No one would be shocked if Teuvo Teräväinen someday emerges as the best forward in the NHL draft class of 2012.
Two years out from the 2010 draft, fellow Finn Mikael Granlund looks like a great find for the Minnesota Wild after winning a world championship and putting together a superlative world junior tournament this past season. It is early to say if Teräväinen, a potential top-10 pick in next week's NHL draft, is on the same track. But he looked very advanced as a rookie with Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League this season, often outwitting experienced pros even though he was barely 17 years old. However, he's only 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds so he likely needs more time to physically mature, likely in his homeland. That might be the only missing piece of the puzzle for the left wing, who would have been in next season's draft if he had been born five days later in 1994.
"I need to get stronger," says Teräväinen, who is NHL Central Scouting's second-ranked North American skater after Filip Forsberg. "More strength, that's my biggest thing. It all is about getting stronger. A couple of years back my defensive game was not so good, but it's improved very much now and it's not a problem."
Teräväinen, not unlike Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the prior season and Tyler Seguin two seasons ago, was left off his country's national junior team at Christmastime in favour of older players. However, he followed a similar arc in the new year by earning an increased role with Jokerit, playing top-six minutes. He finished with 11 goals and 18 points in 40 games. He also notes the late-season surge didn't come from changing his game, but simply from receiving more ice time. Granted, it's dodgy to take much from a short conversation, but that could hint at his confidence in his skill and playmaking.
"I just got a bigger role," he says. "I played first and second line and power play, I played my own game."
1. How difficult was it playing in the elite league at 17?
"Maybe it was bit difficult at first. I was nervous in the first games I played. But once I played 10 games, then it was easier and I was myself on the ice. It's just hockey. It's not so different. It was a very big experience for me."
2. Is it tough for a smaller forward to play in Finland, like it can be in the NHL?
"It's not so tough. I have to play smart and have to skate a lot and I think it's not a problem."
3. Who are your role models in the NHL?
"I like very much [Detroit Red Wings centre] Pavel Datsyuk and [Chicago Blackhawks centre] Patrick Kane. Those are my favourite players. But I think I'm more like another Finnish guy, Valtteri Filppula [of the Red Wings]."
4. How do describe your game to people who haven't seen you play yet?
"I think I'm a playmaking guy with good skating and I think I'm good with the puck. I think it's natural for me."
5. Were you asked any strange questions at the NHL combine?
"Some of the teams were funny. They asked me questions about golf, I love golf. My favourite is Tiger Woods."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.