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New Mexico product Gretz weighs options, decides on OHL

 

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Marcus Gretz has lofty aspirations in hockey.

“My ultimate goal is the NHL and I’m going to do everything it takes to get there,” said Gretz, an Albuquerque native who has played the past three seasons in the Detroit area for the Belle Tire AAA program.

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Gretz, a steady defenseman who doesn’t turn 16 until November, found himself with a rash of options on where to play for the 2017-18 season during this past 2016-17 campaign.

Last fall, he committed to NCAA Division I Ohio State University and was then invited to the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-17 Evaluation Camp last month.

Then came April 8 when the Flint Firebirds selected Gretz in the second round (23rd overall) of the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

After much soul searching and weighing all his options, Gretz ultimately decided to commit to the Firebirds.

“I jumped up with excitement when I found out Flint was the team to draft me – it’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Gretz. “It’s a great organization and I’m excited for the future. I know Flint is a great place and I know they will do whatever it takes to help me. Going there, I’m expecting to just work hard and learn and let everything follow.

“I still have to call Ohio State, which will be a heartbreaker, but my family and I feel like the OHL is the better path for me.”

“We’re very happy with our draft this season,” said Flint assistant GM and director of player personnel Joe Stefan. “We were able to acquire a lot of players that were on our radar, which is going to set up this organization for success in years to come.”

Going into the OHL draft, OHL Midwest United States scout Kevin Hess gave a glowing assessment of Gretz.

“Gretz is a big, mobile defense-first defenseman with an offensive upside,” said Hess. “Makes a good first pass. Already 6-foot-4, he may have a bit more growing to do. Defends well, using his reach and positioning to keep his man on the perimeter. Poised and patient with the puck and does a good job of moving his feet to find shooting and passing lanes.”

This past season with the Belle Tire 16U team, Gretz compiled four goals and 16 points in 32 games.

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“We had a very young team this year,” Gretz said. “At first, we were struggling, but through our team’s hard work and bonding, we were able to come together and put together a strong year. Being with the team and just hanging out are memories I’ll always have with these kids, who are basically my brothers.”

Back home in New Mexico, getting started in hockey happened innocently enough for Gretz.

“I remember we went to the local rink, Blades (now the McDermott Athletic Center), just to see what it was and we saw hockey and I said I wanted to play and from there on, it all started,” said Gretz. “In New Mexico, the team would change names from Scorpions to the Renegades and even Team New Mexico. My most memorable coach was Todd Ganshaw. He always let me play up on the team and show what I could do with the older kids.”

Gretz then left New Mexico at the age of nine to play AAA hockey in Colorado for the Colorado Evolution and then the esteemed Colorado Thunderbirds, where he played in the prestigious Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament in 2013-14, before moving to the Detroit suburbs.

“I lived with my mom and my dad flew back and forth,” explained Gretz. “I went to the TPH Hockey Academy and it’s been amazing for me meeting all the new people.”

And even with the commitment to Major Junior hockey, Gretz knows education will always be a priority.

“I definitely want a degree at some point,” said Gretz.

Top photo/Flint Firebirds; Belle Tire photo/Michael Caples/MiHockey

— Matt Mackinder