There is good reason for Minnesota Wild fans to keep an eye on the Austria men’s national hockey team this month. Marco Rossi, the highly-touted Wild prospect, will represent his country in Olympic qualification games in Bratislava from Aug. 26-29.
It is the latest step in the return to competition for the 19-year-old center , who battled through a series of medical challenges over the past year. He tested positive for COVID-19 last November and then was diagnosed with myocarditis at the start of the Wild’s training camp.
It came after Rossi played in the World Juniors tournament in January, a tournament in which Austria had just one goal in four games . The diagnosis also ended his season.
He returned to the ice in early June with a skate and workout that was filmed by his father, Michael, and posted on his social media account . But the tournament marks Rossi’s first real competition since the World Juniors.
Austria’s Olympic qualifier pool also includes Slovakia, Belarus and Poland. Rossi also previously played for his country in the World U18 Division 1 tournaments in 2017 and ’18 and also the and World Junior Championships in ’18. He had seven points in five games in the latter tournament.
Austria’s camp begins on Aug. 16 and will include pre-tournament exhibition games against Italy and Hungary. Austria last qualified for the Olympics in 2014 where the team finished 10th overall.
The Olympic qualifier will also be a tune-up for Rossi as he heads into the Wild’s camp that begins in September.
Wild coach Dean Evason was asked during a Zoom meeting with media members on Tuesday if prospects like Rossi, Matt Boldy and Calen Addison will have the opportunity to make the team’s roster out of camp.
“Absolutely,” Evason said. “That’s what we want . We want that competitive nature. If you’re coming to a National Hockey League camp, you better be prepared to make the team.
“Our minds are open. We don’t close anything to, ‘Well this guy is penciled here and penciled there.’,” Evason said. “Clearly, we have NHL contracts, so those are the people that are going to have an opportunity. But there’s a lot of positions that are open and for sure young guys and/or older guys can come in and compete for a job. “