This article is the third in a series ranking all Penguins throughout history from different countries. Some lists will rank just the top 10, due to the number of players from those countries. Today, we continue by ranking all Penguins players from Latvia.
There have been three Latvian players to suit up for the Penguins in their history — one goaltender, one defenseman and one forward.
Let’s see how the Latvian Penguins rank, not necessarily in terms of overall skill, but more so by their impact on the Penguins during their time in Pittsburgh.
3. VICTORS IGNATJEVS
Ignatjevs wasn't around long. The Penguins signed him as a free agent in the 1998 offseason, and a shoulder injury kept him out for most of the season.
Ignatjevs played in 11 regular-season games for the Penguins (the only NHL games of his career), and recorded one assist and a minus-3 rating. He played in one postseason game, Game 3 of the Penguins' first-round matchup with the Devils. He caused a scuffle after hitting Scott Niedermayer from behind in the final seconds of the game.
Ignatjevs returned to Europe the following season, where he would go on to play 14 more seasons across Germany, Sweden, Russia, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, and finally his native Latvia.
Ignatjevs, 49, was an assistant coach for HK Kurbads of the Latvian Hockey Higher League last season, until he left to become an assistant coach for HC Davos of the Swiss NLA in January.
2. TEDDY BLUEGER
Blueger will be No. 1 on this list eventually.
Blueger made his long-awaited NHL debut last season, his third professional season. He scored goals on his first two shots in the NHL, and finished the season with six goals and four assists in 28 games. He was scoreless in one playoff game, a 3-1 loss to the Islanders in Game 2.
Blueger, 24, is currently a restricted free agent.
1. PETERIS SKUDRA
Skudra was the first Latvian player to play for the Penguins. The Penguins signed him as a free agent after a strong training camp in 1997. He had spent the previous three seasons playing professionally in the ECHL and AHL.
Skudra made his NHL debut in 1997, and recorded a 1.83 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in 17 games. He also spent 22 games in the IHL that year, split between the Houston Aeros and Kansas City Blades.
Skudra was in the NHL full-time for the 1998-99 season as Tom Barrasso's backup. He appeared in 37 games, recording a 2.89 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage. Skudra and Barrasso shared the backup job behind Jean-Sebastien Aubin the following season, and Skudra posted a 3.19 goals-against average and a .872 save percentage over 20 games. He appeared in one playoff game that season, Game 5 against the Flyers in the second round. Skudra played the third period in relief after Ron Tugnutt was pulled after the second period. Skudra made 10 saves on 11 shots.
The Penguins did not re-sign Skudra in 2000. He played three more seasons in the NHL with the Sabres, Bruins and Canucks. He returned to Europe in 2003, and played four seasons in Russia before retiring in 2007.
Skudra, 46, began coaching in the KHL in 2011. He was the goaltending coach for the Severstal Cherepovets in 2011-12, then an assistant coach for Sibir Novosibirsk the following season. He was named head coach of the Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in 2013, a position he held until 2018. After not coaching anywhere in 2018-19, Skudra was named the head coach of Traktor Chelyabinsk for the 2019-20 season.
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