Blueger Dazzles ... Quietly
Minnesota State Freshman Came to U.S. Via Latvia
by Ryan Lund/CHN Reporter
At a glance, Minnesota State freshman Teddy Blueger may not be the most noticeable Maverick on the ice.
Officially listed at 5-foot-11, Blueger is hardly the most intimidating specimen on the Mavericks’ roster, nor is he out to dazzle anyone with blinding speed or a blistering shot.
A glance, however, doesn’t begin to do the young forward justice. Stick around, and Blueger might just surprise you.
Blueger hails from Latvia, a small nation on the fringes of Western Europe, and brought his game to the United States at the tender age of 14, when his skills outgrew Latvia’s burgeoning junior system.
He came to play at storied Minnesota prep school Shattuck St. Mary’s, where Blueger flourished in the footsteps of hockey’s elite, more than 4,000 miles from home.
“It was obviously a lot different,” Blueger said of his early days in Minnesota. “It’s nice at Shattuck, you get to spend a lot of time with the guys, because you live together, go to school together and play hockey together.”
The Latvian-born forward scored 66 points as a junior, before registering a team-high 88 points, including 24 goals, in his final season at Shattuck, leading the Sabres to a championship.
Blueger represented Latvia at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championships, netting three points. Although his stats alone do little to raise eyebrows, the performance was enough for Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero to take a flyer on the budding playmaker.
Shero selected Blueger with Pittsburgh’s third pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, making the youngster one of the most highly drafted Mavericks of all time at 52nd overall.
The Penguins clearly saw something in the youngster that piqued their interest, and while Teddy Blueger won’t dazzle you with his shot or his speed, his hands, and more importantly his intelligence, give NHL scouts, and opposing defenses, pause.
“He’s a very cerebral player and person,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said, adding that the young Latvian appears to be driven more by his quest to improve than the emotional outbursts common in developing athletes of his caliber.
“Just because he’s quiet, I think he’s absorbing,” he said.
Blueger’s vision, his ability to anticipate, is clearly well developed, a trait which, when paired with his prolific stick handling abilities, makes for a lethal combination.
Hastings agrees, describing his star pupil as a driven athlete, one whose quiet intensity makes him a thrilling competitor.
Blueger moves through the slot with ease, and appears just as comfortable working his way out of the corner as he does when streaking toward the net. His passing, borne of his vision, that sets the dynamic forward apart.
“He’s very good at making small plays,” Hastings said.
“That’s an important ingredient to players at a high level."
Whether it’s a timely drop pass between the circles, or a quick feed back to the point, Blueger has developed a noticeable knack for finding his teammates when they, and opposing defenders, least expect it.
And, after watching him fire off a series of remarkable passes to teammates, it's easy to understand the confusion, and the excitement of Hastings and others at Blueger's development.
The Penguins and the Mavericks, however, are not the only teams that found his unique skill set compelling.
The two parties were joined over the summer by the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, who selected Blueger 48th overall in the annual CHL Import Draft, used to distribute the rights of players outside of North America throughout the Canadian Major Junior leagues.
But, while an invitation from the CHL might have led many players to back from their college commitments, Blueger remains dedicated to his new home.
“I thought it was a great place to develop my game,” he said of Minnesota State. “They play good competition.”
Those competitors are likely already aware of his presence. Blueger leads all Minnesota State freshmen with eight points, including a breakout three-point performance in the Mavericks’ 6-1 route of Bemidji State.
Blueger is set to follow up his successful first half with a trip to Ufa, Russia, where he will once again take a starring role as a member of Latvia’s entry at the World Junior Championships.
Still, the Penguins are in no hurry to rush the Mavericks’ budding star to Pittsburgh.
“They said it was up to me, whether I wanted to go college or Major Junior,” he said. “As long as I’m going where I’m going to be happy, and where I want to play.”
The Penguins’ patience should ensure that Blueger remains in Minnesota for the time being, where the versatile forward could find himself getting more than a few glances in the years to come.