Will Teuvo Teravainen Be the Missing Piece for the Chicago Blackhawks?

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistMarch 22, 2014

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 19:  Teuvo Teravainen #23 of the Chicago Blackhawks advances the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during an exhibition game at United Center on September 19, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Penguins defeated the Blackhawks 4-3 in a shootout.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s been a long time since a mid-first-round draft pick was hyped as heavily as Teuvo Teravainen. The Blackhawks are playing in a major market, a contender and a team that could really use the player Teravainen is eventually supposed to become.  

Given all that, it isn’t at all surprising that the team seems to be putting a lot of effort into trying to control expectations.

In his first scrum with the media in Chicago (available from the team’s official website), Teravainen was asked about the pressure of expectation and, after acknowledging that it existed, framed the issue modestly:

Of course there’s big expectations and pressure, but I don’t think about those too much. I’m just a player, a young kid coming here, and everything I do here is bonus. I’m just trying to have fun.

Those comments echoed the official line from general manager Stan Bowman:

As much as the Blackhawks organization wants to keep a lid on how much is expected of Teravainen, his skill set can’t help but generate excitement.

Going back to draft day, Teravainen was a favourite of the consensus rankings but slid due to concerns about his size and physical game. The offensive package, though, was unbelievable even back then. Red Line Report (via the team's official website) listed him as the seventh-best prospect in the draft in its final 2012 rankings and offered the following:

Thin and slightly built, but is a dominant and dynamic offensive talent. Scores eye-popping goals with absolutely magical hands – easily the fastest, softest hands in the draft. Patiently draws opposing players to him and then makes superbly imaginative set-ups right on the tape. Makes tough passes in tight look easy. Devastating one-timer that he loads up from the top of the circle on the PP, showing superb hand/eye coordination. Exceptionally light and quick on his feet with phenomenal balance.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

They then compared his style to Claude Giroux and projected him as an “explosive first line scorer.”

The numbers, though, suggest that Chicago’s public caution is entirely warranted. In his book Hockey Abstract, Bleacher Report's own Rob Vollman chronicled the history of players coming over to the NHL from Finland, both before and after the 2004-05 NHL lockout, and generated an equivalency number. What that equivalency does is show us the average relationship between points per game in Finland’s top league and in the NHL.

Vollman generated two numbers. One showed the equivalency for players before the 2004-05 NHL lockout (this number draws on a lot of samples but is older and so may not reflect the state of the league today) and the other showed it for players who came over from 2005-06 through last season (this number is more recent but is based on a far smaller number of players). Here’s what those numbers say about Teravainen:

Teuvo Teravainen's 82-game NHL scoring projection
Comparison groupGAPTS
Before 2004-0572936
After 2004-0551823
Hockey Abstract

That scale is a little on the pessimistic side because Teravainen had such a tough goal-scoring year. According to the Finnish league’s official website, Teravainen had a 5.5 shooting percentage this season. Shooting percentage tends to fluctuate from year to year, and in two previous seasons, Teravainen had been a 9.2 percent shooter. In other words, his goal totals were likely a lot lower than we would expect going forward.

Even so, the case for caution is obvious. Teravainen is exceptionally small for the NHL (he’s listed at 5’11”, 169 pounds), he is exceptionally young for the NHL (he doesn’t turn 20 until September) and he’s going to be facing the difficult adjustment to the North American game and to an incredibly difficult league.

Given that, the comments of both the player and the general manager are bang-on. This is an exceptionally gifted player, and down the road, he’s likely to be a big part of the team. For now, though, he’s just another player, and it would be unreasonable to expect him to do the heavy lifting.