The 19-year-old Finnish phenom Teuvo Teravainen (TAY-voh tair-uh-VIGH-nehn) will likely make his NHL debut in Chicago tonight against the Dallas Stars. The countdown to his appearance has “Teuvo Time” hashtags abounding on Twitter and left sports writers and bloggers with ample material.
Patrick Kane’s recent injury made room for his arrival from Finland, and with time for practice with the team, Coach Joel Quenneville has found a spot for Teravainen in the lineup.
Teravainen, who will be the first Blackhawk to wear 86, his number for the Jokerit.
He centered a line with Brandon Saad and Ben Smith during today’s morning skate, but is experienced at center and wing, and Quenneville is known for shaking up lines on the fly.
Quenneville said Teravainen will be closely monitored until the team decides where he fits.
“Usually, you give him a chance to play the game and get to see how he handles it,” Quenneville said. “You might give him some different situations if you’re comfortable with the way things are going. You want to at least get him in there and give him a chance to play.”
Teravainen was selected in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Teuvo Time has been the talk of the (Chi-)town since, with growing enthusiasm since he attended training camp last summer.
General Manager Stan Bowman and Quenneville wisely advised that Teravainen is just one player on the team.
“The thing we want to be cautious about is he’s a 19-year old kid — he’s not here to carry the team,” Bowman said. “We certainly have high hopes for him, but this is more just an experience for Teuvo to see what the NHL is all about.
“This year he showed that he could be a dominant player in the top league in Finland.”
During this 2013-14 season with Jokerit, Teravainen had 44 points (nine goals, 35 assists) in 49 games. In the World Junior Championship, he served as Finland’s captain, leading them to a Final 3-2 overtime victory against Sweden. Teravainen assisted all three goals and led the tournament in scoring.
“I don’t want to put … I don’t want to say pressure or expectations on him,” Quenneville said. “I just think he could be a special player in our league. Offensively, he has a great set of skills as far as puck possession and recognition of plays.”
The media and fan excitement is beyond palpable. It’s intense. Add to that the possibility of clinching a playoff berth tonight with a regulation win (or an OT win if the Coyotes lose), Teravainen’s premiere is filled with hope–and pressure.
His career statistics reveal obvious talent. But, he shouldn’t skate with the weight of the Windy City on his 19-year-old shoulders.
“I hope I can help,” Teravainen told media. “Of course, there are big expectations and pressure, but I don’t think of those too much. I’m just a player and a young kid coming here. I think everything I do here is a bonus. I’m just trying to have fun.”
Bryan Bickell is still out (upper body) but expected to make the next road trip. Kane is on the long-term injured reserve (minimum 24 days or 10 games–taking him out of the regular season), which allowed the salary cap space for Teuvo’s arrival.
The real keys to a victory tonight aren’t in Number 86’s jersey. They’re in playing hard, as a team, for a full game, avoiding sloppy penalties and turnovers, matching physicality with finesse, and getting the puck on net–shoot, shoot, shoot to score.
P.S. Welcome to Chicago, Teuvo.