MALMO, SWEDEN – Canada goes into the semifinal as a decided favorite against Finland, but the Canucks will have to be cautious when Teuvo Teravainen is on the ice. The Chicago Blackhawks first-rounder leads the tournament in assists, counting nine through five games. And while he hasn't scored a goal yet, his linemates have gotten fat off his juicy passes.
Nashville pick Saku Maenalanen leads the world juniors with six goals, while Montreal pick Artturi Lehkonen has resumed his great relationship with Teravainen, despite being banged up in Malmo.
“He's a good player,” said defenseman Julius Honka. “He's got the all-around skills on the ice and he's a big help on the team.”
Taken 18th overall by the Blackhawks in 2012, Teravainen was an absolute machine at the summer evaluation camp tourney in Lake Placid, NY. His playmaking abilities are surreal and are especially evident on the power play, where his vision and quick stick take over. With 14 helpers and 17 points through 29 games, the young center isn't putting up the same numbers as he did last year with Finnish club team Jokerit, so the world juniors have been a nice respite.
“It hasn't been so good in Finland,” he said. “My team has been bad and they fired the coach while I was here. But we still have good guys there and we have a chance to go far in the playoffs. I learn all the time and in the bad times you learn more. It's getting better and now I've had a good time here.”
Though Jokerit is currently tied for fourth in Finland's top league, more was expected from the team, which is switching leagues and heading to Russia next season. For Teravainen, the future with the club is murky right now.
“I still have one year on my contract with Jokerit, but they're going to the KHL next year, so I don't know what happens to that contract,” he said. “My goal is to go to North America next season.”
With all his skills, Teravainen would be yet another weapon in Chicago's vast arsenal, though he's not the biggest kid in the world, so getting some time in the American League with Rockford wouldn't be the worst thing for his development. In the meantime, he's got a date with Canada on his mind and he's bringing more than just Lehkonen and Maenalanen with him.
“Of course it's going to be a big game,” he said. “We need be elite leaders on the ice. We have four good lines, so my line doesn't have to score too many goals, we have four lines that can score.”
And Finland will need them all to stand up to Canada.
Get scores, schedules and more on THN.com’s World Junior Championship Central page.