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Teddy Blueger Needs to Take Next Step for Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins need more from Teddy Blueger.

A quick look at the Pittsburgh Penguins roster will tell you what they will lack heading into next season, scoring depth. With general manager Ron Hextall focusing on re-signing Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, then rebuilding the entire defense core, there hasn't been much work done on the Penguin's bottom-six.

The Penguins will need their depth players to step up, and Teddy Blueger is the top candidate. Blueger, a second-round pick of the Penguins, has established himself as one of the best fourth-line centers in the NHL. However, after solidifying that role over the past three seasons, it is time for Blueger to become more than that.

The 27-year-old Latvian native showed improvement on the offensive side of things last season, collecting career-high marks with nine goals and 28 points. While that production isn't solely convincing that he needs to be the Penguin's third-line center, the potential for growth remains.

If anything, Blueger has been reliable for the Penguins. Head coach Mike Sullivan relied upon his line heavily during the past three seasons, especially when he was flanked by Zach Aston-Reese and Brandon Tanev, forming one of the most effective fourth lines in hockey for two seasons.

Analytically, Blueger was excellent last season, putting up career-best underlying numbers, despite starting the lowest percent of shifts in the offensive zone (28.03%) since he entered the league. Blueger is one of the top penalty-killing forwards on the team and finished second on the Penguins, winning 53.1 percent of his face-off attempts.

His defensive reliability, and glimpses of higher offensive output, make Blueger a great candidate to step up into a larger role for the Penguins this season. The Penguins currently have Jeff Carter in that spot but could utilize him in multiple ways to receive a better output.

Whether that be bumping him down to a fourth-line center position or moving him to the wing to allow him to focus on the offensive side of his game more, Carter shouldn't be the end all be all for 3C.

The bottom six looks bleak, but the emergence of Teddy Blueger as the third-line center would do a lot to improve the depth situation for the Penguins. 

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