Teuvo Teravainen is getting the opportunity he has wanted since the start of training camp.
Kris Versteeg's left hand injury has opened the door for Teravainen. The highly touted 20-year-old Finnish forward was recalled from the Blackhawks' minor league team in Rockford after Versteeg absorbed a shot in his hand during the Winter Classic Thursday afternoon.
According to Tracey Myers of CSNChicago.com, head coach Joel Quenneville said Versteeg, who had been enjoying a resurgent year with the Blackhawks prior to the injury, will be out about a month.
Versteeg had scored nine goals and had 18 assists in 34 games this season while posting a team-high plus-14 rating.
Teravainen was the Rockford IceHogs' second-leading scorer with six goals and 17 assists in 33 games, and while he showed off his slick passing ability along with his stick-handling talents, his performances were quite inconsistent.
There were a number of games in which Teravainen did not make much of a contribution. Part of that may have had something to do with his desire to play with the Blackhawks and his frustration at being forced to play at the minor league level.
Myers indicates the 2012 first-round draft pick (18th overall) is expected to get his first chance to show what he can do in the Blackhawks' game Sunday night against the Dallas Stars at the United Center.
Teravainen's skill level was the reason the Blackhawks drafted him in the first place, but general manager Stan Bowman did not want to rush him to the NHL before he was ready.
After coming to North America last year, the Blackhawks wanted Teravainen to get more experience with playing against tough and physical players that he did not see very often in Europe. They also wanted to give the 5'11", 169-pound center a chance to get bigger and stronger.
Teravainen had a chance to play briefly with the Blackhawks at the end of the 2013-14 regular season, and he did not score a point in three games. His lack of timing at the NHL level prevented him from making a smooth transition.
He wants to prove he belongs this time around.
“I’m really excited,” Teravainen said on Saturday. “It’s good to be back here. It’s been my goal to be here this year and I’ve been working so hard all summer and now in the season and I’m happy to be here.”
Versteeg had been skating on the Blackhawks' second line with Patrick Kane and Brad Richards. Dailyfaceoff suggests Quenneville will likely slot Patrick Sharp into Versteeg's position on left wing, while working Teravainen into the lineup as the team's fourth-line center.
However, the Blackhawks did not draft Teravainen to play on the fourth line. If he can show that he has learned enough about the North American game to make a decent contribution, look for him to move up to the team's second or third line rather quickly.
Quenneville is known for his line shifting, and one of his greatest assets as a coach—third all-time with 731 regular-season coaching victories—is finding the best line combinations for his team.
He spoke with reporters about Teravainen:
He has high-end potential. Expectations internally are at the right area where [it’s], "Hey, let’s let him go and see how he matures and progresses." There’s not the buildup or the hype of a [Jonathan] Toews or [Patrick Kane] but he’s a young kid. Let him play and hopefully he keeps getting better every game and every year. It’ll be good for the organization if that’s the case.
The good news for Teravainen is that he doesn't have the pressure on him that he would on some teams because the Blackhawks are such a talented team with a number of stars in leadership position.
But now that he has been brought up, Bowman, Quenneville and his new teammates will want to see Teravainen demonstrate the talent that they have heard so much about since he was drafted nearly three years ago.