Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Jake Guentzel, Teddy Blueger and now you can add Zach Aston-Reese to the list of young NCAA forwards in the Penguins system.
The Penguins pitch to young college studs can’t be too hard and it probably goes something like this:
“Hey, nice to meet you. Do you want to play with the two best centers in the world in front of sellout crowds, while competing for a Stanley Cup each and every year?”
I’m sure the pitch probably ends with the Penguins playing a video of Sheary and Rust dominating in the Stanley Cup playoffs as well as some clips of Jake Guentzel turning the AHL upside down in his short time there.
Who in their right mind would turn down such a ridiculous opportunity. Quite honestly, I was surprised the Penguins didn’t land Jimmy Vesey last season. Speaking of Vesey, Aston-Reese rivaled the Harvard grad’s Hobey Baker winning numbers from last season.
In 33 games at Harvard last season, Vesey registered 24 goals, 22 assists for 46 points, which won him the Hobey Baker award for the best player in the NCAA.
In 38 games this season at Northeastern, Aston-Reese scored 31 goals, 32 assists for 63 points. Aston-Reese’s numbers dwarf Vesey’s senior year stats, which means you can be excited about this kid. He’s a great college talent.
He’s listed at 6’0″, 204 lbs. and plays a similar style to Chris Kunitz. First and foremost, he plays a heavy defensive style. He’s very good defensively and he’s incredibly strong on the puck. His 31 goals led the NCAA as well as his 63 points. However, he’s not projected to be a top 6 style player at the NHL level. Most prospect reports say that he does not possess the elite speed or hands to be a top 6 NHL player.
On the other hand, Aston-Reese is almost a lock to be an effective bottom-six forward at the pro level. He’s noted as a a great puck possession player who can play in all three zones and kill penalties.
He also doesn’t mind dropping the gloves and slugging some kids.
Any time you can add the top scorer in the NCAA to your prospect system, it’s a good move. The Penguins did just that today by locking up Aston-Reese for two years. He’ll report to the AHL team in Wilkes-Barre initially.
Aston-Reese may not end up being as incredible offensively as the likes of Jake Guentzel or Conor Sheary at the NHL level, but that doesn’t mean he can’t defy the scouting report, especially playing with the great centers on the Penguins. Worst case scenario, the Penguins just signed a very talented bottom six player who has a knack for finding the back of the net and is very good defensively.
This is an incredible time to be a Penguins fan with annual signings like these. Have fun with it, and get a little excited for the future (of an already stacked team) as it seems to get brighter every day.
It’s Tuesday, March 14th and Zach Aston-Reese is a Pittsburgh Penguin.