Teuvo Teravainen carving out a niche on the fourth line
Originally referred to as "not a fourth liner" by Joel Quenneville, Teuvo is finding success with the most unlikely of linemates.
There will be a point in the career of Teuvo Teravainen where we look back on his inconsistent playing time early on and just laugh at how foolish Joel Quenneville actually was. In fact, we might already be there, as the young Finnish product begins to make a legitimate impact for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Teuvo spent the early part of the season in Rockford, was called up, was sent back down, and called up again. When he returned, he found himself replaced in the lineup occasionally by Daniel Carcillo. Quenneville's reasoning for such a move was the fact that Teuvo was not a fourth liner. Yet, just a few weeks later, that's exactly what it is. While it isn't an ideal situation for his development, he's certainly making the most of it.
This recent stretch has seen Teravainen playing next to the likes of Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins. That's not an offensive juggernaut of a pair in any sense of the word, as their sole purpose in even seeing the ice relates to their defensive ability (in relation to Kruger) and their physicality (as far as Desjardins is concerned). Teuvo, on the other hand, brings the offensive flavor to the group.
In this last stretch of games, in which the Blackhawks have won three in a row, we've seen Teuvo do some terrific things. He's moving well away from the puck, showcasing his incredible hands, and has shown that he's willing to take a hit in order to make a play. Yes, that last fact is accurate. Against the likes of Winnipeg and Los Angeles, Teuvo didn't back down from taking a hit. On Thursday night against Vancouver, he even recorded one on the stat sheet.
He's obviously still undersized, but those initially concerns about him being thrown around like a ragdoll against some of these physical teams, especially in a role on the fourth line, seem to have been quelled quite a bit with his recent play.
The most surprising element of all of this, perhaps not when you consider when his true upside actually is, is the fact that he continues to produce offensive chances even with Kruger and Desjardins as linemates. On Monday night against the Kings, Teravainen recorded eight shots. He had 10 overall attempts in 13:29 of ice time. It helped that 60 percent of his zone starts came in the offensive side, but that wasn't the case on Thursday.
Against the Canucks on Thursday, we saw his recent hard work pay off with a score in the first period that put the Hawks up 1-0. He made an incredible pass to Marcus Kruger and then cleaned up the rebound on the resulting shot, for his fourth tally of the year. And while that line led the way in Corsi for the evening, just 33 percent of Teuvo's zone starts came on that offensive side. That's absolutely absurd, and just helps to illustrate his ability to move the puck and make things happen in the offensive zone.
Obviously, you'd prefer to see Teravainen skating up in the top six, or even between a pair of offensively skilled forwards that aren't Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins. But Teuvo is making it work. He's bringing an offensive touch to that fourth line, while doing just a little bit of the grinding (as much as he can do anyway).
Again, it's not an ideal situation and it's not something we're going to see for the long term, as he'll likely be a key piece up in at least the top nine, if not the top six, next season. But each night, we see him gaining just a little more confidence and showcasing the reasons why he was such a highly touted prospect. The vision is fantastic, the hands are incredible. He's going to be a special one, and the fact that he's demonstrating that on the fourth line helps to drive the point home even farther.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.