Teuvo Time is finally here.
With Kris Versteeg expected to miss at least a few weeks with an injured left hand suffered in Thursday’s Winter Classic, the Blackhawks recalled rookie center Teuvo Teravainen from Rockford of the AHL on Friday. He’ll join the Hawks for Saturday’s practice and could play as soon as Sunday against the Dallas Stars at the United Center.
The 20-year-old Teravainen has six goals and 17 assists in 33 games with the IceHogs this season. After a slow start as he adapted to the North American style of play (particularly the dump-and-chase style of the AHL), he had three goals and seven assists in his last 10 games, including a three-point effort (one goal, two assists) on Sunday against the Chicago Wolves.
The Hawks have taken a conservative approach with Teravainen, arguably the organization’s most highly touted prospect since Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. They’ve been trying to temper expectations ever since they brought him over from Finland last spring. He played three games with the Hawks, acquitting himself well but failing to record a point.
“We’re trying to make sure we don’t rush him because he has such incredible talent and ability to have a high-end player,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said on Nov. 19. “So we want to be patient.”
But Bowman was adamant that the Hawks weren’t going to keep Teravainen in Rockford all year. When the need arose and his play warranted, he’d get his shot. Versteeg’s injury and Teravainen’s recent strong play happened to coincide.
“Let’s just let it unfold the way it unfolds,” Bowman said. “He’s playing a lot, he’s getting a lot of exposure in offensive situations, he’s always learning the two-way game. That’s the one good thing about Teuvo relative to other young offensive players: he’s got a real good instinct defensively. He doesn’t cheat the game. He understands how to play without the puck; the Finns are typically good at that. So he learned the right way, where other high-end scorers at that age struggle defensively. It’ll serve him well when he eventually comes to the NHL.”
Where Teravainen fits in the lineup remains to be seen. The Hawks still have Joakim Nordstrom on the roster, so he might not even play right away. He could move over to the wing and take Versteeg’s spot, or possible even bump Andrew Shaw to the wing and take over the third-line center spot.