In the midst of all the good news a year ago, as the Wild made the best of a strange season and exceeded almost everyone's expectations while Kirill Kaprizov emerged as a budding superstar, one cloud hung over the organization.
Marco Rossi, a highly touted 2020 first round pick, contracted COVID-19 — and a bad case of it, as it turned out. He played for Austria in the World Junior Championships, but afterwards his fatigue was revealed to be a case of myocarditis.
Inflammation of the heart.
That's not something to be trifled with, and it threatened Rossi's long-term career even though he was (and still is for another week) only 19.
The Wild pieced together a plan at center during the season, aided by a large step forward from Joel Eriksson Ek. Rossi, who might have figured into the Wild's plans had he been healthy, even at such a young age, recovered back in Austria. Even taking a walk, he said, would cause his heart rate to surge.
That backdrop provides the context for the very encouraging development this week, which I talked about on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast: Rossi skating with his Wild teammates as camp opens and declaring himself good to go.
"It was a really good skate," Rossi said Wednesday. "Especially for me, I was so excited to be finally here."
The Wild should be equally excited. While there are no guarantees about Rossi's potential role this year, it's no secret that he has the skills to be the type of center the organization would love to pair with Kaprizov.
Combine that with the fact that Rossi is the sort of entry-level labor the Wild will need to compete while paying off several years of buyouts for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and Rossi's return to the ice is particularly important.
But we shouldn't lose sight of the big picture.
"It was scary," Rossi said of his long-term battle with COVID effects. "You hear the doctors saying, 'We don't know if you're ever going to reach your goal or that you're ever be like you were before.'"
At least how he has that chance. The Wild and Rossi shouldn't take it for granted.