June 19 2012 01:57PM
One of the most intriguing late risers on many consensus lists this year is the diminutive Finnish forward Teuvo Teravainen. His ascension to a probable top-10 pick is not only surprising because he wasn't really on many radars a couple of years ago, but also because at 5'11" and just 165 pounds, he's well below the typical size threshold applied to high-end prospects.
When I looked into Markus Granlund's standing in SM-liiga scoring amongst teenagers, Teravainen's name was one that immediately stood out: with 11 goals and 18 points in 40 games, he had the 7th highest point-per-game rate for teens in Finland last season. He jumps to second on the list when we limit ourselves to guys 17 and younger - only the highly regarded Aleksandr Barkov scored at a (slightly) higher rate than Teravainen in that sample in the SM-liiga last season.
So Teravainen is little, but his results in a pro league as a youngster are legitimate. He boasts a 1994 birthday so he's kid who has a few years of growth ahead of him as well.
The Scouting Report
Kent Wilson: Teuvo Teravainan's stock has risen rapidly across every major consensus draft list over the last calender year or so. What made him such a rapid riser? How did he manage to "come out of nowhere" to become a top-10 talent?
Matias Strozyk: His talent was visible a couple of years ago but I couldn't have imagined him becoming a top 10 prospect. Even a year ago I would have placed him somewhere in the 2nd round.
Teräväinen was the big surprise of 2011 and certainly didn't look like a rookie. Jokerit gave him a reasonable offensive role and solid linemates in Riku Hahl and Jani Rita - both of whom gave balance to Teräväinen's offensive capabilities with their defensive skills. He also got some time in the 1st line with Ben Eaves and Ilari Filppula, a line stacked with offensive talent, and was a regular on their powerplay - not bad for a 17-year-old in a championship contender, especially with the roster that Jokerit had.
KW: When we discussed Markus Granlund previously, I noted that Teravainen was one of the highest scoring teens in the SM-liiga. Where would you rank him amongst undrafted youngsters in Finland? Where would you rank him amongst all teens (drafted or otherwise) in Finland?
MS: Teräväinen might well get picked earlier than Finland's top prospect Mikael Granlund was, but it's hard to say how they match up against each other - in the 2012 playoffs, Teräväinen pretty much wiped the floor with Granlund, but that's a whole other story.
Teräväinen has a better overall package than Granlund had two years ago and is a considerably better skater. Teräväinen is only a few days from being a part of next year's draft where Alexander Barkov, who is a year younger than him, will be a big name and a possible top 3 prospect. Offensively that's the top 3 for Finnish forwards with names like Joel Armia, Teemu Pulkkinen, Markus Granlund, Juuso Ikonen and Alexander Ruuttu a few steps behind.
KW: What are his main strengths? What would you guess his ultimate ceiling could be in the NHL?
MS: Teräväinen is a simply fantastic offensive talent. He can create chances out of nowhere but is also a pretty natural finisher. There's nothing he can't see on the ice and he's just as dangerous with his speed and excellent skating as leading the powerplay.
I want to be careful about mentioning someone like Pavel Datsyuk or make any comparisons so I'll just call Teräväinen the most exciting prospect from Jokerit since Teemu Selänne. He should be ready to make the move to North America after gaining some strength over the next couple of years and develop into a top 6 forward with reasonable scoring responsibility.
KW: The one knock I've seen against Teuvo is his size. Do you think that will be an issue for him in trying to translate his game in North America eventually?
MS: Bulking up is a sensitive subject since I don't want Teräväinen to make the same mistakes as Teemu Pulkkinen while trying to gain strength and end up losing some of his speed. He needs to be careful not to hurt his solid skating while developing his physique. That same speed and his hockey sense compensates a lot of his "lack" of strength as he's able to play his way out of trouble.
Right now I'd be more concerned about Mikael Granlund having the physique to stand up to North American contact than Teräväinen, but that depends on Teräväinen not falling behind in development. He certainly needs to fill his frame, but I don't think size will be a negative factor.
KW: Finally, where do you expect him to be picked in the upcoming draft?
MS: I think any team from the Islanders at #4 to the Wild at #9 is possible. Teräväinen's fast development the last six to eight months and his amazing offensive talent should solidify his spot somewhere in the top 10. I don't want to see him end up with the Islanders so Anaheim or Minnesota would be a nice destination. It would be easier for the Ducks to eventually let go of Selänne if his "heir" was available around 2015...
Teravainen has a few question marks - his size and rapid ascent suggest some risk - but his results against men and the glowing scouting reports point to a potential high-end offensive talent. The Flames weren't afraid to take Markus Granlund in the second round last year and he had a pretty decent season in the same league (highest scoring teen outside of his brother MIkael) so I'm sure the Flames have had a few eyeballs on Teuvo this year.
Unfortunately, there's only an outside chance Teravainen will fall outside the top-10 because of concerns about his size. Even then, it's unlikely he'd make to the Flames at 14.
Probability he will be around by 14: Very low
Probability the Flames will (or would) pick him: High