The Chicago Blackhawks are in good shape.
Not only are they 8-2-3 to start the 2013-14 season, but the next great future player is primed and ready to make an impact in the NHL. The catch: he’s not even playing in North America right now.
This said player is 2012 first-round draft pick, Teuvo Teravainen. The Blackhawks got a steal that day in Pittsburgh. The Jokerit (Finnish Elite League) right-winger was ranked seventh by TSN in their per-draft rankings, and 2nd among European skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting. So when Stan Bowman had the 18th pick and Teravainen was still on the board, the decision was obvious. The Blackhawks got a steal, taking a player that many believe can be the next Finnish Flash, as Teemu Selanne enters the twilight of his storied career.
Teravainen’s skill is undeniable: his speed is world-class, and could easily be matched up with some of the best on the Blackhawks today. Using a strong push off and acceleration to leave defenders flat-footed, Teravainen can then drive the net, or make a play with good vision and anticipation of his teammates’ (and defenders) next move. With incredibly soft hands, Teravainen can wiggle his way out of double-coverage, just as Blackhawks fans have seen Patrick Kane do so many times. When set up in the zone, teammates of Teravainen like to set him up for a one-timer, as he has a heavy shot from the circle. Teravainen has the ability to remain calm in key situations, and this leads him to many clutch goals or plays.
Teravainen has been the star of the show in the Jokerit program since his U16 days, and when he is paired with good players, he is dynamite. The possibility of a match-up with Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews should get fans excited. Teravainen can retain much of his European style of play if fellow dangler Kane is on the other wing, and the overall speed and skill of such a line would be uncontested in the NHL. Hockey hasn’t seen a dominant line since that of the Edmonton Oilers in the 80′s, and the Blackhawks could be sitting on one right now.
So the question is, why wait?
Teravainen easily could have cracked the Blackhawks’ roster this fall, but they instead decided to send him back to Finland for one more year, skipping the option of the AHL that many thought was going to be the route taken. If there are any holes to fill in the lineup down the stretch, Teravainen should be their guy. The Blackhawks’ system is full of promising prospects, most of which play down the road in Rockford, but Teravainen is 8000 miles away. The motive behind this decision is still largely a mystery, as acclimatizing Teravainen to the North American game seemed the way to go, although no real adjustment would be needed for the young star, as he would slide right in with the skilled offense on the club.
Any way you put it, Teravainen will see time in North America this winter, whether it’s in Rockford or Chicago is still to be determined. Consider this your warning: when Teravainen steps on that United Center ice, the Blackhawks will get significantly more dangerous.
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