In the last few years, there seems to be a Draft Day theme for the Minnesota Wild: Select a star high school player from the State of Hockey. A couple years ago it was Eden Prairie defenseman Nick Seeler. Last year it was Louie Nanne from Edina.
This year Minnesota drafted Grand Rapids junior Avery Peterson. The power forward is one of Minnesota hockey’s brightest stars. In 23 regular season games for the Thunderhawks Peterson totaled 54 points (23-31=54).
In the section playoffs Peterson added another 8 points (4-4=8) in just three games. After the high school season was over, Peterson accelerated his playing career by joining Sioux City of the USHL.
“I definitely wanted to jump in to play in the USHL to get more experience,” Peterson said. “I was looking forward to that and I liked it a lot.”
Peterson played eight games for Sioux City to finish out the season and added 4 points (1-3=4). He may have spent only a short time in the USHL, but the experience has opened Peterson’s eyes.
“It was definitely way different [from high school hockey],” Peterson said. “There’s a lot of pressure on the puck and you have less time to make decisions which is the major difference I noticed.”
Only a junior in high school, Peterson was able to balance his academic responsibilities along with hockey while in Sioux City. He communicated with his teachers via email and turned in assignments online.
After getting that taste of a higher level of hockey, the forward knew his next step will be college hockey. Just yesterday, Peterson committed to attend the University of Nebraska-Omaha under legendary college coach Dean Blais.
A Wild Summer
Peterson was invited to and participated in the NHL Entry Draft Combine. After the workout, he and his family decided they would fly out to Newark, N.J. for the 2013 NHL Draft Entry.
Sitting in the stands waiting for hours, the Peterson family finally was rewarded for their patience when Minnesota drafted Avery in the 6th round (167th) overall.
“It was really exciting, like a cherry on top going to Minnesota especially in the later rounds,” Peterson said about his draft day experience.
When you talk to Peterson its easy to forget he just turned 18 in June. The forward is 6-2 and listed at 193 pounds and looks to be still growing.
As for next season, Peterson could return to Sioux City for the full year and forgo his senior season in Grand Rapids. He has just two classes left to graduate high school, which Peterson will complete through more online coursework.
However, the 18-year-old still hasn’t announced if he will return to Grand Rapids for his final year or take his game to the junior level. Participating in Wild Developmental Camp over the summer has shown Peterson what his game needs to progress and develop as a player.
“You come here and see how hard the guys work who play in the AHL,” Peterson said. “It gives you motivation to work that hard and hopefully be in that spot someday.”
When asked about his thoughts on his whirlwind couple of months going from high school hockey to a NHL camp Peterson is exuberant.
“I was just thinking, ‘Man, I’m in high school and now I’m here with guys who get paid to play,’ it’s a little different.”
Peterson had a good experience as a first-time player at Developmental Camp and impressed Wild Director of Player Development, Brad Bombardir.
“I liked him at camp,” Bombardir said. “You never know where he was going to fit in because he’s so young. He’s a very raw kid and raw player, but a hard worker and understands the game. He’s got a lot of growth ahead of him, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.”
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