CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Chase Berger is a loyal son of St. Louis.
Proud of the city where he grew up, delighted when the Blues won their first Stanley Cup earlier this month.
But Berger has developed -- and sunk -- some roots in Pennsylvania during the past few years, too.
It began when he enrolled at Penn State, where he spent four years before exhausting his eligibility this spring.
And when it was time to turn pro, Berger sifted through several proposals before settling on one from the northeast corner of the Commonwealth, as he signed an American Hockey League contract with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
"I'd been talking to (the Penguins) since I came to (development) camp a couple of years ago," Berger said. "That just seems like such a good place. They treat their guys unbelievably. They have a great reputation. That was a big thing to me. (There were) a couple of other offers, but this was the most appealing one to me."
While Berger's short-term future is in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins are optimistic that he'll be able to establish his credentials as an NHL-caliber player. Not a marquee guy, perhaps, but one whose fundamentally sound game should allow him to earn a nice living in the league.
"He's a detailed, consistent, 200-foot player," said director of player development Scott Young. "He's reliable. He's got great character. There's just a lot to like about him as a person and a player.
"The next step up for him is going to be (playing at) pace, on a day-to-day basis. He can do it. It's just a matter of getting used to that, day in and day out. ... He's a smart kid who's going to do anything he can to give himself the best shot."
He's also pretty durable. Berger, 24, played in all 154 of the Nittany Lions' games while he was in college.
Although Berger's offensive statistics aren't especially eye-catching -- he had 14 goals and 15 assists in 39 games as a senior, 51 goals and 67 assists in 154 over his career -- they also aren't a full reflection of what he brings to a team.
He's strong on faceoffs and plays with equal vigor at both ends of the ice.
"He's going to play well for you in the defensive zone," Young said. "He can contribute offensively. He's a reliable hockey player."
Berger is a center by trade, but Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky occasionally deployed him on the wing, and Berger said he has no qualms about playing there in the AHL.
"I don't mind wing," he said. "I think it's a little bit easier, to be honest. I pride myself on doing the little things. For a centerman, that's really important, especially in the defensive zone."
Berger closed out his collegiate career as Penn State's captain -- he'll be succeeded in that role by Brandon Biro, a fellow participant in the Penguins' recent development camp -- which is compelling evidence of how he was regarded by his coaches and teammates. And his feelings about the program are no less positive.
"The whole staff is unbelievable," Berger said. "They gave you so many resources to develop your skills. All you had to do was put the time in. I thought I developed well. I thought my game became a lot more well-rounded.
"I'm a north-south player, and Gadowsky's philosophy is putting those pucks to the net, and go to the net. You're not forced to try to make plays when they're not there, and try to walk around a guy. We created offense through shooting pucks, getting to the net. That's my game. And I think it really took me to the next level, offensively."
And now he truly is at a different level, trying to get acclimated to a pro game that has some marked differences from college.
"The biggest thing is, it's a little more controlled," Berger said. "In college, everybody is kind of flying around there. The roles are a little more defined in pros, where guys know what they're good at and don't step out from the role as much."
Berger sees his niche in Wilkes-Barre as being a two-way center, killing penalties and consistently venturing into the high-traffic areas to chip in an occasional goal. Fulfill those duties well enough, he figures, and there should be an NHL contract in his future.
"It's showing how good I am at the two-way game," he said. "Just being a really solid defensive forward who can create offense, as well. Doing the little things. If I can showcase my two-way ability and my ability to move up and down the lineup, that could help."
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