With coach's support, Teravainen ready to move to center

  • After a successful run in the playoffs, Teuvo Teravainen says he's ready to play center next season for the Blackhawks.

    After a successful run in the playoffs, Teuvo Teravainen says he's ready to play center next season for the Blackhawks. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/18/2015 4:57 PM

One of the big benefits for a young player on a star-studded team like the Blackhawks is that you can learn the NHL ropes and not be expected to be "the guy" right away.

The best recent example of this can be seen in how the team handled Teuvo Teravainen, the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

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After spending most of the 2013-14 season in Finland, Teravainen started last year in Rockford, where he played 39 games before the Hawks called him up in early January.

When he arrived, though, Teravainen played on the fourth line for quite a while. This allowed him to learn the ropes and focus on defense while keeping his offensive expectations to a minimum.

Slowly but surely Teravainen became more and more comfortable and he eventually found himself skating on the third line, usually with Antoine Vermette and Patrick Sharp.

And the results were dynamic.

In 34 regular-season games, Teravainen scored 4 goals with 5 assists. Then, in just 18 playoff games, the confident 20-year-old notched 4 goals and added 6 assists. Two of those goals came against the Lightning in Games 1 and 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now he's ready for the next step, which is to center a line during the 2015-16 season.

"In my mind right now I'm thinking (he'll play) center," coach Joel Quenneville said Friday at the Blackhawks Convention at the Chicago Hilton. "We like the way he progressed last year and projects this year."

Said Teravainen: "Every year when I go to the next level, I start (at) winger. The year after, I play center. That's the way it's always been.

"Now I know this league better and know what I'm capable of doing in this league. So the next step is to play center I think."

It will be interesting to see which line Teravainen finds himself on.

While it has been assumed that Artem Anisimov, whom the Hawks acquired from Columbus, would center the second line, Quenneville wasn't handing that spot to the Russian just yet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Over the course of the season he'll get a chance to play with everybody and we'll see exactly where the best fit is," Quenneville said.

Knowing Quenneville's penchant for mixing things up, it wouldn't be surprising to see Patrick Kane and Teravainen together in what could be one of the more explosive pairings in the league. The big question is whether or not they could satisfy Quenneville from a defensive standpoint.

"Of course it's going to be a little harder," Teravainen said of playing center. "I have to be more responsible on the ice -- I have to take care more of the defense I think."

Do that and anything's possible.

Follow John on Twitter @johndietzdh

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