Time to give this one a post of its own, I think. In a recent post, I addressed what the Chicago Blackhawks’ forward lines might look like in 2015-16 if Patrick Kane is suspended as a result of the investigation that currently surrounds him. The feedback I received centered (no pun intended) mostly around young Teuvo Teravainen, and why he might or might not play center for this squad next season.
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What also got me thinking a little more about this was part of fellow Blackhawk Up writer Melissa’s post regarding the Chicago forwards’ passing stats last season. About Teuvo, she says:
“Teravainen maintains the control of transitional play that is typical of a center even when he is deployed as a wing, which bodes well for the potential center depth of the Blackhawks…”
So here’s the question: In what position will Teuvo start the 2015-16 season?
Teuvo is a center by trade, but he spent a lot of time in 2014-15 at left wing. That was especially true when the playoffs rolled around. When he wasn’t being scratched, Teuvo found himself alongside Antoine Vermette and Patrick Sharp, with Vermette centering that line (as he should have been). With a 1-4 center setup of Jonathan Toews, Brad Richards, Vermette and Marcus Kruger, Teuvo could simply be a scoring threat without having to worry about center duties.
But even during the regular season, and before Vermette was brought aboard, Teuvo wasn’t taking a ton of center work. He played in 34 regular-season games last season and took 56 faceoffs. For a point of comparison, he took 25 faceoffs in just three regular-season games during the 2013-14 season.
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On top of this, we have the ever-confusing Joel Quenneville. Before the 2014-15 playoffs started, Quenneville more or less indicated Teuvo would receive a top-six forward role moving forward. That was promptly followed by multiple playoff benchings and a bottom-six forward role. There was also an indication from Q during the playoffs that he felt Teuvo belonged in a top-six role. But then, after the season concluded, he said he wanted to try Teuvo at center moving forward.
You can see why this might be confusing.
Now let’s look at the roster to see if it’s feasible to put Teuvo at center next season. The quick answer is “yes.” Toews and Artem Anisimov currently stack up at 1-2C, and Kruger would slot in at 3/4C assuming he’s re-signed. So that leaves one spot open.
All of the immediate options are cut from a similar cloth: young, not particularly sizable but with a nose for the puck. Teuvo is currently listed at 5-foot-11, 169 pounds. Andrew Shaw, who has seen a lot of center time despite not being a natural one, is listed at 5-11, 179 pounds. Marko Dano took 35 faceoffs in 35 games last year, and I (maybe over-creatively) put him at 3C in my Kane-less line projections. But he checks in at 5-11, 183 pounds.
Another option is Mark McNeill down in Rockford, and I do think he’ll see playing time with the Blackhawks at some point next season. He’s a bigger guy at 6-2, 210 pounds, but he obviously fits the “young” descriptor to a T.
So we’re basically looking at Teuvo and Shaw (I’ll admit Dano at 3C was a reach) for that final center spot. Will Teuvo start at it over Shaw? If you go solely by Q’s end-of-the-season comment about wanting to try Teuvo at center next season, the answer could be yes. If you go by Q’s history of tossing Shaw into a center spot seemingly at random, the answer might be no.
I still wouldn’t be surprised if Teuvo starts at a wing spot among the top six. But training camp could provide a different viewpoint. We’re still far from the start of the 2015-16 regular season, and it wouldn’t be stunning to see Teuvo open at a center position, especially if the Kruger re-signing somehow falls through.
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