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  • Writer's pictureGlobal Hockey League



by Kyle Standard

The Thunder Bay Bucks were certainly expected to make an impact this season, but nobody expected them to make such a big impact in the 2019 entry draft. Not only did the Bucks draft seven players with high potential but they also caused some major controversy when their GM Tom Rettberg went overboard like we’ve rarely seen before. He had the Bucks draft his son, goaltender Dominik Rettberg (42nd overall). There were a few picks in the later rounds that cause a little controversy as well. The Bucks GM told me just after the draft that he received some half a dozen calls for picks 42 and 65, but he turned down all trades. “You know, we had a plan from the very get-go and I think it all worked out in our favor,” Rettberg said confidently. “Some of the offers I got were lucrative and could have helped us a lot, but I’m looking four to five years ahead with this draft.”

I’ve included scouting reports for every pick the Bucks made in this draft and also a quick note from Thunder Bay's Head of Scouting Matthew Geoworth on what he personally saw in each player. Additionally, I some work with ISS Hockey for this piece and they were great in providing short summaries of their scouting profiles for these players. My thanks to them for their contribution.

Pick #1 - 11th overall: D Mike Cloggo, OHL, Windsor Spitfires. 5’11” 204lbs

Coming into this draft, Mike Cloggo was regarded as perhaps the most complete defenseman entering the draft. While Cloggo does not excel at anything, he most certainly has a truly amazing grasp on gap control, skating, shooting, passing and general hockey IQ. Mike Cloggo is the type of defenseman who will most certainly make a tremendous impact in every area of the ice immediately upon entering the league. He was a major asset in all 3 zones and rarely seemed to make mistakes. He has drawn comparisons to players such as Victor Hedman and John Carlson. Matthew Geoworth shares his thoughts on Mike Cloggo. “Excellent puck movement, tremendous passing, great hockey IQ, good skating and decent shooting. Has the potential to be our number one guy in the future if his trajectory holds.”Scouting report from ISS Hockey: “A defenseman with great skating and excellent speed. Has a shot but needs to utilize it more effectively. Needs to work on defense.

Pick #2 - 42nd overall: G Dominik Rettberg, WHL, Red Deer Rebels. 6’2” 220lbs

At the draft, Dominik Rettberg was ranked fourth among North American goalies. While speculations were flying around that his father, Bucks GM Tom Rettberg, was eyeing to draft his son, the hockey community recoiled in horror. Many fans of the team questioned whether it was a smart choice to draft the young Rettberg anywhere but in the later rounds. When Rettberg’s name was announced as the 42nd overall pick in the draft, it was met with stunned silence before the fans at the Frank Erwin Center started shouting “Daddy’s money, Mommy’s boy” at the young man. Dominik remained all smiles as he descended the stairs from the stands to hug his father and new boss, Tom Rettberg. The expectations for Rettberg were decently high before the draft but now that some obvious favoritism saw him drafted 2-3 rounds earlier than initially anticipated, his expectations soared to new heights.

Matthew Geoworth on Dominik Rettberg: “Not my first choice but he’s solid, his rebound control is solid, its probably his best asset. He does need some work on his ability to read plays and playing with the puck, but he has some stable ground we can build on.”

Scouting report from ISS Hockey: A decently sized goalie with good potential. Tremendous rebound control, great reflexes and a solid ability to read plays. Needs to improve his stick play and blocker before he can truly become a starting goaltender you can rely on.

Pick #3 – 65th overall: RW Manny Marner, OHL, London Knights. 5’10”, 188lbs.

A potential steal of a pick, Manny Marner is slated to be a solid top 6 producer if he continues to work on his game. A bit undersized at 5’10”, his strength lies in offense with his specialty being passing. Growing up, Marner idolized the playmaking skills of players like Pavel Datsyuk and Joe Thornton. After he made the Knights roster, he started looking into Patrick Kane and realized that he has plenty of similarities with the best U.S. born player to ever play the game; Size, passing and a focus on offense. Marner can potentially become a similar player to Kane if he bulks up a bit and continues to work on his skating. A playmaker for the ages but don’t be surprised if Marner turns into a sniper after binging on Patrick Kane highlights.

Matthew Geoworth on Manny Marner: “Definitely a pass-first type of player and that’s what you need with the shooters we have. We have pure goal scorers and in the future, Marner is gonna be the guy who’s gonna be setting up a lot of goals with highlight-reel passing.”

Scouting report from ISS Hockey: Undersized winger with a pass-first mentality. He needs to work on his shooting and defense if he wants to fit into a top 6 role in the future.

Pick #4 - 66th overall: D Michael Cook, QMJHL, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. 5’11” 185lbs.

An offensively gifted defenseman who is slightly undersized, Cook is looking to make an impact by driving offense. Cook is most comfortable with the puck on his stick and is set to at some point run the powerplay for his team. He has drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson with his combination of good skating, shooting, and passing. Cook needs to improve his gap control and shot suppression before he can start dominating defensively as well.

Matthew Geoworth’s thoughts on Michael Cook: “He’s gonna provide us with offense off the blue line. He’ll have to learn how to be patient in his own end but I think that with time, he will become a more well-rounded defenseman who can excel at both ends of the ice. “

Scouting report from ISS hockey: Offensively gifted defenseman who plays more like a fourth forward than a second defenseman. He needs to improve his play without the puck and add strength.

Pick #5 - 68th overall: LW O’Long Johnson, WHL, Portland Winterhawks. 6’2” 200lbs

A balanced forward who has the ability to steal the puck from anyone in any situation. During the pre-draft interview, Johnson mentioned how he wants to be more like his idol Marian Hossa than anyone else and he certainly has that potential. Don’t expect anything flashy from Johnson who also said that he’s more of a “meat and potatoes” type of player rather than a “Magic Man with endless dekes.” At 6’2” and 200lbs he can certainly win battles along the boards but he simply needs more time to learn how to use his size more effectively at the highest level before he can become the player he is projected to be.

Matthew Geoworth’s thoughts on O’Long Johnson: “He likes to play defense first and use his stick to break up plays. Scores most of his goals in front. I think he will be top 9 top to start, might even get some time on the penalty kill.”

Scouting report from ISS Hockey: Gifted both offensively and defensively, Johnson can excel at both ends of the ice when he’s on his game. He has a decent shot, scores most of his goals near the blue paint. Needs to improve his decision making with the puck. He can become an effective two way forward within 4-5 years.

Pick #6 - 73rd overall: C Jake Whitco, NCAA, University of Minnesota. 6’0” 190lbs

There’s always talk about how this and this player is going to be the next this and this player, but the similarities between Jake Whitco and veteran player Blake Wheeler are endless: Solid skating, pass first, great poise and also the fact that both guys went to the University of Minnesota. But Jake Whitco is a center and he can also win draws consistently. The biggest problem with Whitco’s game is the fact that he, at times, just simply isn’t selfish enough and sometimes wastes a scoring chance by looking for a pass when he should shoot.

Matthew Geoworth on Jake Whitco: “We needed a solid two-way center and I think Whitco can become that. He can also set up pretty much anyone for a goal, so he wins the draw, gets the return pass and starts skating around looking for an open man. We’re gonna have to teach him how to shoot more, he has that ability to get open but often times when he does get open and finds the puck, he starts looks for another pass instead of shooting it. Kind of reminds me of Joe Thornton in that sense.”

Scouting report from ISS Hockey: A pass-first center who can play well in all three zones. He needs to improve his shooting and shoot more in general. Can drive to the net to finish plays, but prefers to set up goals rather than score them.

Pick #7 - 86th overall: LW Jeremy Brand, WHL, Moose Jaw Warriors. 5’10”, 195lbs.

With their last pick in the 2019 draft, the Bucks settled on left-winger Jeremy Brand. Brand is both a sniper and a playmaker with his lethal wrist shot and great passing. His strength lies in neither and this causes problems for his opponents because they don’t know if he’s gonna shoot it himself or pass it to someone else. He has decent speed but sometimes gets caught out of position defensively. Draws comparisons to Theo Fleury due to being a bit undersized but he’s no pushover at 195lbs. Says he grew up watching Ovechkin and Heatley score spectacular of goals but feels like he can’t be quite as physical at his size.

Matthew Geoworth on Jeremy Brand: “Definitely a player who I had my eye on as a late steal. I didn’t think he’d still be available at 86 as he was the best player available much earlier but the ramblings I heard were that not too many teams were interested in him, so I felt safe waiting to make this pick.”

Scouting report from ISS Hockey: Undersized winger who’s a sniper/playmaker. Can play both left and right-wing if needed. The biggest weakness is his lack of defense but he does so much with the puck that it often overshadows his defensive weaknesses.

To conclude, the Thunder Bay Bucks focused more on skill than size in this draft. They added plenty of cornerstones to their franchise, with Cloggo and Whitco potentially making the biggest impact right off the start. Whitco is perhaps the overall best player they drafted as centers with his combination of offense and defense are hard to find; You have to draft players like him and that’s what the Bucks did. The biggest question for them going into next season is their goaltending and whether Dominik Rettberg can stop pucks consistently or whether he will make his father’s favoritism look even worse than it currently does. We also have to remember that out of all positions, goaltending takes the most time to perfect and Rettberg is obviously far from being a starter. Tom Rettberg said right after the draft that every player picked in this draft will be in the lineup for the first game of the season, which would mean that the Bucks would be icing a league-high 7 rookies to open the season. Expectations are high but Tom Rettberg wants to take it slowly. ”I think in the past decade we’ve been spoiled with first-round picks league-wide,” Rettberg said. ”Guys like McDavid, Matthews, Laine, [Mitch] Marner, Eichel, Jones, Barkov and many, many others have set expectations so high for what people think you can get in the first round. And it just leads to all of these expectations that not a lot of players can meet. That doesn’t mean these players aren’t good, it just means that you don’t draft a generational talent or a franchise player every time you draft in the top 10, 15 or heck, even top 5. Every player is different and it takes time for these guys to develop. Let’s just let them and see where they are in 3 years. I think there are lots of players here who you won’t start noticing until a bit further down the line and that’s how it goes most of the time.”

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