Managing expectations for Teuvo Teravainen
Where should expectations fall for Teuvo Teravainen as he begins his first full season on North American soil?
Ah yes, Teuvo Teravainen. The most exciting prospect in the city of Chicago this side of Kris Bryant. Although there are varying schools of thought related to the upside of the young Finnish product, there's no denying that one of the larger storylines throughout the 2014-15 season for the Chicago Blackhawks will relate to his full-time arrival at the United Center.
Teravainen was selected 18th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, at a spot where most labeled him as a steal for the already talent-rich Blackhawks, given his upside as a top tier offensive talent. The fact that he's undersized likely contributed heavily to his fall out of the first half of the first round of the draft that year. Nonetheless, the hands and offensive game he brings to the mix immediately led to him being likened to a Finnish Patrick Kane.
Unlike Kane, however, the timetable for Teravainen's arrival was not quite clear. He was 17 at the time and was going to need time to add mass to his 5'11" frame, in addition to the time it'd take to adjust to the North American game. With Teravainen now having arrived, it's only a matter of time before we see him suiting up for the Hawks on a regular basis. We received a sneak preview last year, but in an effort to prevent the clock from officially starting on his entry-level deal, his action was minimal.
Heading into the 2014-15 season, though, it's a different story entirely. Regardless of whether or not he logs his minutes with the Blackhawks or the Rockford IceHogs, that entry-level pact is going into effect in the upcoming year. Whether or not the bulk of his starts will come in Chicago or down state in the AHL is really a point of contention among those around the game.
With the Blackhawks, the room for Teuvo to break through is minuscule. The team went out and signed Brad Richards to, presumably, line up as their second line center next to Kane. Andrew Shaw likely gets the spot on the third, not that lining Teuvo up on the checking line is really an option, assuming Joel Quenneville goes the traditional route on that third unit. Of course, there's always the possibility that the team chooses to go with that fourth line as the primary defensive line and utilize the third as an additional offensive unit, opening up the possibility of Teravainen in the middle of that group (an idea tossed around by multiple Blackhawks fans/writers on Twitter, most notably @CheerTheAnthem).
Regardless, as things stand heading into camp, it's going to be difficult for Teuvo to crack the lineup. There's quite a logjam in the middle, as well as a heavy stable of forwards on the right side. The road to Chicago is a difficult one for Teuvo from the outset. That is important to keep in mind. Until someone ends up hurt or their game implodes, he may not see an extended opportunity.
One would imagine that once Teravainen does receive his shot, he'll become a regular. He isn't going to be doing the Rockford Shuffle. If the Hawks can get him in there and rolling for a decent stretch before and during the spring, he becomes another offensive weapon in the playoffs. Of course, the theme for Teuvo when he does arrive is going to be adjustments and how quickly he can make them.
So just what should the expectation be for Teuvo heading into the season? Training camp could change the course, but for now, logic has him in Rockford to start the year before joining the Blackhawks at the tail end of the 2014 calendar or early on in 2015. Either way, it'll be important to practice patience with such a young, European entity. It's going to take a bit of time before he turns it on and becomes that offensive weapon that his upside would indicate.
But who are we kidding? This is Chicago.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.