MAT BOLDY LOVES play hockey in Minnesota. How the community supports sport at all levels. Thousands of fans watching the Minnesota Wild warm-up. And to be honest, the level of celebrity that an NHL player can achieve after only 47 games on the show.
“This is madness. All big fans,” the 21-year-old told Sportzshala. “You can’t go anywhere without getting recognition, which is pretty cool in a lot of ways.”
Of course, 39 points in those 47 games can draw attention. Being the rookie who helped lead the Wild to the most successful regular season in franchise history will earn this recognition.
Marco Rossi watched from afar as Baldy, who was his AHL teammate in the Iowa Wild, lived the NHL dream. They were both first-round picks and are among the best young forward prospects in the league. Baldy was called to contribute to the Wild when Rossi was recruiting his AHL representatives, a year after complications from COVID-19 nearly derailed his career.
Did it inspire? For example, if Baldy could do it in the NHL, could Rossi do it?
“Yes, of course,” Rossi said with a laugh. “But I really don’t like putting too much emphasis on it.”
Rossi, 20, played two games for the Wild last season and is looking to play many more.
“Every hockey player dreams of playing hockey in the NHL from the very first day. This is the best league in the world,” Rossi said. “It would mean a lot to me, but I know that no one will give it to me. You must earn this place.”
Baldy and Rossi are among a group of young players who have joined the Minnesota roster in recent seasons. Joel Ericsson Eck is 26 years old. Jordan Greenaway is 25 years old. Like Kirill Kaprizov, the biggest star of the franchise and the face of this youth movement. One of the catalysts for the Wild’s recent success has been the balance every NHL team strives for: talented kids teaming up with productive veterans like Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman and most of their defensemen.
“We have a good balance. I think part of the beauty of it is that the older guys are hugging the younger ones,” said general manager Bill Guerin. “They are happy to have Baldy on the team. They are in awe of Marco. They are delighted to see Greenaway and Ek making the moves in their careers. They don’t threaten them at all. and they help them. They just want to win. And they understand that for this we all need each other.”
Now it’s up to Baldy and Rossi to reward that excitement.
STRONGLY EXCELLENT Guerin’s expectations for last season?
“One hundred percent,” Wild GM said with a laugh.
Baldy was selected 12th overall in 2019 as a highly qualified winger from the US National Team Development Program. It has been a significant year for this program, which has produced Baldy, the first overall pick of Jack Hughes, Trevor Zegras and Cole Cofield, among others in this draft class.
He spent two seasons at Boston College, earning a place in the top ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as a sophomore. He joined the Wild in March 2021 and has been touted as part of a young wave of talented forwards to strengthen the roster.
“Honestly, it’s so cool just being in that category with Kirill, watching him every day,” Boldy said. “You look up to these guys. You want to be as good as Cyril. You absorb everything they say. But you have to go there and earn it.
Last season, Baldy earned a valuable place at the Wild by playing the majority of his minutes with Kevin Fiala, a striker with 33 goals and 85 points. He won’t have the same luxury this season. Fiala was traded to the Los Angeles Kings; his next contract will be too rich for Wilde’s salary cap situation.
“Kev is great. I mean, I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest by his departure,” Baldy said. “I get it. There’s a lot to do in hockey too. But he’s a great player. He’s a great teammate. So it’s hard to see him leave, but that’s the nature of the game. You have to find different ways to score a goal and connect with different players. And there are a lot of really good players on the team who will hopefully help me improve.”
Guérin ridiculed the idea that Fiala’s departure might negatively affect Baldy.
“I’m not worried at all. Kevin is a good player,” Guerin said. “Look, I’m sure Colorado would love to have [Nazem] Frame back. I’m sure Calgary wanted [Johnny] Gaudreau and [Matthew] Tkachuk is back. You are losing good players. That’s what’s happening.
“Matt Baldy will be fine. As much as Kevin helped him, he helped Kevin.”
What worries Guerin more is how Boldy adjusts to his opponents’ adjustments.
“The thing is, these sophomores are no longer a secret. Everyone knows how good you are,” Guerin said. “The veteran quarterback knows that if he doesn’t play tough with Matt Baldy, he will get burned. Sometimes it takes a second for a sophomore to learn this. It’s like, “Hey, these guys play me differently.” And it’s like yes, because you’re good.”
MARCO ROSSI NO want to be identified by COVID-19. It is clear.
“We don’t try to think too much about what happened like last year,” he said. “Now I focus and think more about the future than about the past.”
Rossi left the Wild training camp in February 2021 due to complications from COVID-19, which he tested positive for last November. Rossi was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. He returned to Austria to recuperate with his family and resumed training in June 2021. He played 63 games in the AHL, along with a brief stint with the Wild in January.
“The hardest thing was to be patient. It won’t be done in two weeks or anything like that,” he said. “After the recovery period, you have to go back to training and try to get better, and that’s not easy.”
Rossi said that at the beginning of his return, he was overly concerned about his heart. Was it really healthy? During training, he felt something in his chest and was worried. It took him a while to fully believe that he was 100 percent what the doctors told him.
“From a health standpoint, it was scary. But he returned after that. He is healthy,” Guerin said.
Rossi was selected by the Wild with the 9th overall pick in 2020 as the OHL Ottawa 67’s dynamic offensive center. Born in Austria, Rossi remembers bridging some cultural differences in North America. Like being close to one of his favorite sports.
“Three years ago in Ottawa I said that I loved watching Formula 1,” he recalled. “Not a lot of guys knew what it really was and how it worked.”
Things are changing.
“They are promoting it so well right now,” Rossi said. “I mean, with the Netflix show now, a lot of people are watching it.”
Rossi’s engine is ready for the NHL, but he doesn’t know if he’s in the race yet. He is expected to make the jump to the first team, but both Guerin and Rossi said it depends on strong training camps.
“I think he will succeed. He is a smart child. He analyzes his situation. There is no secret in his work ethic and competitiveness,” Guerin said. “I think his game will change well, but he needs to do it right away. He must come and prove himself.”
Baldy, his friend and potential partner, thinks he will.
“He can play,” said Baldy, laughing. “I think he’s just a very, very good skater. He is really good in his area. He has a lot of speed. He is smart and scores goals. to be successful.”
Now the Wilds have the tools too, thanks to this balance between established talent and emerging talent like Boldy and Rossi.
“It’s really good. It’s a good mix between us,” Rossi said. “Because the younger guys can learn a lot from the older guys, and even the older guys can learn a lot from the younger guys. You can see that everyone loves each other. This helps the team to go all the way. .”