Teuvo Teravainen, the Blackhawks’ number one prospect, made his NHL debut Tuesday night in a 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars at the United Center. The hype surrounding his debut is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before with the Blackhawks, which had me worried about how well Teravainen would handle the pressure. In his first shift just a few minutes into the game, he put all of those concerns to rest by winning a neutral zone faceoff and creating some offense with linemates Brandon Saad and Ben Smith. Right before this, he received a huge ovation from the UC faithful as he stepped over the boards and onto the ice.
Teuvo ended up winning all seven faceoffs that he took Tuesday night, while the Blackhawks as a team dominated at the faceoff dot by winning 49 of the 71 draws. It didn’t take long to realize just how much talent and potential Teravainen has in this league. Early in the game, he intercepted a centering pass by the Stars and instantly made a beautiful lead pass to Brandon Saad who was already streaking up the ice. This led to a quality opportunity at the other end for Ben Smith. Later in the game, Teuvo caught Saad completely off-guard with an incredible pass that only the elite passers can make. On the powerplay (yes, Quenneville already had him on the top PP unit), Teravainen basically took on the role that Patrick Kane fills. He did not look nervous at all and ended making some good passes that eventually led to Andrew Shaw’s unbelievable goal from his knees.
After the game, Hawks players were very impressed with how Teravainen played and seemed to be quite excited about playing with him from here on out. Joel Quenneville, who rarely trusts any rookies in crucial points of the game, had Teravainen on the the ice with under five minutes left in regulation in a one-goal game. Afterwards, Quenneville stated, “I thought his awareness around the rink, both sides of the puck, and in the faceoff circle was very strong, very good. He did a nice job. Good start.” I don’t think we ever heard him say anything close to that about Brandon Pirri. If Teravainen is already gaining trust from Quenneville, especially on the defensive side of his game, I would think we’ll see a lot more Teuvo this spring. However, that raises a big question.
If Teravainen plays ten games or more this year, regular season and/or playoffs, it will count as a full season played under his contract. He is currently signed to a three-year deal, and many people are speculating as to whether or not the Blackhawks want to use up one of those three years right now. Chris Block, writer for The Third Man In, had this to say about Teravainen’s situation. Chris is a trusted writer and has a lot of inside information regarding the Blackhawks and Icehogs. In contrast to what Chris believes may happen with Teuvo, Stan Bowman came out last week and said “whether he plays two games, 10 games, 20 games, that’s not a factor,” meaning he’s not worried about burning up a year of Teravainen’s contract.
My belief is this: It is the job of a general manager to put the best possible team together in order to win a championship, which in this case is the Stanley Cup. If Teravainen shows that he can make this Blackhawks team better before reaching ten games played, then the Hawks should keep him in the lineup for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. Use up the first year of his contract if he shows he can make this team better and help them try and win the Cup. I understand that Bowman may be concerned about losing a year of Teuvo’s contract in a situation like this, but if he makes this team better, let him keep playing. After watching him play Tuesday night, it’s hard to imagine him not making the Hawks a better team moving forward.
The Blackhawks will have Patrick Kane back for the playoffs, and I can only dream about what it would be like to have him and Teravainen on the same line together. That is, assuming the Hawks decide to keep Teuvo in the lineup. If you think about it, when was the last time the Blackhawks had a real number two center? When was the last time Kane had a real center not named Toews on his line? This will be a very interesting situation to watch play out, and I can only hope the Blackhawks brass makes the right decision with Teravainen.