From promise to humbleness, this Pittsburgh Penguins by the numbers recipient has felt both this season. However, finally, he may have found his stride.
As an undrafted signing back in 2017, Zach Aston-Reese came with a book load of question marks. What kind of player was he going to be? What position would be his best? Was he even going to dawn a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey? At the time of his signing, Penguins GM, Jim Rutherford, said that Aston-Reese could be the next Patrick Hornqvist.
Instead of Hornqvist, he was starting to fill the role of many other “hopefuls” that came and gone. His battle to the top didn’t get any help either, as injuries have plagued him over the past 3 years. However, now, he may have found his place and might be turning the tide towards progress.
ZAR found himself on the Penguins 4th line, aka ‘Teddy’s line.’ Between him, Teddy Blueger, and Brandon Tanev, they have turned the 4th line into sometimes the Pen’s best line. His rise to the NHL and success on this line led to him helping the rest of the team and giving them rest during tough situations.
Pittsburgh Penguins by the numbers: Zach Aston-Reese
His 13 points in 57 games are respectable, but his real contributions lay in other areas. He played an average of 14:26 minutes per game. Even more impressive, he ranks 3rd on the team with 160 defensive-zone starts. Meaning he and his line-mates have earned respect from Mike Sullivan and get to show their grit in the tough situations.
This NHL layoff has helped him in some ways, as he now has had time to heal and get ready for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Assuming he is healthy, he will be back on that line and helping defend in even stricter situations next month and into the late stages of the summer.
Now, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Zach Aston-Reese have one more season with each other to grow before his contract runs up at the end of 2021. The only thing missing from his game currently is the offense. He showed that offense while in college and the AHL, now he just needs to bring it to the NHL. If that happens, he can be a perennial player for years to come.