The Blackhawks’ Draft Day Steal
Don’t look now, but the Chicago Blackhawks may have just gotten the biggest steal in the first round of the NHL entry draft on Friday night. Teuvo Teravainen, a 17-year-old left winger out of Finland, is considered by many within the NHL circle to be the number two ranked skater in all of Europe and, according to ESPN Insider’s and former NHL scout Grant Sonier, was the 5th best prospect overall in this year’s draft (also ranked 5th by McKeen’s, 12th by Hockey News and 7th by TSN).
Before the draft, the Hawks thought they stood no chance at getting Teravainen with the 18th pick that they didn’t even bring a nameplate for him. No one in their right mind saw him slipping this far in the draft, but once he did, it was a no-brainer. Yes, the Hawks could use some more depth at defense. And yes, goaltending is a pretty major need right now (although they drafted two goaltenders in the seventh round to make up for not taking one earlier). But it’s not often that you see a player of Teravainen’s skill level fall into your lap at no. 18, so I can’t help but praise Stan Bowman’s decision to deviate from the pattern of selecting defenseman (eight of the first 10 picks were defensemen) and go with the best player available. As Teravainen continues to draw eerily similar comparisons to Patrick Kane because of his amazing puck wizardry, one would have to think about the possibility that Bowman will start (if he hasn’t already after his most recent drunken escapade during Mifflin weekend at Madison) shopping Kane around in order to make up for the holes that the Hawks haven’t seemed to fill up over the past two seasons.
All signs of Teravainen’s draft stock slippage point to his undersized body (5’11” and only 165 pounds). He will need to improve his muscular strength in order to wrestle physically with bigger defensemen along the boards, as well as his defensive game in order to become a complete hockey player. The Hawks front office, as well as a number of analysts, are confident that he will put on the necessary weight with time and will continue to fill out that thin frame of his. In spite of his small stature, Teravainen managed to put up 18 points (11 goals, 7 assists) in 40 games during the regular season as a member of the Jokerit professional team in Finland and win Rookie of the Year (Jarmo Wasara Trophy), which is quite impressive considering the fact that the league (SM-liiga) is filled with men who have been playing professional hockey for years, many of whom even played in the NHL.
McKeen’s Greg Burstyn claims Teravainen has “the best hands in the draft” which, along with his lightning-quick speed, fantastic on-ice vision, superior hockey sense and tremendous offensive skill set, will give him the ability to become an offensive stud in the NHL one day. Here is what TSN had to say about him:
He is elusive and is like a chess player in that he can anticipate moves 3-4 steps ahead of his opponent. Excellent agility and balance & he maneuvers away from danger and opposing checks very well. Great hands in traffic and he’s able to make any type of pass under any circumstance and he has a very good shot that makes him a multiple threat when he’s on the ice.
And that’s not all Teravainen brings to the table. This past season, he was running the power play for Jokerit at age 17, proving that he’s not intimated by the physicality of professional hockey and could be one of the long-term answers to a Blackhawk power play unit that ranked 26th out of 30 in PP% last season (15.2%), dead last in PP% (5.3%) during the playoffs and, to be honest, probably won’t improve all that much next season and beyond unless Bowman makes some legitimate moves.
With Teravainen set to return to Helsinki, Finland next season, it may be one or two years before we see him in a Blackhawk uniform. But once that day comes, another Blackhawk star may be born, only to add to the offensive juggernaut that Chicago has tried to rebuild since losing a good chunk of its players after the magical 2009-2010 season. There’s too much potential here for us not to be excited about what lies ahead.
Click here for a Teuvo Teravainen compilation.