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Pens Draft Intelligent Latvian Import

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Theodor "Teddy" Blueger spent the last two seasons playing prep hockey for Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School in Minnesota and plans on staying close by to attend college (Minnesota State University, Mankato).

With his perfect, virtually unaccented English, at first glance he appears to be a good old Minnesota boy. But that’s not the case.

Blueger, the Penguins’ second-round pick (52nd overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft on Saturday at CONSOL Energy Center, grew up in Latvia and didn’t come to America until he was 14 to attend prep school.

“It was pretty tough at first. Everything’s a lot different,” Blueger, who did attend an English-language school in his native country, said of making the adjustment to North American hockey and the lifestyle. “But I think at Shattuck, you go to school with your teammates and play hockey. You kind of live with them, so you make friends pretty quick and I think that helped me out a lot. I have a lot of close buddies at Shattuck, so that helps a lot.”

Blueger just finished a tremendous season for Shattuck-St. Mary’s, where he led the team in scoring with 88 points (24G-64A) in 51 games. After returning from a successful 2012 World Junior Championship tournament for Latvia in January, he led Shattuck to a second-straight USA Hockey National Under-18 championship.

His fantastic year is a result of becoming comfortable with the elite level of play that didn’t compare to what he’d experienced growing up in Latvia. Shattuck St. Mary’s is arguably the best prep school in the United States. It’s groomed numerous NHL stars, including Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

“At first it was tough. When I came over here, the level was a lot higher than what I was used to playing,” Blueger said. “Towards the end of my first year, I was able to adjust a little bit better. Then it became kind of easier and I got used to it.”

Scouts rave about his terrific hockey sense, which Blueger names as one of his strengths.

“My best assets are my hockey sense and vision, passing and creating scoring chances for myself or for my teammates,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m a complete player and can play in all situations and defend too.”

The 6-foot, 171-pound Blueger tries to model his game after Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk.

“I know it’s pretty tough, but to me, he’s probably my favorite player because of his creativity and skill level,” Blueger said. “But at the same time, how great of a guy he is off the ice and his defensive abilities.”

But while he admires Datsyuk, Blueger looks up to Crosby because of the Shattuck connection, saying “He’s really big there. Our coach on our prep team this year used him as an example to us a lot this year a lot with his work ethic and stuff like that.”

And now, Blueger will eventually be teammates with him one day.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling, just a little overwhelming,” he said. “I’m just really happy right now. I can’t really describe the emotions.”

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