Grand Rapids HS forward Avery Peterson has some intriguing aspects to his game, but could be as raw and unproven as any prospect in this year's draft. He played eight games with Sioux City in the USHL once his high school season ended, but barely had time to get his feet under him in the league before the league's regular season ended. In his eight games, three of his four points came in the final weekend of the year, when he was just starting to get comfortable in the league. Otherwise, there's not a lot to judge Peterson on outside of his performance during the high school hockey season.
Peterson first started drawing attention as an NHL Draft prospect this past fall in the Upper Midwest Elite League. Measuring in at a solid 6'2", Peterson's size and ability to skate put him on the radar of numerous scouts in attendance. Peterson finished the Elite League season with 5 goals and 10 assists in 21 regular season games, and helped lead his Team North to the league playoff title.
During the high school season, Peterson was very good, as you'd expect from a draft prospect playing high school hockey. He averaged over a goal per game on the season. While the competition he played at Grand Rapids can sometimes be hit or miss, Peterson was able to produce against the better teams he played against, despite being the focal point of his team's offensive attack.
Peterson is a power forward that relies on his raw strength and physicality to make plays. He's not the smoothest, most graceful skater, but he's got a strong, wide skating base that makes him difficult to knock off the puck. He doesn't have soft hands, and doesn't make many pretty moves while stickhandling, but ends up being effective with the puck on his stick. He's got a great compete level which helps smooth over some of the technical flaws he has. He sometimes holds on to the puck a little too long , and could stand to use his teammates better, but that is something that might come when he moves on to a higher level of hockey, and is forced to move the puck quicker.
Overall, Peterson is very much a project. He was just a high school junior last year, and he could possibly return to Grand Rapids HS for his senior season, even if he is drafted, much like teammate Jake Bischoff did last season after being drafted in 2012. Peterson is one of the Central Scouting-ranked prospects with NCAA eligibility to have not made an NCAA commitment yet, but has drawn attention from multiple Big Ten, NCHC, and WCHA programs. If he does go back to Grand Rapids next season, he'll likely play a year in the USHL prior to joining any NCAA program.
Like many prospects in the latter half of the draft, Peterson is very much a boom-or-bust type prospect. It's very easy to see the potential of a second or third line power forward at the NHL, but there's a very long distance between that goal and where he is now, and it's by no means a sure thing that he reaches that point. NHL Central Scouting really liked Peterson, putting him at 77th in their final rankings. That might be a tad optimistic, but Peterson's upside makes him an attractive prospect to be selected somewhere in the final three rounds of the draft.