Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Carolina Hurricanes.
A career year in terms of production? Check.
The transformation into a bona fide first-line winger? Check.
A chemistry with fellow Finn Sebastian Aho that could form the basis for one of the league’s top lines for years to come? Check.
Teuvo Teravainen has checked off a lot of boxes since his arrival from the Chicago Blackhawks two summers ago. And after putting up 23 goals and 41 assists to eclipse his previous best point total by 22, Teravainen has taken another leap forward as one of the league’s premier wingers.
[Looking back to 2017-18 | Under Pressure | Three Questions]
Teravainen improved nearly everywhere last season, from scoring eight more goals to having 14 more assists to finding five more points on the power play and a 3.5 percent increase in his shooting percentage, which hovered over 12 percent. He surpassed his previous career-high point total in just 57 games last season.
The breakout season continued with nearly one goal for every 60 minutes played (0.93), 1.25 assists/60 and 2.18 points/60 while playing all 82 games.
His underlying numbers backed up the eye test with career bests in shot share at 56.43 percent, goals for percentage at 56.12 and high-danger goals-for percentage at 58.82.
This is all good news for the 24-year-old, who enters a contract year in 2018-19 and still a few years away from his prime.
Teravainen only received a modest bump in ice-time (39 seconds on average per game), so assuming he can handle more, there’s no reason to think Teravainen can’t become a point-per-game player this coming season, especially if the line with Aho and Valentin Zykov sticks together to start the season.
The trio was formed toward the end of last season and the results were juicy. The line combined for a shot share of 65.73 percent during their eight games together. They were simply dangerous and perhaps a sign of things to come if Aho’s move to center becomes permanent.
Aho and Teravainen were money together, with Teravainen assisting on 16 of Aho’s 29 goals and the latter assisting on 13 of the former’s 23. Perhaps linemates that play Fortnite together stay together?
Here’s some of that sweet (on-ice) chemistry:
It’s Teravainen’s improvement, coupled with Aho’s — and a bevy of young talented forwards in the system — that likely made Jeff Skinner expendable last week. There’s pressure on Teravainen and Aho now to make up for the hole left by that departure, but both have shown they can improve year after year, especially when playing together.
New head coach Rod Brind’Amour has a few decisions to make with his top line, but Teravainen being on it is not one of them. He should be a lock up top and, if his durability holds up, could eclipse the 70-point mark, if not more, by the end of next season.
It’s a good thing Carolina has plenty of cap room.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck