(This is another in a series of stories about what the Hurricanes must do to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.)
With Thursday being an off-day last week at Carolina Hurricanes training camp, Teuvo Teravainen grabbed his clubs for a round of golf.
Teravainen and Justin Williams were golf partners at Old Chatham, sharing a cart, sharing some stories.
“I got to know him a little better, about his family, about his personality,” Teravainen said.
For much of training camp, Teravainen and Williams have shared the same line and started to form a hockey bond – Teravainen on the left side and Williams at right wing. Jordan Staal centered the line the past two preseason road games as the Canes topped the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Saturday and then ripped the Edmonton Oilers 6-2 on Monday.
It’s an important season for Teravainen. For the Canes to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time sine 2009, they need him – among others – to be more of a dependable offensive contributor, at even strength and on the power play.
Teravainen was a factor Monday against Edmonton, which had Connor McDavid and 17 regulars in its lineup. He twice scored on the power play in the first period, twice rifling shots past goalie Cam Talbot.
A year ago, Teravainen was in his first training camp with the Canes, coming to Carolina from the Chicago Blackhawks in a June 2016 trade with forward Bryan Bickell.
“It’s a shock when you get traded, so that’s something new,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “And you’ve got to learn a new system, and it’s a new city and new surroundings.”
There was the anticipation then that the two new Finns in camp – Teravainen and rookie Sebastian Aho – would give the Canes the extra offensive juice needed to contend for a playoff spot.
Aho delivered, scoring 24 goals and playing impressively well, but Teravainen had an uneven season. There were games where his quickness, playmaking and a wickedly good shot were noticeable. At other times, Teravainen seemed invisible.
“I had ups and downs,” he said. “But I think overall I’m getting better and better every season. I always knew it was a process. When I was younger, I was a little smaller all the time, so I needed to build my strength. I knew that would take time.
“I’m 23 now. I feel like I will get better sooner or later. We’ll see. I still feel I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.”
The Blackhawks made Teravainen a first-round pick, 18th overall, in the 2012 NHL Draft. In 2015, he became the fifth rookie since 1927 to score a goal in each of his first two Stanley Cup Final games as Chicago earned another Stanley Cup championship.
Terevainen followed with a 13-goal, 22-assist season in 2015-16, playing another seven playoff games. But with the Blackhawks in a salary-cap bind, the Canes were able to acquire him while absorbing Bickell’s larger contract.
Teravainen, used at center and the wing, had too many gaps in the 2016-17 season, going stretches without a goal. More skilled than physical at 5-11 and 178 pounds, he finished with 15 goals and 27 assists in 81 games on a team that finished 20th in NHL scoring last season at 2.59 goals a game.
“I’ve been a playmaker most of my life, but some years it seems like I score more goals,” Teravainen said. “You never know how the season will go and maybe this year I will score a lot of goals. I just try to stay positive. Stay with it and just be patient.”
The Canes signed Teravainen to a two-year contract extension in June that pays $2.86 million this season and in 2018-19. General manager Ron Francis said he was “an important part of what we are building here.”
Teravainen has a Stanley Cup ring. He has had his day with the Cup in Finland. He missed not being in the playoffs last season but believes this Canes team, this year, can get there.
“Anything can happen,” he said. “We have to make sure we’re right there, in the battle. We have guys who have played in the big games, who know how to win big games.”
Someone like his golf partner, that man Williams, who has three Stanley Cup rings and is called “Mister Game 7.”