He has the stats, the fanfare, and the pedigree to back it up, so why isn’t Carolina Hurricane’s Teuvo Teravainen more frequently mentioned among the NHL’s elite?
Back before his NHL stardom, you could find 14-year old current Carolina Hurricanes star forward Teuvo Teravainen at other places than just the rink. Teravainen, following in his parents footsteps, loved playing floorball, which is very similar to ball hockey.
"“I think I learned a lot of things from floorball for hockey, like it helped with stickhandling, maybe, getting better at that.”."
It looks like it worked. It’s safe to say, that he got pretty good. Teravainen is from an athletic family. His parents are avid floorball players. His 17-year old sister, Satu, plays hockey professionally in the women’s Liiga. His brother Eero, a 20-year old defenseman, followed his footsteps to North America in hopes of getting drafted, but was passed over in the 2017 NHL draft and has returned to the professional ranks in Finland.
Teuvo? Well, we know Exactly where he is.
The Helsinki, Finland native is now playing his trade in Raleigh, now in his fourth year with the Carolina Hurricanes after being practically stolen from the Chicago Blackhawks team that drafted him.
Teravainen, as you all remember, was acquired in 2016 along with all-time feel good story Bryan Bickell, for second and third round draft picks. Those picks turned into Tomas Jurco and Artur Kayumov, who’ve scored a combined 7 goals for Chicago to date. A larceny of a trade by Carolina.
Teravainen barely spoke a word of english when he left his Finnish homeland for good in the spring of 2014, but was prepared to start his new life in North America. For Teravainen, there were some things he needed to learn the hard way.
"“In Finland, I’d try to be a little funny. But in the English language, the same joke doesn’t work here.”"
Fast forward five years, and he’s a completely different person, and has no problem getting his jokes across. After being showered with praise by NHL legend Marian Hossa throughout their time together in Chicago, Teravainen looked ready to turn a corner with the Hawks.
His terrific playoff performance in 2015, followed by a 35-point season as a 21-year old in 2016 had proven that Teravainen was a key piece for Chicago to continue building with. The problem was that Chicago was already built, and sinking fast, and unfortunately for them Teravainen went overboard.
His trade and arrival to Raleigh was well received by NHL scouts, as fans and media had realized the Carolina Hurricanes benefitted from Chicago’s salary cap issues and added a young blossoming stud. Back at the 2012 draft, the Hurricanes held the #8 overall pick, and Teravainen was actually the guy many were hoping the team would pick.
They eventually traded the pick for Jordan Staal, but personally I was elated that the move kind of came full circle. But things didn’t initially go so smoothly for Teravainen. He came in with unfairly lofty expectations, and his 15 goals and 42 points were a bit of a disappointment for fans who expected him to take a bigger step from his Chicago production.
Teravainen bounced up and down the lineup that year with inconsistent ice time. He even ended up in Bill Peters’ doghouse after a lazy clearing effort got him benched and then healthy scratched for a game. He couldn’t quite find his groove.
A year later things really came together for him. Firmly entrenched alongside his fellow countryman Sebastian Aho on the first line, their bond of friendship translated to the ice, and they exploded offensively. Teravainen set new career highs in every category, with 23 goals, 41 assists and 64 points. Aside from Aho’s 65 points that same season, Teravainen’s 64 were the most by a Hurricane since Eric Staal scored 70 in 2011-12.
But that wasn’t even Teravainen’s plateau. Last season, he shattered that 64-point performance, scoring an astounding 76 points, with a team-leading 55 assists. His 55 assists were good enough for 18th overall in the entire league. And in retrospect to how good 76 points is, Teravainen would’ve led 13 of the other 30 NHL teams in scoring. That’s nearly half the NHL. His assists alone would’ve lead Anaheim, Arizona and New Jersey in scoring.
When you dive deeper than just the statistics, you realize how Teravainen’s presence extends far beyond the score sheet. In his Three seasons with the team, his Corsi for % has been 54.9, 57.0 and 55.6, which shows how much Carolina controls the play in the game when Teravainen is on the ice. Last season, the Hurricanes outscored their opponents 65-36 at 5-on-5 with Teuvo on the ice.
The deeper you go, the more impressive it gets. He had his 55.6 CF% and 65-36 5-on-5 ratio while starting 48.3 of his shifts in the defensive zone, which is almost half of his shifts. To dominate offensively the way he does while also being trusted defensively is a testament to how committed Teravainen is to his 200-foot game, all while facing the opponents top lines.
Not to mention that Teravainen was also a frequent contributor on the penalty kill. He averaged 0:53 of PK ice time per game. The Hurricanes only surrendered 8 powerplay goals with Teravainen on the ice; meanwhile he was directly involved in 5 shorthanded goals for, which is pretty remarkable.
The only Carolina Hurricanes forward who had a lower GA/60 on the penalty kill was Brock McGinn, who’s arguably the team’s top Penalty Killer. Teravainen can do a little bit of everything it seems.
This is where we talk about his playoff performance, where his game arguably elevated even more. His 7 goals led the Hurricanes, and was 10th overall in NHL playoff goal scoring, despite him playing far fewer games than everyone ahead of him.
His CF% was 57.0 in the playoffs, while actually starting 51% of his shifts in the defensive zone. And despite looking a little bit timid the first couple games in Washington, Teravainen got better as the playoffs went along. If you’re not an analytics number geek like myself and you’re reading this thinking “huh?”, then let me summarize everything I just outlined for you in one word: ELITE.
So what gives? This kid is clearly among the league’s top tier, and he’s already off to a hot start in this new season with 5 points in his first 4 games; while dominating possession per usual. Then, you factor in that his contract is among the NHL’s best. He’s signed for 5 seasons at a 5.4M AAV, which is egregious compared to what other NHL forwards are making.
To put it in perspective, Teravainen’s cap hit is 103rd among NHL forwards, but only 34 forwards outscored him last season. When you consider everything else he offers, that deal is highway robbery from the Carolina Hurricanes’ side.
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In comparison, Canucks forward Loui Eriksson signed a 6-year, 36M deal back in 2016, at a 6M average. He’s scored 76 points in the THREE seasons since signing that deal across 196 games. Teravainen scored 76 points LAST SEASON alone and signed a new contract that actually pays him LESS than Eriksson. Talk about an absolute bargain for the Hurricanes.
So the magical question is, why isn’t this kid more talked about around the league? Up here in Ottawa, only the die hard fans know about him. The average casual hockey fan who hears of Teravainen always has a look of confusion on their face, or just say they’ve “heard of him”.
With Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and the Canes defensive corps stealing most of the Carolina spotlight, Teravainen is arguably among the NHL’s best kept secrets. But I highly doubt it bothers him. You’d be hard-pressed to find guys who want to win as badly as Teravainen and his wingman Sebastian Aho, who’d undoubtedly trade their personal accolades for team success in a heartbeat.
Although he’s a world away from his family and his hometown, precisely 4,547 miles, Hurricanes fans are grateful that Teravainen calls Raleigh his home. And hopefully, that’s the way it’ll stay for the rest of his career. He’s #86 on the ice, but #1 in our hearts. And maybe, one day, he’ll get the respect he rightfully deserves.
Question for CC readers: What’s your favourite Teravainen moment from his time as a Hurricane?