By all accounts, Teddy Blueger is poised to grab the Penguins’ fourth-line center role in 2019-20.
It remains to be seen how much the 25-year-old Latvian contributes offensively (he had 10 points in 28 games in the NHL last year, and 39 in 45 contests in the AHL), but he certainly looks ready for the defense-focused assignment. Blueger started about 61 percent of his face-offs in the defensive zone with the Penguins last year, which is the highest rate among returning Penguins forwards.
With Blueger skating at even strength, Pittsburgh allowed just 1.2 goals per 60 minutes and 22.9 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Blueger had the lowest even-strength goals against rate and second-lowest rate of scoring chances allowed among Penguins forwards who skated at least 250 minutes in such situations. It was only 28 NHL games, but Blueger made a favorable impression in terms of shutting down opponents.
• Winning the WAR: While the baseball equivalent is much more well-known, hockey has its own version of Wins Above Replacement thanks to the Corsica Hockey website. Hockey WAR takes into account a skater’s offensive and defensive contributions — including shot volume and shot quality on both sides of the puck, penalties committed and generated, and zone transitions. So, who led the Pens in WAR last year? The answer may surprise you, at least a little bit. With 4.7 WAR, Jake Guentzel ranked eighth among all NHL skaters in 2018-19. He led the team by a considerable margin, too, with Sidney Crosby ranking second at 2.5 WAR and Matt Murraythird at 2.0 WAR. In case you’re curious, Jack Johnson (-1.4 WAR) brought up the rear, followed by Derick Brassard (-1.0) and Matt Cullen (-0.7).
• Unlucky Hornqvist? The Penguins have a lot riding on Patric Hornqvist regaining his health and normal performance level next season. Hornqvist, 32, who has had a number of concussions and will make $5.3 million annually through 2022-23, posted the lowest full-season goal total (18) of his NHL career. If you’re looking for a return to his typical goal-scoring rate, here’s some good news. Corsica Hockey measures a player’s expected goal total, which is measured based on shot volume, shot location and game situation. According to that metric, Hornqvist should have had about 25 goals last year. That’s actually above his average total during his five-year Penguins career (23). Hornqvist, despite age and health issues, is still going to the parts of the ice that tend to reward players. He could get a few more greasy goals next year.