By Chris Emma-
CHICAGO (CBS) — He walks on water. OK, he skates on frozen water, but expectations are still extraordinarily high for Teuvo Teravainen.
It’s Teuvo time for the Blackhawks, who called up their top prospect on Friday to replace Kris Versteeg, who is set to miss a month with an apparent left hand injury. A 20-year-old center who was a first-round pick in 2012, Teravainen carries lofty hopes.
“I know there are some expectations,” Teravainen said. “I’m a young player, so I don’t really try to care about that too much.”
Hundreds of fans lined up at the Blackhawks’ open practice Saturday at Johnny’s Icehouse. “Teuvooo” was harped by many. His No. 86 shirsey was seen on several backs.
Teravainen’s debut last March was the most hyped since that of Patrick Kane. His return on Sunday against Dallas will garner even more attention, because he’s likely here to stay. What advice could Kane relay to Teravainen about being a touted rookie?
“When I was coming up, I was almost too dumb and too stupid to even know what was going on,” Kane joked.
Fortunately for Teravainen, there’s a strong support system in place.
The Blackhawks are conscious of the demands that fans carry. They also are keenly aware of reality — this is a kid with just three NHL games under his belt, and those didn’t go well. It will take time for Teravainen, a Finland native, to adjust to the vastly different style of hockey played in North America.
“He’s got high-end potential,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Expectations internally are probably at the right area — let’s let him go, mature and see how he progresses.”
Quenneville later said he doesn’t need Teravainen to carry the Blackhawks, nor does he expect that. The Blackhawks are carried by Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and a cast of veterans. Teravainen is a young player trying to find his way in the NHL.
Last time the Blackhawks called up Teravainen — for three games last season — he showed flashes of brilliance but appeared largely out of place.
“It’s a different game, here from Europe,” Teravainen said. “I just need my time. I’ve been getting better.”
It was widely speculated that Teravainen would start the season with Chicago, perhaps even centering the Blackhawks’ second line. Once again, the expectations were too high. He played 33 games with Rockford, posting six goals and 17 assists. More importantly, that comfort was showing.
Teravainen’s goal is to make Chicago home, rather than returning to Rockford. The Blackhawks are doing everything they can to temper expectations and create a calm, comfortable feel. He’s working on the fourth line, not yet playing a prominant role. Quenneville and Blackhawk players have been careful with hyping him up too much.
“He’s done it his whole life, been a good player to give him this chance,” Blackhawks center Brad Richards said. “He’s got to do what he’s done his whole life.”
Added Quenneville: “We just want him to play, play the right way and see how he’s doing. From there, maybe he can progress a little bit more.”
With Teravainen, it’s hard to contain excitement. The hype is warranted. He’s an incredibly skilled, very raw player.
It was on display in Saturday’s skate, where Blackhawks personnel and fans alike saw what Teravainen can do. His arsenal is impressive.
“It’s top-notch, it’s off the charts,” Kane said. “He’s very skilled, great hands, good shot, sees the game really well, has the ability to make passes a lot of guys can’t make. He’s going to be really good, for sure.”
But that will take passes, shots, goals, games and experience. The Blackhawks know it, even despite all the hype.
Teuvo time has arrived, but expectations must be tempered.
Follow Chris Emma on Twitter @CEmma670.