The Prospect Blog: Byfield Looms Large Over Rossi
OHL season is in full swing and has already proven to be a really good year for draft eligible prospect watching. In many ways this year reminds me of the 2015 draft that saw McDavid, Strome, Marner, Zacha, Crouse and Konecny go in the first round. This year we have a strong group of forwards all showcasing their talents. Quinton Byfield (18gp 12g 21a 33p), Cole Perfetti (17gp 5g 24a 29p), Jacob Perreault (12gp 4g 11a 15p), Jaromir Pytlik (17gp 7g 13a 20p), Jack Quinn (16gp 9g 10a 19p) and Jean-Luc Foudy (14gp 6g 7a 13p) have all shown various levels of great play thus far. Lost in the shuffle due to missing early parts of the season for a 5 game suspension on a dirty hit is the 67’s own Marco Rossi.
Quinton Byfield set the league on fire early on while teams were still waiting for prospects to be sent back from NHL camps and had pundits jumping out of their seats. The hulking 6’4 centreman has that mixture of size, speed and extremely elite hands and deft touch that has scouts dreaming of Malkin 2.0. While Byfield and some of the other Canadian Top Prospects gained the spotlight early, it’s Marco Rossi that’s turning heads.
Rossi currently leads the 67’s with 26 points despite only playing 11 games. This after an extremely impressive rookie season where he scored 27 goals and 65 points in 53 games for a contending Ottawa squad. What’s truly impressive though is his 2.36 PPG which is third in the entire league. For some perspective on how dominating he’s been here are some comparables in their draft years.
Mitch Marner – 2.00PPG
Dylan Strome - 1.90PPG
Andrei Svechnikov - 1.64PPG
Sam Bennett - 1.60PPG
And finally the man himself
Connor McDavid - 2.55PPG
Now to say Rossi is on the same level of a McDavid would be false advertising and I’m not saying he is because he’s not. Personally, I don’t think he’s at the level of a Marner either. He’s just slightly lower. One of the reasons is his age. Rossi is a very early birthday. He was born 8 days before the 2019 draft cutoff. This isn’t a knock on him or anything. Early September players have gone on to have dominating careers like Ovechkin, Tavares and Matthews…Yakupov…It’s just that he’s a bit more mature than some of the others and it shows on the ice.
Rossi is a diminutive centreman. He’s “5’9” wink wink, though standing beside my 5’8 friend he was just shorter…so yeah…he’s on the short side. Despite that, he’s extremely compact and strong on the puck, very much like Brad Marchand. He’s squat and is hard to pin down. He’s developed quickly into a 200 foot player and his transition to the North American ice has been essentially seamless. He’s been to play on the penalty kill this season and has shown the type of awareness and eagerness to be a dangerous threat on the counter attack. One of the reasons for being on the PK is his faceoff ability. His size has made him a deceptively difficult foe to match against and with those quick hands of his, he shovels the puck back with pin point precision. He’s at a ridiculous 60% and is coming off a 54% rookie campaign as a 17 year old, not bad to say the least. With his lack of size, one might think that he is destined for the wing in the NHL, but I would disagree. His control of the game and ability to carve through the neutral zone are too valuable to move to the wing. He’s definitely a natural centre, much like Max Domi who never looked quite right on the wing.
He’s extremely fast and agile with a nose for the net. His board play is impressive for an undersized player and his vision is excellent. What really stands out though are his smarts. He just knows where to be on the ice. Whether it’s for a stretch pass or angling a shooter away to pick off a pass, he’s usually a few steps ahead of others.
Rossi is the best Austrian born draft eligible player since…well maybe the best ever. Thomas Vanek has had a very strong career, but a polarizing one to say the least. Without the international exposure of top tier tournament play, it’s easy to be ignored…just ask Kopitar. The last time I saw him live was the 7-2 destruction of the Sarnia Sting at TD Place. He had three assists that afternoon. It was a really fun game to watch as the Sting really couldn’t handle their speed and kept getting into penalty trouble.
Obviously this is Alexis Lafrenière and to a lesser extent Quinton Byfield’s draft to lose, but if you are a team with a pick between 5-20 and you need a centreman…Rossi’s the man to take. If he keeps this pace up, he’ll be on a lot of peoples watch lists.
Thanks for reading.