It's been a long time coming, but it appears as though Marco Rossi and Matthew Boldy will make their NHL debuts this week for the Minnesota Wild. Both first-rounders have been recalled by the Wild and both have certainly earned the opportunity after putting up solid numbers in the AHL with Iowa - Rossi is Iowa's leading scorer with 23 points in 21 games while Boldy has been a point-per-gamer in 10 contests.
But these aren't your run-of-the-mill call-ups; Rossi and Boldy represent the next wave for Minnesota and the kind of players who can bolster an offensive attack led by the sublime Kirill Kaprizov. The fact Rossi and Boldy both faced serious adversity to get to this point only hammers home the significance of the moves.
Rossi, Minnesota's first-rounder in 2020 (ninth overall), was a fantastic OHLer with the Ottawa 67's, learning and thriving under coach Andre Tourigny (now the bench boss in Arizona). In his draft year, the Austrian import led all major junior players in scoring with 120 points in 56 games and earned the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL's most outstanding player. At the time, one NHL scout told me he thought Rossi might be the most NHL-ready prospect in the OHL - ahead of draft mates Quinton Byfield and Jamie Drysdale.
Unfortunately for Rossi, he was an early victim of Covid-19 and his 2020-21 campaign was basically a washout after playing just one game on loan with Zurich in the Swiss League. He had a rough bout with Covid and was cleared in time for the world juniors, but clearly wasn't at the top of his game. Austria scored one goal the entire tournament and Rossi wasn't in on it.
This season has been a different story however, as Rossi looks more like that dynamic sparkplug center the Wild originally coveted when they drafted him.
Boldy, who has played on the right wing of Rossi in Iowa, was Minnesota's first-round pick in 2019, coming out of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. After going 12th overall to the Wild, he headed off to Boston College where he struggled early - prompting a bit of an unnecessary panic in prospect circles. But Boldy found his footing with the Eagles and had a monster second half, assuaging any concerns. He backed it up with an excellent sophomore campaign which saw him lead Boston College in scoring with 34 points in 22 games and win a gold medal with Team USA at the world juniors. After his college season ended, he got into 14 games with AHL Iowa and thrived with 18 points.
Heading into this year, Boldy appeared to be on the cusp. But in the pre-season, he broke his ankle, setting his development back. But with size and a wicked offensive touch, Boldy's abilities are not hard to see and now he and Rossi are on the cusp of realizing their NHL dreams.
For Wild fans, this has to be a fun moment. While Kaprizov has indeed become The One Who Was Promised, he can't do everything himself and an infusion of blue-chip talent will help Minnesota battle it out in that ultra-competitive Central Division in the coming years.
Rossi would give the Wild the type of skill-first center they don't really have; Joel Eriksson-Ek is more of a two-way ace, while Ryan Hartman is better known for his tenacity (though the points he has put up this year are very nice). In Boldy, you're getting another weapon on the wings; someone who could sting opponents too focused on Kaprizov.
There is still another step to take of course; Rossi and Boldy have to prove they belong in the NHL once they make their debuts. But based on their pedigrees and the results they've gotten in the AHL, everything seems to be lining up nicely for the Wild kids. Now it's time to see that NHL journey begin.