Finnish forward Teuvo Teravainen may be small in stature but he's already a proven performer among men.
The 17-year-old Teravainen had as impressive a second half to the season as one could possibly have in their draft year after being promoted to Jokerit in the prestigious SM-Liiga, the top professional league in Finland.
"He joined Jokerit right after the Christmas break [after a fast start with the club's Under-20 team] and proved to be a player with outstanding hockey sense and great overall skill," NHL Director of European Scouting, Goran Stubb, told NHL.com. "He was 17, but running the power play. He's not overly physically but is not intimidated by the physical game."
Teams might be discouraged by Teuvo Teravainen's relatively small stature, but it hasn't been a problem on the ice for the man expected to be the first Finn off the board at the 2012 NHL Draft. (Photo: Getty Images)
The elusive Teravainen, who is 5-foot-11 and a mere 165 pounds, exploded for 12 goals and 20 points in 11 games with Jokerit's Under-20 team before producing 11 goals and 18 points in 40 games in the men's league. The left wing was even bestowed the Jarmo Wasama Trophy as the rookie of the year.
"I felt I played well at the end of the season and played a big role for [Jokerit]," Teravainen told NHL.com. "I played a top-six role and was on the power play and I think that's the reason I was able to play so well. In the playoffs, I also played center for the big club."
At center, in fact, Teravainen had two goals and six points in nine postseason games. He topped all tournament scorers with six goals and eight points at the 2012 U18 Five Nations Cup in Pori, Finland, in February.
"It was pretty difficult during those playoff games," Teravainen said. "In the playoffs, things get bigger. It was tough but the coaches moved me to center and that was a good thing for me -- I had no problems there."
Carolina Hurricanes director of amateur scouting, Tony MacDonald, recently told the Raleigh News & Observer how impressed he was with Teravainen. The Hurricanes currently hold the No. 8 pick in Friday's opening round of the 2012 NHL Draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
"He's deadly one-on-one and very good with the puck," MacDonald said. "He does things with the puck beyond the skill level of many players. He can distribute the puck both ways, can pass on the backhand better than most people can on their forehand.
"There's a lot to like about this kid. The only concern, if there is one, is he's not a real big but I don't think it's going to be an issue going forward with a player with that kind of skill and that feel and the offensive dimension he brings to the table."
WEAR WHAT THE DRAFTEES WEAR
MacDonald actually compared Teravainen to Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Kane. Teravainen likes the comparison.
"I try and model my game after Patrick Kane and Pavel Datsyuk," Teravainen said. "While I try and watch those guys a lot, I think I'm similar to [Detroit forward] Valtteri Filppula.
"Valtteri is like me, a good overall player and he's fun to watch."
Central Scouting expects Teravainen to be the first player from Finland off the board. He's ranked No. 2 behind Sweden's Filip Forsberg on Central's final list of draft-eligible skaters from Europe.
"He tiny, but has gone straight up the charts this season," Stubb praised. "He's playing with confidence and he ended up the season playing on the first line in Jokerit, which is huge. His understanding of the game is unbelievable and he's always in the right spot at the right time. He's a very dedicated young man and any team would be lucky to have him as part of their organization."
Teravainen knows he needs to get stronger and improve his defensive game, but he possesses all those intangibles that would be difficult for any coach to teach.
"I'll get stronger and it will take a lot of work," Teravainen said. "A lot of work in the gym. My defensive game did improve a bit later in the season and is not the problem now."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale