Pittsburgh Penguins: Teddy Blueger Emerging As Elite Defensive Forward
|Photo Credit: Matt Freed/Post Gazette|
Continuing our player season recap series for the Pittsburgh Penguins, today we are going to look at former second round pick, Teddy Blueger.
The Latvian-born Blueger was the 52nd overall pick in the 2012 draft that also saw the Penguins select Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta. After the Penguins traded Maatta before the season, that left Blueger as the only remaining player from this draft class.
Blueger spent four years at Minnesota State University-Mankato, gradually increasing his offensive production. His senior year, he recorded 35 points (11 G, 24 A) in 41 games.
He finished with 108 career points, 77 of which were assists in his 155 career games at the college level.
Once he turned pro, he started to show more of a goal-scorers touch - finishing with back-to-back 20-goal campaigns with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins. Blueger scored 21 goals in just 45 games before getting the call to the NHL, where he has spent the last year and a half as the Penguins’ fourth-line center.
Blueger: By The Numbers
Until his last two seasons in the AHL, Blueger hadn’t shown much in ways of a scoring touch, but he has shown signs of being able to carry his newfound touch to the next level.
Playing fourth line minutes, Blueger has scored 15 goals over his first 97 games (about 12 over 82 games). Blueger’s bread-and-butter has been his defense since coming up to the NHL.
This past season, playing with Brandon Tanev and Zach Aston-Reese, the Penguins’ trio formed one of the best shutdown lines in the NHL. Unfortunately they were unable to contribute much on the offensive side of things.
*Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, based on all forwards with at least 250 minutes at 5v5 during the 2019-2020 season.
Like stated before, Blueger has refined his scoring touch over the last couple years of his development and it slightly shows in his advanced numbers. He posted a near average goal rate along with a slightly above-average shooting percentage all the posting a below-average shot-volume.
He did a good job of protecting the puck, finishing towards the top in limiting turnovers, but outside of that he brought very typical fourth-line numbers to the table.
*Numbers also courtesy Natural Stat Trick. Numbers are also adjusted for score and venue and rankings are based off all forwards with at least 250 minutes at 5v5 during the 2019-2020 season.
With the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin getting the majority of the offensive zone time, it’s not really a surprise to see the team’s fourth line center get so little off the zone starts on the opponent’s side of the ice.
The impressive side of things is that despite starting with his back against the wall so often, he was able to post positive possession numbers. There wasn’t much scoring going on when Blueger was on the ice, but he limited the oppositions scoring at an elite rate and was still able to drive possession in his favor.
Added scoring from all four of your lines is crucial now, as it has ever had been, so it’d be nice to get some extra scoring from the fourth line, but if he can continue at his current pace in all the other categories, the Penguins have a rock-solid piece to the bottom of their lineup in Blueger.
It’s not a secret where Blueger is going to be lining up whenever the season does roll around. The bigger question is who he is going to play with. Depending on when the season begins, they may be without Aston-Reese, who had surgery during the offseason.
Tanev is likely to be a part of the fourth line once again, but if Aston-Reese misses any time the Penguins may turn to Evan Rodrigues, and Colton Sceviour, among others to fill out the lineup.
Blueger is starting to carve out a role as one of the better defensive-minded fourth-line centers in the league, but may still have some untapped offensive upside as shown as some of his shooting metrics.
The Latvian-born Blueger will be an interesting play to keep an eye on next season. The team’s bottom-six doesn’t project to do much to pitch in offensively, but at this point in the Crosby-era they need secondary scoring more than ever.
If Blueger keeps progressing as he has, could he might actually be the help they’ve been searching for all-along?
What are your expectations of Blueger for the upcoming season? Might we see some more offense from him? Or should we just expect the minimal output he has been putting together? Let us know in the comments below and follow me on Twitter at both @AJ_Murfy and @SportBlogMurphy.