Photo: ESPN

There were teams holding multiple first-round picks, teams looking to move disgruntled stars, teams looking to shed salary, and teams looking to improve their draft position. The 2012 NHL Entry Draft had all the makings of a first-round free-for-all — and for once, it did not disappoint!

Even before the first 10 picks were in the books, there were players and picks flying all over the room. Jordan Staal sent to Carolina for Brandon Sutter and the Hurricanes’ 1st round pick; Lubomir Visnovsky traded from the Ducks to the Islanders; Mike Ribiero went from Dallas to Washington.

And Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman was smack dab in the middle of all the action…

Observing quietly.

Yes, despite all the speculation about draft day deals to move up the order, move salary and/or move superfluous roster members, the Blackhawks were quiet as a mouse on Friday, and made barely a ripple on Saturday with one yawn-inducing pick-swap with San Jose. I bet when Stan’s bored he gets on the web and laughs at bloggers like us with all of our armchair quarterback moves.

As a side note: if the Blackhawks’ bloggers got to pick players and make deals, the draft wouldn’t be such a friggin’ snooze-fest every year. However, the situation would likely break down into fisticuffs over what to do with each pick. Too many cooks, as it were. So yeah, maybe not such a good idea. But I digress.

The draft was not without its good news, however. After consensus #1 pick Nail Yakupov went to Edmonton as expected, 8 of the next 9 players chosen were defensemen. This left a LOT of quality forwards on the board when #11 came around. Chances were pretty good that somebody ranked in the top-10 would fall to the #18 spot, and sure enough, one did.

With the #18 pick the Blackhawks selected Finn LW/C Teuvo Teravainen currently playing with Jokerit SM-Liiga. He’s a diminutive 5′ 10″ and 161 lbs., but he’s only 17 years old. His shot is apparently not exceptional, but incredibly accurate. I have just given you all the bad news: here are some of the quotes from scouting reports on the boy:

With exceptional hockey sense, vision and hockey know-how, he has very good puck skills, great skating ability with a fast first step, a very accurate shot, and has the ability to find open ice.

The dynamic winger who just might be the most creative scorer in this year’s class.

Teravainen possesses hand skills that are unrivalled by any other prospect in this draft, registering the highest marks for his playmaking and puckhandling skills in this year’s draft class… He has uncanny feel for the puck and is constantly aware of his linemates’ location at all times. He can make a series of moves in close and at a stand still that can freeze a defenseman while he delivers a perfect pass for a goal.

He is elusive and can anticipate moves 3 steps ahead of opponents. Excellent agility & balance, he maneuvers away from danger… Great hands in traffic; he’s able to make any pass under any circumstance… He has 360-degree vision & awareness; there is no player or possibility he is not aware of when he has the puck.

So, what about his size then? Reading the scouting reports, that is mentioned first in nearly every one of them. That’s quite obviously why he slipped so low — he was ranked #2 among European skaters. Will that be a factor? That depends.

He was so dominant with the Jokerit Junior team (20 points in 11 games) that the club moved him up to the Finnish Elite League. There, even playing against physically mature players, he still put up 11 goals and 7 assists in 40 games. Will that translate directly to AHL and NHL success? There’s no way to tell yet.

Finland literally invented the skill game strategy: skating, stickhandling, passing. As a result, SM-Liiga is not anywhere near as physical a league as the AHL or NHL. Reports on Teravainen are that his game thrives on the perimeter; if he’s going to see success in North America, he has to drive the net. He will need to change his game significantly — and fill out every ounce of muscle his frame can put on — in order to play the North American game successfully.

Teravainen will play next year with Jokerit in SM-Liiga, and I don’t anticipate seeing him in Rockford for another year after that. The jury is still WAY out on this kid, and the fact that he has an option in the KHL also will complicate things — he was drafted by Lokomitiv Yaroslavl this year as well. I’d put this as a 50/50 chance he ever plays a game in North America, and only a 10% shot we ever see him in a Blackhawks uniform. There are just too many variables.

Brendan Gaunce was available at #18, and we passed. That was a mistake. Gaunce is WAY closer than Teravainen to playing in the AHL and has a much better shot at succeeding in the NHL. Gaunce ended up going to Vancouver, and that will no doubt come back to haunt us.

We’ll get our first look at Teravainen in July, as I expect he will be on hand for the Blackhawks Prospect Camp. We’ll try like hell to get there and see what the kid has to offer, and report back.

In later rounds there were also some interesting happenings: in round 3 Chicago selected right wing Chris Calnan, who has a Blackhawks connection already — he’s Jeremy Roenick’s nephew; Bartlett, IL native Vincent Hinostroza was picked up in round 6; and the ‘Hawks used both of their 7th round picks to grab goaltenders — Brandon Whitney and Matt Tomkins.

In all, 4 forwards, 2 defensemen and 2 goaltenders put on a Blackhawks jersey over the weekend in Pittsburgh. Let’s hope we see them put one on at the United Center sometime in the future.

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