Grand Rapids HS/Sioux City (USHL)
6'2"201 Pounds 6/20/1995
Sixth Round, 167th Overall 2013 Entry Draft
The Edina Holiday Classic took place 12/19-12/21 last week, and it annually features the host Hornets, Eden Prairie, Elk River, and Grand Rapids. It is a treat for fans and scouts alike, as usually there is an abundance of talent on display, all the way from Phase I USHL candidates like ER's Matt Kiersted and Edina's Kiefer Bellows- to legit NHL Draft Prospects like EP's Luc Snuggerud and Edina's Tyler Nanne.
A treat for us Wild fans was that one of their 6th round picks, Avery Peterson, was in town to play for his hometown Grand Rapids.
When we saw Peterson last he was playing for Sioux City in the USHL, where he had three goals and eight points in 12 games before coming back to finish his senior season. This isn't rare practice; some junior teams are willing to accomodate that; some players will forego the Fall Elite League to play games in the NAHL or USHL during the Fall, then return home to be the "big man on campus". It can be a frustrating thing for the teams though; ask anyone in a personnel role and they'll tell you how maddening it can be with Minnesota kids and the allure of playing at home- especially when it looks like a certainty that said player has nothing to prove at that level.
Now I get it- you only graduate high school once, and if you've grown up playing with your buddies from mites to now-seniors, you want to see it through and hope to skate in March at the legendary State Tournament.
You know, just like those vaunted classes at St. Thomas Academy. Or Benilde.
However, when you are an NHL draft pick, and a team has made an investment in your future and potential, a situation like Peterson's is a bit of a head scratcher. So instead of playing at a higher competition with better players, he's now playing down to the level of play. And having registered a point in all three games this weekend, Peterson now has a 33 game scoring streak; how you want to perceive that is up to you. That said, he's the guy- he's one of the few upperclassmen on a team full of sophomores and juniors, so Grand Rapids will go as he and goalie Hunter Shepard (who was brilliant Thursday night, making 60 saves in an OT loss to Edina) go. You can see it during games; the game plan can be summed up like this- get the puck and look for Avery.
Now, as for the game analysis, its kind of the same story with him. Moments of brilliance followed by errs in judgement, and times where one (rightly or wrongly) feels like he should be more. One thing that is certainly more noticeable is his willingness to shoot more, as he should; the velocity and release on his shot is high end. He's still a capable playmaker, but he still doesn't play big; you want him to stick his knee out and bully his way to the net, to make his presence known, but it just doesn't happen consistently. Maybe it is trap thinking; that player of a certain type should play a certain way instead of taking them for what they are, but even then, I think some of the ideas expressed regarding how he plays is warranted.
As someone I trust said to me this weekend- if Peterson was draft-eligible this year he'd be the top dog on the list regionally- you still can't help but feel he'd be better off trying to get his and helping Sioux City against the likes of Omaha, or Waterloo, or Sioux Falls instead of the Hibbings, Greenway-Coleraines, and the like. He'll likely be back in the USHL after the High School season ends, but I wonder if he's just hit pause on his development for the time being.