With all of the hype surrounding incoming Chicago Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen in the past week or so, I surely haven’t been the only one to stumble upon the question: what if he doesn’t live up to expectation?
As fans of the Blackhawks, we are very privileged to watch players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa don the red, black and white 82 times a year. Although Teravainen’s arrival was greatly anticipated in the past few days, it seems his plane from Finland couldn’t come any faster after Kane suffered an injury in the ‘Hawks victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night. As a casual observer from my post up north covering the Winnipeg Jets, I was surprised at the amount of people who expect him to replicate the numbers put up by #88 for the next three weeks.
The Teravainen hype began as soon as he put on the Indian Head in Pittsburgh nearly two years ago at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. “What a steal: Blackhawks’ fans rejoice! Stan Bowman may have acquired the most explosive forward in the whole draft class, at a meager 18th overall!” Immediately, the fans of a perennial Stanley Cup Contender turned their heads to watch the then-18 year old slowly transform into the face of the franchises’ next generation.
The attention died down as the Blackhawks began another season (and undoubtedly picked up a few fans who had no idea who Teravainen was) and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Teravainen made quite the splash at Blackhawks’ camp, prompting Joel Quenneville to remark that the Teuvo era may begin as early as the 2013-14 season.
Well, here we are Blackhawks fans. Only 12 games remain in the regular season, and with Kane’s injury, it seems like there has been no better time for Teuvo Time. Beware, we triumphantly say to fans of any other team. However, some, myself included, believe that the boasting has come far too early.
There was slight noise made across the league when the Washington Capitals finally brought in long-time prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov in the past week. After five games, Kuznetsov does have four assists, but hasn’t played over 16 minutes yet. On a Capitals team where the depth chart takes a devastating drop behind Niklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, that is far less ice time than anticipated. Teuvo is a full two years younger, and the Blackhawks certainly have a lot more depth than that of the Capitals. Is he really going to perform, or even play, at the NHL level in game one?
Teravainen is yet to crack age 20, and has not played a professional game in North America in his career, let alone one in the NHL. His size leaves something to be desired, but ‘Hawks fans hope, that just like Kane, Teuvo’s skill will leave bigger opponents in the dust. Meanwhile, Jeremy Morin has earned two AHL Player Of The Week honors in the past month, and was formerly on a 10-game point streak.
This is not a knock on Teravainen, and I have witnessed what he can do, both in the Blackhawks’ sweater during pre-season, and in the Suomi sweater when he earned Tournament MVP honors at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships, captaining Finland to gold. However, I believe that when it comes to replacing Patrick Kane, Jeremy Morin should definitely get the first shot. Teuvo can head down to Rockford, and help the IceHogs secure a playoff spot while getting his first taste of the smaller confines of the North American game. After 10 games in the AHL, he will be introduced to playoff hockey, either with the ‘Hogs, or through a call-up to Chicago. All will be well, and hopes of a Stanley Cup repeat may be fulfilled, and everyone can breathe easy knowing Teuvo has the skills to excel at the NHL level in the coming seasons.
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