Blackhawks

Zawaski: Teuvo Time Is Nigh

Teuvo Teravainen. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Teuvo Teravainen. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jay Zawaski. Jay Zawaski
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of The Spiegel and Mannelly...
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By Jay Zawaski-

(CBS) Tonight’s the night. At long last, one of hockey’s most elite prospects, Teuvo Teravainen, is set to make his Chicago debut when the Blackhawks face the Dallas Stars at the United Center.

Much has been said and written about the young Finnish center. Some believe he’s ready to step in an be a star. Others feel he’s being rushed. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. So let’s cut through the bluster and get to the important questions.

How do you say his name? TAY-voh tair-uh-VIGH-nehn

What kind of player is Teravainen? He’s an elite offensive talent. More of a playmaker than a sniper, Teravainen has wowed scouts and fans with his incredible vision and passing. Highlight tapes routinely show the 19-year-old making no-look passes and occasionally scoring no-look goals. He should step in and supply solid offense to the second line. It’s expected that Teravainen will debut with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp on his wings. As the third offensive threat on that line, he should find time and space and do what he does best — set up his linemates.

This isn’t to say that Teravainen can’t score goals. He has the ability to put the puck in the back of the net, as well.

His defensive game is not as bad as some have assumed. He’s not going to win a Selke Trophy any time soon, but he’s not a liability defensively. Teravainen should hold his own, especially with Hossa and Sharp on his wings.

What should fans expect from Teravainen? Solid contribution to the second line and a boost to the power play. He has dynamic speed and agility, plus hands soft as butter.

What’s too much to expect? It’s unfair to expect Teravainen, a rookie playing his first hockey on the smaller NHL ice surface, to come in and be the second coming of Pavel Datsyuk or Joe Sakic. While he does project to be an All-Star caliber player, it’s unrealistic to expect a point-a-game output right off the bat. Teravainen should find his groove toward the middle of his second year, similar to what Brandon Saad did last season.

If Teravainen hits 80 percent of his ceiling, he’s going to be a star in this town for a long time. If I was to project his ceiling and floor, I’d say the ceiling is Datsyuk (at least offensively), the floor is Kris Versteeg. So even in the worst-case scenario, the Hawks have themselves a very strong player.