PRAGUE, Czechia -- Marco Rossi put his best skate forward as a freshman.

He took big strides as a sophomore.

Capping his second season in the National Hockey League with a European vacation with Austria at the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Czechia, the young forward showed a year-over-year growth in his game that has his Minnesota Wild teammates excited for what's to come.

"Last year he was kind of a little... you didn't see much on the ice in games, kind of blended in and went under the radar a little bit," Wild goalie Filip Gustavsson said from the 2024 IIHF World Championship, where he's representing Sweden. "I know he stayed last summer, got a little bigger, got a little more confident, and this year he took a big step, even around the team being more himself and took more of a spot on the team.

"You can see on the ice.He played with confidence way more and really took the ice instead of seeing if he would get any ice. It showed. He scored a bunch of goals. He helped the team win a bunch of games.

"Hopefully it continues to progress that way."

Rossi, who lost an entire development year in 2020-21 because of COVID, flourished as a second-year center in Minnesota. He finished seventh in team scoring with 40 points (21 goals, 19 assists) in all 82 games, significantly upping his season-over-season totals that saw him net a single assist in 19 NHL games in 2022-23.

"He had a great season," Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin said. "Last year was maybe up and down but this year he really took a step and showed us the player he could be. He was really good. He's going to be really good for a long time. He's just a young kid.

"He works hard, is nice, he's just business. He comes to work and works hard and having fun. He's a great teammate. He's going to be there for a while."

The 22-year-old, who didn't spend a minute in the American Hockey League this season after logging 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) on the minor-league circuit last year, is working on becoming a bigger piece in the State of Hockey.

He's already a massive part of Austria's national team program.

Rossi, who captained Austria's entry at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, is the lone full-time NHLer on an Austria squad battling to avoid relegation at the 2024 Worlds, his second-straight trip to the international stage as the primary motor of that nation's offense.

He has six points (one goal, five assists) through seven games in 2024 after notching six points (one goal, five assists) in the 2023 tournament.

The stats don't highlight it enough.

The year-over-year difference in his game is noticeable.

"I feel a lot more (comfortable)," Rossi said. "Maybe it's a little tougher because they know you more and try to play tougher on you, but I feel very comfortable... just experience-wise, getting stronger, getting faster, and more confidence, making more plays, stuff like that.

"I just try to make plays and help the team win."

So far so good. Austria's been buzzing in Prague.

The Austrians rallied from a 6-1 deficit to force overtime against Canada in a 7-6 loss -- with Rossi scoring the game-tying goal to push it to the extra stanza. They also upset Finland with a 3-2 win, a buzzer-beater with under a second remaining -- a contest where Rossi played a game-high 23:40, and no other skater cracked the 20-minute mark.

It's not super surprising to those that skate with him back home.

Rossi is emerging as a leader.

It's part of his growth.

"A lot of growth," said Joel Eriksson Ek, who is also skating with Sweden. "Even as a person in the locker room. That's probably where it starts for some guys, taking a little bit more space. He missed a full year of hockey. Coming back from that is impressive.

"I think that's pretty clear in our room in Minnesota is that we want everyone to speak what they feel. We have an environment to let people do that. For him being comfortable doing that is very good.

"And I think he's going to get even better."

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