Aston-Reese Looks for Healthy Return

'Unlucky' Pens forward played only 43 games this season

Jeff Hathhorn
April 20, 2019 - 8:00 am

93.7 the Fan

PITTSBURGH (93.7 the Fan) – As great as the rise was for Zach Aston-Reese to begin his pro career, the latest year has been full of disappointment.

The dependable forward worked his way back from a broken jaw in May of 2018 to return to the Pens in November.  Aston-Reese had points in four straight games in late December and early January, and felt like he was really coming into his own. 

Until he injured his hand during a fight against Florida on January 8th and spent the first of two stints on injured reserve this season. 

Aston-Reese had a two point game on February 17th against the Rangers, just his third game back and would have points in three of the next four.

And then on March 10th he suffered a lower body injury against Boston that he described as ‘bad timing’.  That would keep the 24 year-old forward out until the post-season.

“I’m hoping this summer I can find a way to set myself up where I can keep myself healthy for a full 82 games,” Aston-Reese said.  “I think it would be interesting to see how well I could do not having to miss 4-6 weeks at a time.”

It’s been a battle for Aston-Reese since leaving college where he put up tremendous numbers in his senior year at Northeastern.  In 38 games, Aston-Reese had 31 goals and 32 assists and was a plus 72.

Yet the 6-foot, 200 pounder went undrafted and ended up signing a two-year contract with the Pens.

The Staten Island native started the 2017-18 season in the minors, only to be called up in February.  Aston-Reese ended up playing in 16 regular season games with six points and a plus two rating.  He would become a fixture in the playoffs last year, playing in every game until he was knocked out by Washington’s Tom Wilson.

The questionable hit broke Aston-Reese’s jaw and gave him a concussion, and is the start of what Aston-Reese believes is an unlucky turn of events.

The forward says he has met with team doctors and trainers to figure out a plan that will work for him to be ready to go in September.

“It’s going to be a big off-season,” Aston-Reese said.  “I definitely need to add a little more spark to my step.  I felt I had that coming back from the first injury and then after the second injury, it was tough to have the hop in my step this playoff series.”

While he admits it’s been tough dealing with the injuries, mentally as much as anything, Aston-Reese says he will do what he’s always done, work hard once again for a chance to prove himself.