ShareThis Page
Accelerated development from Teddy Blueger could be good news for Penguins | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Accelerated development from Teddy Blueger could be good news for Penguins

Jonathan Bombulie
1195461_web1_934048-293244b319ba40269f0ab8348a4132b9
AP
Pittsburgh Penguins center Teddy Blueger (53), of Latvia, celebrates after scoring a goal on New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev during the third period of an NHL hockey game in New York, Monday, March 25, 2019.

Before he made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the end of January, the story of Teddy Blueger’s career was slow and steady improvement. His two-way game was always a point of strength, but his offensive game took some time to come around.

As a freshman at Minnesota-Mankato, Blueger managed six goals and 19 points. By the time he was a senior, he nearly doubled those totals to 11 and 35.

In his first season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he had seven goals and 31 points in 54 games. This season, he jacked those totals up to 21 goals and 39 points in just 45 AHL games.

Once he arrived with the Penguins, though, he wrote a different script, immediately putting up six goals and 10 points in limited ice time in 28 games.

To break that down a little further, Blueger averaged 1.1 goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five ice time. The only player on the team with a better figure was 40-goal man Jake Guentzel (1.45).

To outside eyes, he was an overnight success. The way Blueger saw it, though, it was the same process he followed in college and in the minors, just accelerated.

“I had a good run there for a bit and was able to play some more minutes and stuff and grew more and more comfortable,” Blueger said. “I’d say probably the first 10, 15 games, I’d say my game took some adjusting. I was just worried about chipping the puck forward and dumping it in. After that, it kind of started to slow down a bit. I was able to hang onto the puck more and make more plays and feel more comfortable that way. I thought I played better after that.”

Blueger’s development continued once the season ended. At the World Championships in Slovakia, he posted a goal and three assists in seven games and was named one of Latvia’s top three players. He also ranked among tournament leaders with a 62.7% success rate in the faceoff circle.

Continued improvement from Blueger is critical for the Penguins.

While much of the focus around the team’s desire to get better at this point in the offseason focuses on trades, free agency and the draft, the Penguins will also need to see improvement from within. It’s not reasonable to expect many of the team’s key players will see a boost in production as they move into their 30s. It is reasonable to expect the 24-year-old Blueger’s arrow to be pointing up.

With 42-year-old Matt Cullen hitting unrestricted free agency and considering retirement, the fourth-line center job looks wide open for Blueger.

Most of the forwards who spent time on the team’s fourth line this season did not match’s Blueger’s production of five five-on-five goals in 28 games.

Riley Sheahan had six in 49 games. Cullen had five in 71 games. No one else scored more than two.

If the Penguins are going to be the kind of team that rolls four lines that can score – a stated goal of coach Mike Sullivan on many occasions – Blueger seems better equipped for the task than many players who have been tried in the role over the past two seasons.

With his developmental pace on overdrive, Blueger will spend his summer preparing to fill it during his second NHL season.

“You know what to expect,” Blueger said. “Everyone always says, ‘It’s fast, it’s skilled, blah blah blah,’ but you don’t really get a feel for what it’s like until you’re actually in it. You know what the pace is like, what to expect, how hard it is to hang onto pucks, protect the puck down low, beat guys one on one, things like that. You can tailor (offseason workouts) to your own personal experience, how you felt out there and what you feel you’re missing. I think that makes a big difference.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all offseason long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.