Every year in late December, a group of the most talented junior hockey players in the world gather to compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) World Junior Championships.
In 2014, the tournament will be held in Malmo, Sweden, and the United States’ team will be trying to defend the gold medal that they won in the 2013 edition of the tournament, held in Russia.
This week, a big chunk of the players who will be competing in that tournament have gathered in Lake Placid, New York, site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. That tournament was obviously best known for the “Miracle on Ice” game between the US and the Soviet Union, with the Americans winning an improbable 4-3 victory over the heavily favored Soviets.
These kids won’t be competing under the same kind of Cold War-induced tension that gripped the countries over 30 years ago, but their dreams remain similar: to be the best in the world.
Four countries have sent players to this camp, with the United States, Canada, Finland, and Sweden all having representatives at the practices and scrimmages taking place. The Chicago Blackhawks have several of their prospects participating in the events, including 2013 draft picks Robin Norell (4th round) and Carl Dahlstrom (2nd round) representing Sweden, and John Hayden (3rd round) and Tyler Motte (4th round) representing the United States.
2012 6th rounder Vice Hinostroza is also at the camp for the US, but it is another Class of ’12 pick that has been shining the brightest among the Hawks’ stars. Finnish forward Teuvo Teravainen is that player, and he has caught the eyes of scouts and pundits alike.
Here is what Corey Pronman, prospects writer for both Hockey Prospectus and ESPN.com, had to say about Teravainen’s camp performance thus far:
CHI's Teravainen dangerous on every shift. High-end talent level. — Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) August 4, 2013
Obviously, those are some high words of praise, but Teravainen is no flash in the pan player when it comes to competing on the world stage. In the 2013 tournament in Russia, Teravainen played in six games for Team Finland, scoring five goals and dishing out six assists over that span. He also added in 13 goals and 18 assists for Jokerit, his club team in SM-liiga, for good measure during their regular season.
Here is a highlight video fo Teravainen for those who haven't gotten a chance to see him play:
Teravainen also had a solid 2012 Under-18 tournament for Finland, scoring two goals and adding six assists in just six games in that event.
At only 5’10”, Teravainen isn’t the biggest player on the ice, but his speed and explosiveness have already got some folks touting him as one of the best prospects that the Hawks possess. His ability to come up big on the international stage has got to be an intriguing character trait for a team that values players who are able to step up in big situations (see: the contract Bryan Bickell got thanks in large part to his playoff exploits), and his performance this week in Lake Placid seems to be hammering that point home.
Whether or not Teravainen will be on Finland’s roster remains to be seen (although the smart money would be on him participating), but it doesn't appear that he will be heading to the US this year. According to Pronman, Teravainen told the media that he believes he needs at least one more year in Finland to continue his development, so he could be hitting the Rockford IceHogs' roster for the 2014-15 season, with a potential call-up to the Hawks a short way down the road.
At any rate, he is an interesting talent that GM Stan Bowman is very high on, and could be an impact player for the tema down the road.