The Chicago Blackhawks chose Tuesday night to give the NHL its first taste of Teuvo Teravainen. The much-anticipated debut of the 19-year-old Finn proved to be a solid effort in a 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars.
Teravainen was solid, mind you, not spectacular. Consider Tuesday night a promising start to what could be a fine NHL career for the kid. Hold off on anointing Teravainen as the 'Hawks next superstar in training for at least a couple of months.
The 'Hawks handled Teravainen's arrival pretty well. They brought him over, let him get his legs under him and held him out of game action until sending him out against Dallas. In turn, Teravainen played pretty close to the vest in the win over the Stars.
Teaming with Brandon Saad and Ben Smith for much of the evening, Teravainen had two line mates who could get into the corners for pucks. Teravainen skated 16 shifts on the night in a game where coach Joel Quenneville got all of his forwards substantial minutes.
The top line's minutes were down from the previous two games, allowing Teravainen 11:39 of ice time, including 1:29 spent on the power-play unit. While his minutes were the lowest of any of the forwards (defenseman David Rundblad skated just 4:08), Chicago's first-round pick in the 2012 draft got a decent amount of playing time.
In that time on ice, we saw a lot of potential. Teravainen won all seven of his faceoffs on a night where the Blackhawks dominated the Stars (49-22) at the dot. Teravainen was quick to retreat into the defensive zone and made a couple of nice plays around the Chicago net.
His fine passing skills were on display throughout the game, though on occasion, Saad and Smith had trouble getting the handle on the puck. He was on the ice for the Blackhawks' first goal, though it would be hard to credit Teravainen for any of Andrew Shaw's tremendous effort on a Patrick Sharp rebound.
Despite some lower-than-expected possession numbers (a paltry 36.4 Corsi-for percentage), I'd say that Teravainen's first spin in an NHL rink went well. I would have liked to have seen him be a little more aggressive in the offensive zone. However, Quenneville is big on defensive responsibility and that kind of aggressiveness could lead to more limited minutes.
Do we see Teravainen on Thursday night in Boston? I don't know. It might be better for Teravainen to have a seat in what could be a physical struggle with the Bruins.
Teravainen's first year of his entry-level deal will slide to next season if he plays under 10 games in the NHL this season. I believe that will be Chicago's strategy with him.
The 'Hawks may pick their spots and get him into five or six games before the end of the regular season. They may even choose to send Teravainen to Rockford for a spell.
Teravainen's opening night was a nice start for a player who could grab a top-six role for Chicago in the future. However, don't be surprised if the Blackhawks hold off on that future for the moment.