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SCSU recruit Gavyn Thoreson has strong USHL start with Waterloo, decides to return to high school team

The senior wing is one of the top 10 returning scorers in the state. Thoreson was averaging a point-per-game with the USHL's Black Hawks, but wants to help the Andover Huskies defend their Class AA state title.

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Gavyn Thoreson (82) makes a pass for the Waterloo Black Hawks during a USHL game. Thoreson had five goals, nine points, eight penalty minutes and was a plus-4 in nine games for Waterloo this fall.
Courtesy of Stephanie Lyn Photography

ANDOVER, Minn. — It is not because Gavyn Thoreson was not having any success playing junior hockey for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States Hockey League.

Thoreson moved back home this week to play this season with the Andover boys hockey team, the defending Class AA state champions. Thoreson leads Waterloo in goals (5), points (9), game-winning goals (2) and power-play goals (2) in nine games.

"I kind of went in going in there 50/50 and I'd see how it goes, whether I'd like it there and wait until the time comes and see where my head is at," Thoreson said of whether or not he was going to return for his senior season. "I decided to play high school because it felt right."

It is not every day that a player gets a chance to defend a state title and play with the bulk of teammates that he grew up playing hockey with. But Thoreson still had struggles with the decision.

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Gavyn Thoreseon (82) carries the puck in a USHL game against the Des Moines Buccaneers.
Courtesy of Stephanie Lyn Photography

"It was pretty hard because I was playing a lot in Waterloo," said Thoreson, who was averaging 14 minutes, 55 seconds per game and more than 4 minutes per game on the power play. On the power play "it was different. I'm a small guy (5-foot-8, 183 pounds) and I was in front of the net. I've never been in front of the net before (on the power play). It was kind of weird with all those big defensemen cross-checking me in the back.

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"I'm not used to that. It was different, but I liked it."

And the Black Hawks were obviously pleased with the way he was playing. Matt Smaby, the team's head coach, was disappointed when Thoreson told him he was returning to high school.

"Disappointed that he is not going to be with our group," said Smaby, a former University of North Dakota and NHL defenseman. "It's his decision to make and I totally understand that. As a coach, I don't want to push anyone to do anything they don't want to do.

"Losing a player like that for our team and our lineup is disappointing," Smaby said. "I was honest with Gavyn before he left. I think that playing at the USHL level would be a huge benefit to him. Looking at his stat line and watching him as a player, it wasn't a fluke that he was where he was. The type of guy he is and the type of player he is, playing in the USHL would have been a big benefit to him. But he did go back to high school and my hope is that he can push himself to keep growing his game at the high school level and then, the plan, is for him to come back when the high school season is done."

SCSU recruit had big junior season

Thoreson, a St. Cloud State recruit, was ninth in the state in assists (45) and 12th in points (74) in 31 games played for Andover last season. He said that there are some things that he wants to work on this season with the Huskies.

"I just want to grow as a leader I think, the most," he said. "My defensive side of the game, I want that to grow more. I just want to be a better player and better person overall."

To prepare for this season, he worked out with a trainer and one of the people he worked out with was Gunnar, his older brother. Gunnar, a 20-year-old center and St. Lawrence commit, is in his second season playing for the Minnesota Wilderness in the North American Hockey League.

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"It was really helpful because he's been in that (juniors) lifestyle and knows what it's like," Gavyn said of his brother. "He knows how much of a grind it is and how it is to play there. It helped that he knew what to work on.

"I feel like I got a lot stronger and probably put on 5-10 pounds of muscle," he said of his offseason workouts.

A draft pick of Waterloo, Thoreson went to the team's camp this summer and made a good impression. That continued during his time to start the season with the Black Hawks.

"His playmaking ability is at a different level," Smaby said. "He can see and make plays that not a lot of players can. Being an undersized kid, he does a really good job of creating time and space for himself.

"He's really good at making moves to create time and space for him to find that next play and he plays alive. He's just got really good hockey instincts. He's got a nose for the net and he's not afraid to go into the high traffic areas and that's why he had success with us."

His play also has gotten him more exposure to NHL scouts. On NHL Central Scouting's 2022-23 Preliminary Players to Watch List , he received a 'C' rating, which means he is a candidate to be taken anywhere from the fourth through the sixth rounds of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, which will take place on June 28-29 in Nashville.

"Gavyn is a tremendous hockey player," Smaby said. "His points with us are pretty indicative the type of player he is. We, obviously, think very highly of him. He was able to jump right in and contribute right away and compete at the USHL level."

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Andover forward Gavyn Thoreson (12) takes the puck toward the Maple Grove goal during the first period Saturday, March 12, 2022, in the State Boys Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live
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Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com
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