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Marco Rossi wasn't the same player at the end of last season as he was at the beginning.

That's what the center noticed when he returned home to Austria and watched his first five games and last five games, a rehash of the bookends to his debut inside the Wild organization that revealed he was stronger and stronger on the puck.

"It was really good," Rossi said. "But now I want to do my next step and that's to play here."

The Wild's highest draft pick in 10 years, Rossi and his development have been under the microscope since his arrival. The attention is only magnifying as the 21-year-old gains momentum in his latest attempt to make the team.

"I want to prove to them that I belong here," Rossi said, "and I just try to play my game and don't overthink everything."

Not even a week into training camp, Rossi is already making strides.

After he was drafted ninth overall in 2020 and subsequently sidelined by myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that can be a complication from COVID-19, Rossi completed his tryout with the Wild in 2021 with one assist in three preseason contests before reporting to the minors.

In his first action this go-around, Rossi doubled that output, factoring into a power play goal and then setting up the game-winner in a 3-2 overtime victory on Sunday against Colorado. Ryan Hartman was the beneficiary of the pass, with Rossi teaming up with the veteran Hartman in the absence of Kirill Kaprizov, who left the game early after taking a Frederick Gaudreau shot off a foot. (Kaprizov didn't practice on Monday, but coach Dean Evason said Kaprizov was fine.)

Overall, Rossi's performance was completely on brand for the playmaker, who is coming off an 18-goal, 35 assist showing with Iowa across 63 games.

"It's a real good start for him," Evason said. "We want to see progression. You want to see someone take a step from playing in the American Hockey League. He didn't play a couple years ago. He had the opportunity to train through the summer and looked real good in all areas.

"Obviously, he makes a great pass on the overtime goal. But his faceoffs were good. He killed penalties. We just saw progression, and that's a good thing for us."

Although Rossi acknowledged the game was "big for my confidence," he made it clear he wasn't focusing on the pair of assists and instead thinking of how he could improve.

This was also the attitude he had when he looked back on the start and finish of last season, to figure out what he could concentrate on in his offseason regimen. And that's how Rossi processed only one call-up with the Wild earlier this year to make his NHL debut, a two-game stint before returning to the AHL.

"You're even more hungry after because you've seen how it is and then you want to go back up," Rossi said. "But it's a positive thing because you see your goal and you know you're so close."

With the season opener still more than two weeks away, the Wild have loads of time to assess roster options.

More than 50 players remain in camp, after the first round of cuts on Monday saw prospects Caedan Bankier, Hunter Haight, Kyle Masters, Servac Petrovsky, Josh Pillar and David Spacek sent to their respective junior clubs and goalie Thomas Milic released.

Rossi is skating like someone who doesn't have to worry about cuts.

"He looks confident," Evason said. "I'm sure he's stronger. I'm sure he got the training from the summer physically, but mentally he looks and he feels like he belongs here, which he does.

"It's again a good step forward. Now you know he'll get some more games here, and we'll just keep evaluating from there."