Despite the influx of center depth, Pittsburgh Penguins fans should familiarize themselves with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Teddy Blueger.
Blueger’s play was extraordinary for Team Walser over the first two games of Da Beauty League’s regular season, a professional 4-on-4 summer league at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minn. The Da Beauty League consists of top-tier NHL talent, including Jake Guentzel, James van Riemsdyk, and Jason Zucker.
The level of competition makes Blueger’s five points (two goals, three assists) in two games for Team Walser even more eye-opening.
Wednesday night, Blueger didn’t have the standout offensive numbers against Team Bic but his defensive effort kept Team Walser within striking distance. In fact, Blueger’s forechecks created two consecutive turnovers on Team Bic breakouts. Team Bic, featuring Vancouver’s Brock Boeser and Arizona’s Derek Stepan, used its speed game but Blueger kept pace.
His only sign of vulnerability was on Team Bic’s fourth goal, as he fanned on an unlucky bounce through the slot. Team Walser was dominated throughout the first half of the game but Blueger remained disciplined.
In the third period, Blueger’s strong shift turned the tide for Team Walser. With 15 minutes remaining in regulation, Team Bic’s goaltender and long-time NHL backup, Alex Stalock, robbed Blueger twice in front. Stalock paddled the puck toward the boards, but Blueger followed the play perfectly. He used his 6-foot, 185-pound frame to shield the puck from defenders and dished the puck to the point. His body positioning and stick handling resulted in Team Walser’s longest sustained offensive pressure.
Three minutes later, Team Walser took advantage of Blueger’s offensive awareness. Blueger lurked behind the defensemen and provided a perfect screen. Christian Horn sniped a shot over Stalock’s glove, which pulled Team Walser within two, 6-4.
Unfortunately for Team Walser, that was as close as it would get. Team Bic buried a garbage-time breakaway goal and improved its record to 3-0, while Blueger’s Team Walser dropped to 1-2.
Blueger’s time in the minors certainly isn’t over and depending on the Penguins’ depth chart, he may not even be a top-six center in the organization, although he re-signed with the club earlier this month on a one-year, two-way contract, and general manager Jim Rutherford has publicly tagged him as a player who should be ready to get some NHL time this season. Against top talent in Da Beauty League, he is proving that he can skate with some of the best.