Earlier in the week I was contacted by Tomas Kmec, a writer for Slovak Prospects, about an interview he conducted with Teuvo Teravainen. Of course, I jumped on the chance to have him send me the transcript and share it on the site. Let's all show our gratitude for sharing this with us by following him on Twitter @Tomas_Kmec.
European Hockey Tour games determined final rosters for the 2014 IIHF World Championships that will take place in Minsk, Belarus, for many countries. Including Finland. Battling for a spot on the team coached by Erkka Westerlund were two young Finnish stars, center Teuvo Teräväinen and goaltender Juuse Saros. The 19-year-old forward is a Chicago Blackhawks property since the organization selected him in the 1st round of the 2012 NHL entry draft and recently played a few games for the Blackhawks after coming over from Jokerit, Helsinki`s most famous hockey club.
Teräväinen, a native of Helsinki, furthermore continued to develop his game in the second post-draft season and despite a lackluster start to the year he got back on track right in time for the World Junior Championships in Mälmö, Sweden. An impressive outing didn`t earn him the MVP honor but the numbers speak for themselves. Recording 15 points in just 7 games he ran away with the scoring title and was included in the all-star team of the tournament, while staying true to the playing style that made him so successful, rather silently leading Finland to gold. Teräväinen returned to Finnish Liiga more energized and after Jokerit`s short postseason he quickly hopped on the plane to Chicago.
Shaking off the rust and jet lag was key for a young centerman. After a few practices he was finally deemed ready by coach Joel Quenneville. Despite the lack of production, still undersized forward showed glimpses of his talent and perhaps the ability to one day become the second line center that the Blackhawks have been looking for for years. Nonetheless, the team getting ready for the Stanley Cup playoffs needed a more reassuring performances from the teenage prodigy. Being a healthy scratch often helps young players to learn the little details about the game, but practice time as opposed to playing time wasn`t a productive way to spend the last couple of weeks of the season. Teräväinen was sent down to Rockford and scored his first goal in North America in his debut. After a brief stint with the IceHogs, who failed to make the AHL playoffs, GM Stan Bowman decided to give the young prospect a chance to earn a spot on the Finnish men`s national team.
Unfortunately for Teräväinen, despite a rock solid play in most of the pre-tournament games, including the ones I attended, GM Jarri Kurri and the coaching staff decided that they no longer wish to keep him in the lineup. Terävainen became the last player cut from the roster on Sunday, minutes after the shootout win against the Czechs, in which he recorded an assist on the game-opening goal. His season has come to an end.
I had a chance to speak with Teuvo during his brief visit to Slovakia. And here`s how it went down:
How much did you watch the NHL before you actually got drafted?
"Just a little bit. I didn`t have any favorite team or something. Not too much because the games were always at nighttime. So that`s why."
During the draft you mentioned that you enjoy watching Pat Kane and Pavel Datsyuk. Was there anybody older you watched, maybe when you were just a little kid?
"No, not really. Datsyuk was my first role model."
Do you still remember your draft experience?
"Yes, of course I remember. It was a great day in Pittsburgh. A long day, waiting for my name to be called."
What did you enjoy the most about it? The atmosphere? Media scrums? Fans?
"I don`t know to be honest. I just had a good time with my family and my agent. There were many fans too, so that was nice."
What about the interviews and photoshoots?
"Oh yeah, there was a lot of that too. And it was hard for me to speak, answer all those questions in English."
Did you rehearse some of that prior to the draft?
"Not much, maybe a little. I tried to watch some interviews from previous drafts."
Every player says he doesnt care where he goes but getting to be a part of such a successful organization like Chicago Blackhawks must`ve been thrilling.
"Sure. It`s a great organization with great fans. I knew it`d be a good team to be a part of so for me, it is all about working hard. I knew that if I`d make the team, there would be great players around me. That makes your game (translate) easier."
What was it like to put on the Blackhawks jersey for the first time?
"Awesome, it has always been my dream to be in the NHL. First time it was in some exhibition games but it was still nice."
And now, almost two years after, were you a bit starstruck when you stepped into that locker room?
"I just tried to play my game. Tried to learn every day from the great players on the team."
Who gave you the warmest welcome, who talked to you the most?
"There was a Finnish guy, backup goaltender Antti Raanta."
What about other guys?
"Of course, everybody was nice to me but I talked to Antti the most."
In your opinion, what did coach Quenneville notice in practice that made him think that you were ready for game action?
"I don`t know. I just tried to work hard. First couple of days there was some jet lag. But I had some good practices and after a few days I was ready to go."
Coach Quenneville publicly said that he thinks you need to adopt more of a shooting mentality. There`s less space on the ice, shots create opportunities.
"I`m more of a passer, so I agree that I need to shoot more. I`m still trying to learn the North American game. It`s all about going to the net, after the rebounds and everything."
Did you enjoy being in Rockford?
"It was good. Before that I practiced for a couple of weeks in Chicago. I didn`t get to play in any games so it was better for me to go to Rockford and play there. We didn`t make the playoffs but I think the experience overall was good."
What did the last two seasons in Finnish Liiga gave you?
"My body is more ready to play in the NHL and I`m better defensively. But I know I still need more strength."
This truly was quite a year for you. But you also had some ups and downs.
"Yeah, it`s been a big season. It started badly, but the U20 WCH was like a new start to my season and the team won gold. After the tournament I think I just had more energy. But the postseason was short so I got to play for the Blackhawks. It feels like I`ve been everywhere."
Do you pay attention to what`s written or said about you?
"No, I dont like that much (smiles)."
The Blackhawks have been trying to trade for, sign or develop a second line center for Patrick Kane for quite some time. Do you sometimes feel pressure that comes with expectations?
"I don`t think about that too much. I know that the spot is open. So I`ll just work my hardest during the summer and hopefully make the team in camp. That`s my biggest goal."
Did you watch the Olympics in Sochi?
"Yes, I watched the tournament, they played very well. Finland is always good when we play good team defense. That`s our strength."
Finnish youth development has taken big strides in the recent years, what`s the key to that?
"That`s a good question. I`m not sure. But Finland has done a really good job with young players, developing their (individual) skills in practice."
Thanks again Tomas! I look forward to working with you again in the future!