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Blackhawks Wed Mar 26 2014
For the last few weeks you've been hearing about the next big thing for the Blackhawks organization. No, not Midnight Hawk, the racehorse owned by Joel Quenneville and Mike Kitchen; It's the arrival of Finnish star Teuvo Teravainen [TAY-VOH TARA-VINE-ENN].
Call it Teuvo-mania, which has swept through this city like a Polar Vortex from the north. Teravainen was the Hawks' first pick (eighteenth overall) in the 2012 draft, which miraculously fell into the lap of Stan Bowman as the Finnish Flash was projected to be a top-10 pick that year.
The 19-year-old, 185-pound blonde-headed forward had a lot of hype coming into his debut Tuesday (Teuvo-sday? Sorry, that's the last one) in a game against the Dallas Stars. Leading up to his debut, Teravainen proved very serviceable for his home country in the 2014 World Juniors (seven games, two goals, 13 assists for 15 points) and was among the league leaders in SM-Liiga in scoring with nine goals and 35 assists for 44 points. So needless to say, there was a new kind of buzz in Chicago hockey not seen since the call-up of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Teravainen chose number 86 for his Blackhawks sweater, the same number that he wore for his team Jokerit in SM Liiga. During the warm-up skate at the United Center, the fresh-faced kid glided around the shorter ice surface while smart phones captured what was hoped to be priceless footage of a potential superstar.
With Patrick Kane sidelined with a lower-body injury and the Hawks now in sole possession of second place in the division, the pressure is on to maintain that position with hopes of leapfrogging the St. Louis Blues for first place. Enter Teravainen to save the franchise.
OK, not really, but you're familiar with the rhetoric. As it would turn out, Teravainen played very well in his debut against the Stars, in a 4-2 win, going seven for seven at the dot in 11 minutes, 39 seconds of ice time, and proving he can play both ways with some skill.
That's going to be the biggest key for the Blackhawks, which also was the biggest question from Quenneville: can Teravainen play defense? What makes the Blackhawks one of the best teams in the league is its ability to play somewhat consistently on both ends of the ice. If Teravainen can pressure bigger athletes than he towards the boards going the other way, it'll prove to be a difference maker in games down the stretch and in years to come.
Teravainen took some draws and also positioned himself in Kane's right-side slot for most of his time on the ice. He also found himself on the power-play line with Toews as a way to jump in and see what happens. His passing looked accurate and his "nose for the puck" put him in correct positioning for most of the night.
After the game, Teravainen stated in the locker room that he was relieved to get the first game out of the way and that it's now time to get better. Teravainen's not the type of player who is going to find the back of the net each game, and he's certainly not going to be the type of player who puts the entire organization on his back through June.
He will, however, contribute in assists and, eventually, keep up with Kane once healed, and round out a team already loaded with talent. With a player this talented and this young on the team, it's going to be even more fun watching him grow and display his talents on the ice for years to come.
RELATED: It is with great sorrow that we acknowledge the passing of longtime Blackhawks beat writer for the Daily Herald, Tim Sassone. Sassone covered the team since 1988 and was nominated for the Hockey Hall of Fame's Elmer Ferguson Award back in 2007. He died Tuesday, March 25, after complications from an illness at Edward Hospital in Naperville. He is survived by his wife, Christine, and two children, Ali, 23, and Andy, 16.