Friday, March 21, 2014
It took a lot to get Teravainen to Hawks
By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- A lot of events needed to happen between June 22, 2012, and Friday for Teuvo Teravainen to be on the verge of making his NHL debut for the Chicago Blackhawks.
First, the Blackhawks needed Teravainen to fall to No. 18 in the first round of the 2012 draft. He was expected by many to go in the top 10. But after nine teams ahead of the Blackhawks addressed defenseman needs, Teravainen was still on the board.
Hawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen finished among the Liiga's top-10 regular-season scorers despite missing 11 regular-season games.
"We weren't targeting him because we had him as one of the top players in the draft," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Friday. "We certainly liked him. We never thought he would slide to us that far. As the draft went on and on, that was the year all the defensemen were taken one after another after another. So we started looking at one another when it got to 13 or 14.
"We said, Wow, he might be there. And we talked to our scouts, and they said: 'No question. If he's there, we've got to take him. He's such a talented player.' For whatever reason, that happens sometimes. We're fortunate. We're not going to complain about the fact he slid down to us."
The second factor was Teravainen's season in the Liiga in Finland needed to come to an early halt. If his team, Jokerit, advanced deep in the playoffs, he could have been playing in Finland until late June, and it would have been less likely for the Blackhawks to try him out during the NHL playoffs.
Jokerit stumbled late in its regular season and fell just short of earning a bye in the first round. In that opening round, Jokerit lost back-to-back weekend games in a best-of-three series and was eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday.
After Finland gave Teravainen its blessing to skip the world championships in May and Jokerit signed off on his release, the Blackhawks finally needed to create salary-cap space to add Teravainen to the roster in the regular season. That didn't happen the way the Blackhawks had hoped, but they were able to recall Teravainen when they placed Patrick Kane on long-term injured reserve on Friday.
After all that -- and a nine-hour flight to Chicago on Thursday -- Teravainen threw on a freshly made No. 86 Blackhawks jersey and took the ice for the team's morning skate Friday. He's expected to make his NHL debut Sunday or Tuesday.
"It's a great thing for me," Teravainen said before a media crowd at the United Center on Friday. "It was bad we lost in Finland, an early out out there, but I still have a good opportunity to play hockey and it's fun. I can bring something. I try to play with my strengths and maybe some offense. I hope I can help."
Teravainen is the Blackhawks' No. 1 prospect and has already proved to have elite offensive talent; he finished among the Liiga's top 10 regular-season scorers despite missing 11 games, but the Blackhawks have attempted to temper expectations for the teenager.
"The thing we just want to be cautious about is he's a 19-year-old kid," Bowman said. "He's not coming in here to carry the team. We certainly have high hopes for him in the future, but this is more just an experience for Teuvo to come in and see what the NHL is all about.
"We've been really pleased with his progress since we drafted him, and looking at his season this year, he showed that he could be a dominant player in the top league in Finland and he's going to come in here and just be a piece of the puzzle."
Teravainen shrugged off the idea of there being pressure on him.
"I don't feel it," he said. "I'm just trying to live day by day and just don't think about all the media things and just try to have fun. There are so many good players on this team. If I play here, I'm just one of those guys. I don't need to be Superman here. I'm just doing my things and I hope I can help the team."
Among the things Teravainen can do is create for others and handle the puck with ease. He had 35 assists in 49 games for Jokerit this season. He showed off a few eye-opening moves with his stick during two preseason games with the Blackhawks in September.
Bowman and Jokerit coach Tomek Valtonen used the words "hockey sense" when they talked Friday about what makes Teravainen a special player. Valtonen compared Teravainen to another former Jokerit player, Valtteri Filppula, but he believes Teravainen had a more complete offensive game.
"He has a hockey sense," Valtonen said Friday in a phone interview from Finland. "He's tremendously smart. He can really make plays on offense. He really loves to pass the puck. On defense, he's real smart. He reads the game real well."
Valtonen expects Teravainen to have a smooth transition into the NHL. One adjustment for Teravainen will be having many people mispronounce his name. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and a few of his teammates weren't able to pronounce it correctly Friday.
"Everybody is saying a different name," Teravainen said. "Some is Tivo, Tyvo, Toovo. It's OK."
If Teravainen is as good for as long as the Blackhawks expect, he'll have plenty of time to correct everyone.