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Grand Rapids HS/Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
6'2" 181 Pounds 6/20/1995
While much of the attention is centered on the city kids- Connor Hurley, Tommy Vannelli, and Teemu Kivihalme (Burnsville), Avery Peterson of Grand Rapids may just end up being the first of the four selected. Had Grand Rapids been able to make it to the Grand Stage- the State Tournament- we all may a bit more versed in who he is. Peterson's similar to Vannelli in that he parlayed a strong Spring 2012 into a head of steam for the following season, which after a 27 goal, 62 point season for the Thunderhawks, he finished out the season with Sioux City of the USHL.
For a kid his size, Peterson has a great amount of skill; possessing fantastic vision and a slick pair of mitts. He looks to set up teammates in an unselfish manner; almost too unselfish at times as he'll pass up a prime scoring chance. He does have a solid shot, I don't think he uses it enough- by shooting more often he can keep defenders and goalies honest by making his intentions more unclear. What makes Peterson so intriguing is that his physical game is still undeveloped; he lacks strength and power in his skating- he can be bumped off pucks and he doesn't have the best explosion in his stride- but he's shown a willingness to bump and grind more and more as the season went on. In the Fall he was still very much a perimeter player- he just wouldn't take the puck toward the center of the ice, or initiate contact; but as the season progressed scouts started to see more and more physicality and the want to drive the net. As much as he can play the skill game (he scored on a beautiful give and go play where he saucered a pass over a Fargo player's stick when I saw him in April), he still needs to continue to harness his god-given frame to his advantage. Against Fargo I saw more of an antagonistic edge to his game; not really bullying per se, but little things to let opponents know he's on the ice- he even dropped the gloves against Richard Buri of Tri-City in one of his first games as a Musketeer.
It's easy to get content or complacent as the big fish in the small pond; not that Peterson is complacent, but a jump to the USHL was good for him as he learned the need to play with urgency. At the November NIT tournament he was outplayed by St. Cloud Cathedral's Austin Poganski dramatically; even though they have similar playing styles, Poganski simply imposed his will to win shift after shift while Peterson would often get cute with the skill plays. It's little things like that which should be good for him; that its not just how hard you play, but how hard your game is to play against.
As of now he is uncommitted to a college; he's surely got to be a hot commodity not just for the NCAA schools, but a quick glance at the WHL protected lists showed he isn't listed either. The more I think about what Peterson can be as a player, the more I can see him being the first MNHS kid off of the board, and its not outlandish to see a NHL club be so enamored with him that they take him higher than anyone would expect. He could very well be TJ Oshie, but he could also be Patrick White.