Teuvo Teravainen skating back in Rockford, Feb 14, 2015 vs Oklahoma City
Photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs
By Chris Block
The afternoon after an overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks, 20-year old Teuvo Teravainen got the call all rookie players dread.
“After practice Quenneville called me and said what was happening,” Teravainen recounted.
The news Joel Quenneville relayed was that Teravainen was being sent back to the minors. After 15 games, 2 goals and 4 total points, Quenneville informed Teravainen that he would be trading in his number 86 Blackhawks sweater for a Rockford IceHogs, number 21, at least for the time being.
“He told me to just get some ice time (in Rockford). Play my game. Try to be dominant on the ice. Play good. That’s all. Have some fun.”
It was a disappointing development for the confident Finnish center, but Teravainen isn’t allowing the demotion to get him down.
“Of course my goal is to be up [in Chicago], but right now I’m [in Rockford] and I’m trying to help this team out.”
Teravainen is soft-spoken and humble, but he’s also confident in himself and his own skills.
When asked to evaluate his own performance with the Blackhawks, Teravainen gave an honest assessment.
“I think I was playing better all the time. Like, my first couple games maybe I was nervous but then I got better. And I got more comfortable too. I just try to do my thing – play smart, play good defense. I don’t know, I think I was okay.”
While the physical skills of the much ballyhooed 1st round draft pick are always evident, the results since his return to the American Hockey League have not always registered on the scoresheet.
In six games since the February 12th reassignment, Teravainen has just two assists. He notched a helper in each of his first two games back with the IceHogs on 2/13 & 2/14, and no points in the four games since.
He’s been bounced around the lineup position-wise as well.
In his first weekend back in Rockford, Teravainen was slotted at right wing, the same position he spent much of his last couple weeks as a Blackhawk in. He was placed on a line with Joakim Nordstrom at center and Dennis Rasmussen (a center most of the year) on the left side.
But then this past Friday night in Cleveland, Teravainen was moved over to the left wing, with Rasmussen back at center and Nordstrom on right wing.
The next night, with Peter Regin out of the IceHogs’ lineup, Teravainen shifted over to center between Brandon Mashinter and Nordstrom. Teravainen spent most of his time with the IceHogs prior to his callup at center with Mashinter on his left wing and Regin on the right.
Teravainen claims to not have a preference as to where he’s slotted.
“I’ve been playing mostly center this year, but I was playing mostly a winger [on the Blackhawks],” Teravainen said. “I don’t know, everything is okay for me.”
Now back in Rockford, Teuvo is getting a chance to show off his playmaking skills on the power play again. His two lone points since returning were in helping setup power play tallies.
“I haven’t played power play in, like, six weeks, so it’s nice to get back here and get some power play time,” Teravainen said after setting up a Ville Pokka power play marker on February 14 against Oklahoma City. “It feels good right now.”
One aspect of Teravainen’s game that needs continued stressing is getting pucks toward the net. Its an issue the Hawks have pushed with Teuvo, and he himself has admitted he needs to do more of.
But since his return to Rockford, Teravainen is averaging just 1 shot on goal per game.
When he was earned his call up after the Kris Versteeeg injury at the start of January, Stan Bowman said the organization felt Teuvo turned a corner in December and was playing his best hockey since coming to North America.
When looking at Teravainen’s shots on goal per contest, he was registering a full shot per game more in December than he had in previous months. So, that was a considerable factor in the Hawks liking what they were seeing.
By month, Teuvo averaged 2.44 shots per game in October, 2.36 in November and 3.4 in December. In six AHL games this month, he’s averaging 1 shot per appearance.
Teravainen says he’ll continue to put the work in to hopefully get back to where he wants to be, in the NHL. But for now, he’s focused on helping the Rockford IceHogs win the AHL MidWest division.
“We need some points. It’s really tight right now in this league. Every night it’s a battle for points.”
IceHogs’ coach Ted Dent got Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom back in time for a huge 3-in-3 against three of the Western Conference’s top teams. And the IceHogs swept that 3-game weekend set.
The arrival of Teravainen, and Nordstrom (who has since been recalled to the Blackhawks) obviously played a huge role in that long weekend sweep.
“No, I think there’s differently a correlation,” Dent said.
“Nordy’s huge for the team as well, offensively and defensively. Teravainen’s playing with some more confidence for sure. They definitely help the offense.”
Up next for Teravainen and the IceHogs is a two-game weekend set this Friday and Saturday against the Texas Stars in suburban Austin, Texas.