New York Islanders defenseman Dylan Reese increased the number of Western Pennsylvania products to skate in the National Hockey League to 11 when he made his NHL Debut on March 4, 2010 at Philips Arena against the Atlanta Thrashers.
|Dylan Reese scored four points (2G-2A) in 19 games with the New York Islanders at the end of the regular season. Credit - Getty Images |
Reese’s ascension to hockey’s highest level continues a trend which has seen Pittsburgh churn out NHL-caliber players at a rapid rate the past seven years. Of the 11 players born in the Tri-State region to pull on an NHL sweater, nine have done so since 2003, beginning with Ryan Malone joining the Penguins.
Like most, if not all, of the nine before him, Reese credits the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and ’92 as a major factor in his decision to play hockey.
“I am no doubt a product of the Mario Lemieux Era and the two Stanley Cups in the early ‘90s,” Reese said. “Mario was my favorite player just like he was for everyone else growing up on the streets.”
The streets Reese is referring to are the tennis courts of his native Upper St. Clair neighborhood where he learned the game playing roller hockey with his buddies.
Reese shifted his career from the concrete to the ice beginning in third grade when he joined the Mt. Lebanon Hornets’ in-house program for two years. He then graduated to the Pittsburgh Hornets program, where he would play from fifth grade until his sophomore year in high school.
During Reese’s amateur days the Hornets were the only elite travel program in Western Pennsylvania, so he is excited to see the progress the region has made with several teams now capable of competing against the top talent in the United States.
“It’s nice to see that there are a bunch of travel teams in Pittsburgh now that compete with teams across the country,” Reese said. “When I was young we could only field one team that could compete like that. It’s come a long way.”
Hockey in Pittsburgh has certainly come a long way since Reese began playing, and the 6-foot, 195-pound blueliner credits that to the success enjoyed by players such as Malone, who also hailed from Upper St. Clair, and Columbus Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger.
Reese said being able to look up to those two as inspiration was something that helped motivate him as he worked his way up from the Hornets to the now-defunct Pittsburgh Forge of the North American Hockey League to Harvard, where he was a two-time All-ECAC second-team all-star during his career with the Crimson.
“(Malone) was definitely a guiding factor in my hockey career as I watched how successful he could be,” Reese said. “He is the first guy from Pittsburgh who really made it on the main stage. R.J. was the same way.”
Reese’s path to the NHL hit full steam when the New York Rangers selected him in the seventh round (209th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He participated in several prospect development camps with the Rangers during the summer throughout his four-year stay at Harvard.
“That really helped my career because you knew you had a shot at that point and that you were in somebody’s organization,” Reese said.
NHL Hockey Players from
Eleven players from Western Pennsylvania have played in the NHL, including Ryan Malone, pictured above.
Upon completing his college career in 2007, Reese joined the Rangers’ top minor-league affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. He would bounce around the minor leagues over the next three seasons from Hartford to the San Antonio Rampage to the Syracuse Crunch and finally to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the 2010 trade deadline when the Blue Jackets, with whom he had signed prior to this past season, traded him to the New York Islanders organization.
After just one game with Bridgeport following the trade, Reese was recalled by the Islanders after a rash of injuries on the back end. The 25-year-old knew it was the opportunity he had craved.
“I knew that not being highly touted that I would need to catch a break,” Reese said. “They had a couple injuries and I was able to get my shot.”
Reese took full advantage of his shot, picking up four points (2G-2A) and posting a plus-4 rating in 19 games with the Islanders, including his first NHL goal on March 16 at Vancouver. Reese also had a three-game point streak (1G-2A) from April 1-6 where he posted a plus-8 rating.
Still, nothing beat the thrill of realizing his childhood dream when he debuted against the Thrashers.
“I felt really confident although nervous before the game,” Reese said. “It was a quiet building and they scored three goals in the first 10 minutes, so it was a real shocker. We took a beating on that night but to finally play was a great culmination. I played about 10-12 minutes and played well. You can’t ask for anything more.”
After proving he has the skills required to play at the NHL level during his cup of coffee at the tail end of ’09-10, Reese hopes to take the next step in ’10-11 and establish himself as an NHL regular when training camp begins in September.>> RELATED ARTICLE: Reese Enjoyed Playing in Mellon Arena Regular-Season Finale