(The top 10 continues in our ranking of the Hawks' best players under 25 years old! Check out all the previous entries in the series with our storystream.)
After the first period of Game 1 of the Blackhawks' opening round series of the 2015 NHL Playoffs, they trailed the Predators by a score of 3-0. The opening frame had been all Nashville, with the Hawks failing to convert on any scoring chances that they had while the Predators turned a few Chicago turnovers into goals. Then, early in the second period, the comeback started with this play:
The end of this story is that the Blackhawks win this game, 4-3, and take the series in six. But the real takeaway from all this would prove to be the start of the rise of Teuvo Teravainen. The goal that got the Blackhawks' 2015 championship run started began with a pass from a 20-year-old forward who had spent most of his season in the AHL. And that was only the start of his playoff success. Two weeks later, he did this in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Minnesota Wild:
This time, the Blackhawks gave up a 3-0 first period lead, and Teuvo's goal there ended up being the game-winner, getting their sweep of Minnesota started. But he wasn't done making plays that series, as he then did this in Game 2:
If these clips haven't convinced you, maybe you just need me to say it: Teuvo Teravainen is really, really good at hockey. At just 20 years old, he established himself as a key contributor on the Blackhawks in the middle of a championship run, proving that all of the hype around his skillset and potential was not only completely justified, but perhaps still even sold him a little short.
Teuvo plays a complete game, which is something that is often not seen in players with his offensive skill set. He can just as easily embarrass an opponent by stripping him of the puck in the neutral zone as he can with a slick deke, pass or shot in the offensive zone. He has a unique combination of crazy offensive skill and reliable defensive prowess that is almost unheard of in players his age. That's why he was the only player that the SCH staff was 100 percent in agreement with when we compiled this list, a unanimous No. 1.
Teuvo's 2014-15 campaign was an interesting one. He spent most of his first full season of North American hockey playing with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs before being called up to the NHL on January 2. He spent about a month in Chicago before being re-assigned to the AHL on February 12, and then was called up again on March 20. He wouldn't go back to the AHL after that -- and probably won't ever again, barring some sort of injury rehab assignment.
Despite going back and forth between Rockford and Chicago a few times, Teuvo still appeared in 34 games with the big club, tallying nine points (four goals, five assists) in those contests. While those numbers aren't overly impressive, his underlying statistics were very encouraging for a player his age. He posted a very favorable 54.12% CF in 5v5 play, good for 6th among Blackhawks forwards who played at least 400 minutes last season.
He really hit his stride in the playoffs, though, posting 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 18 games. Part of that sharp increase in production -- he doubled his PPG from the regular season, going from 0.26 to 0.55 -- was that he saw much more consistency in terms of ice time, linemates and his role during the playoffs. Spending most of his time on a line with two skilled veterans in Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette really helped Teuvo settle into his role and allowed him to play his game.
And that game is nothing short of incredibly fun to watch. Whether it's a slick pass from behind the goal line to set up a goal or a solid defensive play in the neutral zone, Teuvo always seems to make the best, most responsible play possible, and in a very fun way. And when you consider that he turns just 21 years old on Friday, and the fact that he's only going to get better, it's hard to keep from gushing over what he might do in the coming years.
That really is the most exciting thing about Teuvo -- the future, which is so, so bright. He already figures to be a key contributor to the Blackhawks this coming season, as he will likely step into a top-six role playing the wing, especially if the team is without Patrick Kane for some time. With his abilities, he is more than worthy of that sort of opportunity, and figures likely to shine in that chance.
This is a player who legitimately has a chance to become the top forward on the Blackhawks in the future. By the time he is in his prime, players like Jonathan Toews, Andrew Shaw, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov and Kane will be gone or starting to hit their decline periods. The time will be perfect for Teuvo to take over that top forward position, potentially even as the No. 1 center. Combine him with Marko Dano, Nick Schmaltz and other very skilled, very young players that have made our top-25 under-25 list -- not to mention the fact that players like Toews will still be around and effective -- and the Blackhawks' future still looks pretty bright. Teravainen's time is now, as the high-skilled young winger tops our list of the Blackhawks' best young players
Birth date: Sept. 11, 1994 (age 20)
Acquired via: First round (18th overall), 2012 NHL Entry Draft
Most recent stop: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Size: 5'11, 169 pounds
Contract: Entry-level; $925,000 cap hit for 2015-16; RFA in 2017
Highest ranking: No. 1
Lowest ranking: No. 1