,” Evason said. “We are not sure the six defenseman that will start on opening night at this point. We do have versatility.”
There’s also other depth defensemen Louie Belpedio and Matt Bartkowski in the mix. Both could be sent down to the minors or placed on the taxi squad this season. That’s something the Wild are still trying to figure out.
“We like our back end, we have mentioned it a few times,” Evason said. “As far as the six defenseman that we have (on any given night), we feel it’s as good as anybody’s in the league, and obviously a foundation we are building as an organization.”
It sounds as if the Wild could start triming their roster sooner rather than later. With the season opener right around the corner, it’s something general manager Bill Guerin will likely announce in the coming days. There are still 39 players in training camp.
“I’m not sure when Billy wants to announce it,” Evason said. “Clearly, we have to get down to numbers and make decisions on our taxi squad and who we have on our roster. At this point, right now, I’m not prepared, or I actually don’t know 100 percent.”