By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) – Teuvo Teravainen is coming to Chicago.
At long last, the Blackhawks have recalled their top prospect, and he's expected to play Sunday when the Dallas Stars visit the United Center.
I'm sure many are wondering what took so long and why the time to make the move comes now. I'll do my best to answer those questions.
Late last season, the Blackhawks called up Teravainen and played him in three games. There were moments of brilliance and moments of doubt, but one thing was clear: He wasn't quite ready for the NHL game. He failed to register a point in his brief NHL visit and was returned to Rockford, where he finished the 2013-'14 season with two goals in five games.
When training camp for this season began, hopes were high that Teravainen might make the team. He performed well in camp and in the preseason, but coach Joel Quenneville wasn't convinced.
"We want to see him more tenacious," Quenneville told 670 TheScore in October. "We want to see him come up with loose pucks. (Our system) is a little more demanding on our centerman than other positions. I saw progress this summer over the end of the season to this year. It'll happen. We'll know. He'll know. Doing what's best for him is getting him playing games … and playing strong with and without the puck."
From all reports, Teravainen has improved in all of these areas. Rockford IceHogs coach Ted Dent has indicated that every part of Teravainen's game, including the mental aspects, have grown exponentially over the last seven months.
Teravainen ranks second on the IceHogs with 23 points in 33 games. He recorded the first three-point night of his career Dec. 28 against the Wolves.
I'm still a bit surprised the Hawks decided to recall Teravainen. I was under the impression that the Hawks would call him up once, and he'd stay for the rest of his career. Instead, this call-up is a direct result of the injury that Kris Versteeg suffered in Thursday's Winter Classic.
To afford Teravainen's contract, the Hawks will have to place Versteeg on long-term injured reserve. But what happens when Versteeg returns? Someone will have to go if the Hawks intend to keep Teravainen in Chicago for the rest of the season.
Of course, that's a decision the Hawks would love to be forced to make. If Teravainen is good enough to stay, the rich just get richer.
It remains to be seen on which line Teravainen will skate. At first glance, it makes sense to plug him in between Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane and just let it rip, but then what happens with Brad Richards? Yes, he's been very good offensively lately, but with Richards' overall lack of speed, I'm not sure he can be trusted on a third or fourth line, where the initial responsibility is defense.
So, which player, Teravainen or Richards, is less of a liability defensively? Dent said that there's "no issue" with Teravainen's defensive game. If that's the case and Teravainen can be trusted in a third line role, his time in Rockford is likely over.
It will be an exciting rehearsal for one of the most electrifying prospects in the game. I just hope Teravainen gets a chance to play real minutes and doesn't become Jeremy Morin 2.0.
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