- Scott Powers, Reporter
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"That's my goal to be with the Blackhawks next season, when the season starts," Teravainen said in April.
The chances of that decreased when the Blackhawks signed Brad Richards earlier this week. Teravainen, the organization's top prospect, is going to have to mesmerize Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman in training camp, and even then, his chances would still likely be slim to begin the season in the NHL.
With Richards along with Jonathan Toews, Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger, the Blackhawks have a full house of capable centers. Even if Teravainen was switched to the wing, the Blackhawks don't possess an opening for him right now. The Blackhawks already have nine wings (Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell, Kris Versteeg, Jeremy Morin, Peter Regin, Ben Smith) signed for eight spots, and there's also a chance forwards Joakim Nordstrom and Brandon Mashinter could be in the mix for the NHL roster.
The reality is Teravainen is likely returning to where he ended last season, with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL. Bowman didn't come out and say that recently, but he and the Blackhawks have been very careful in their approach to Teravainen. They have said over and over that they don't want to rush him.
The last Blackhawks' prospect in a similar situation to Teravainen was Saad. The Blackhawks were weighing what to do with Saad to begin the 2013 season. He started the season in the NHL, but was a healthy scratch in the season opener. It wasn't until Daniel Carcillo suffered a severe injury in that first game that Saad, who was then 20, received a full-time NHL opportunity.
"We're very confident in [Teravainen's] potential and his future with the Blackhawks," Bowman said on Tuesday. "The one thing you have to be careful of with young players is not to put them in situations to fail. He's just 19 years old. He won't turn 20 until training camp. There's still many years ahead of him."
Bowman acknowledged acquiring Richards allows the Blackhawks even more flexibility and time with Teravainen. Training camp will give the Blackhawks a greater opportunity to assess where Teravainen is with his game. He also is expected to participate in the Blackhawks' prospect camp in July.
"We're going to see where he's at when he gets to training camp," Bowman said. "[Richards] obviously gives us an established player who has played many years in the NHL at an important position at center. Now we have some latitude with Teuvo. He's going to dictate as to when he's ready to go. We don't have to force anything.
"It's always nice when players make it known when they're ready to be here. When that happens, we always accommodate them. We've seen it before with young players. Some of them take half a year. Some of them take one year. Some of them are ready right out of the gate. We don't need to predict that one. We'll just let it play out and be patient with it."
Prior to signing Richards, Quenneville also said Teravainen's training camp would be important. Teravainen played in two preseason games and three regular-season games for Quenneville last season. In between, he played a full season for Jokerit in Finland's Liiga and was among the league's points leaders.
"I just think it's probably a good summer for him," Quenneville said of Teravainen on Friday. "He had a busy year. Transition and adaptation to the next level coming overseas and coming over to this league and coming over to the North American game is going to be a change for him. I'm sure he's going to grow. He's going to get stronger.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how he plays in camp. I would expect some progress. We liked what we saw last year at the beginning of the year. We'll see. He's going to make the decision for us in exactly where he's going to fit and where we're going to play him."