He’s 20 now.
It’s not much of a difference, but he does feel older and more prepared as he embarks on his second NHL stint after being recalled on Friday. He will play in his first NHL game this season and fourth of his career on Sunday.
“Of course, I’m getting older,” Teravainen said after practice Saturday. “I’m not old yet. But, yeah, I feel more comfortable."
Expectations have been high for Teravainen since he began showcasing his high-end offensive ability in Europe after being drafted in the first round in 2012. The Blackhawks have tried to moderate those expectations and ease Teravainen into the NHL over the last year.
The Blackhawks placed him in the AHL to begin this season to help in his transition. He spent three months and played 33 games for the Rockford IceHogs before he was recalled Friday.
“I think I’ve improved just a little bit of everything -- my defensive game, it’s been good, and just create some offense and just American-style hockey,” Teravainen said. “I’ve just been learning every day.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is aware of the hype surrounding Teravainen and the type of player he can be, but his focus is on giving Teravainen time to develop.
“He has high-end potential,” Quenneville said. “Expectations internally are at the right area where, ‘Hey, let’s let him go and see how he matures and progresses.’ There’s not the buildup or the hype of a [Jonathan] Toews or [Patrick] Kane, but he’s a young kid. Let him play and hopefully he keeps getting better every game and every year. It’ll be good for the organization if that’s the case.”
Kane was in a similar situation when he broke into the league as a rookie. He thought he succeeded because he was naïve about it.
“When I was coming up I was almost too dumb, too stupid to even know what was going on,” Kane said. “Sometimes you just go out there and play. Sometimes that can be the best recipe for success. I'm sure he wants to prove some things. When someone gets called up you always try to encourage them to play their game, to play the game the way that got them there in the first place.
Teravainen possesses that same mentality.
“I know there’s some expectations, and I’m a young player,” Teravainen said. “So I just don’t really try to care about that too much and just try to live day by day. And try to work hard and things are going to happen.”
Teravainen will have more of a defensive role when he steps into the Blackhawks’ lineup Sunday. He skated with the fourth line during practice Saturday. He’s likely going to play center on a line with Joakim Nordstrom and Ben Smith on the wings.
“Whether it’s easing [him in], that could help him do the right things, learn our system and play the right way, Quenneville said of playing Teravainen on the fourth line. “Whether quality ice time comes from power-play time, I’m sure he’ll see shifts with Kaner and other guys as well over the course of a game. It’ll grow as he plays, and how well he plays will dictate how much.”
Teravainen doesn’t care where he plays. Being in the NHL is what’s important to him.
“I’m really excited,” Teravainen said. “It’s good to be back here, it’s been my goal to be here this year, and I’ve been working so hard all summer and now in the season and I’m happy to be here.”