Growing up in Pittsburgh, Dylan Reese dreamed of donning the black and gold as a member of his hometown Penguins.
His dream became a reality Thursday night when the 28-year-old Upper St. Clair native took the ice as a Penguin in front of a packed house of 18,650 fans at CONSOL Energy Center.
The 6-foot defenseman, who had four family members in the crowd, spent 14:07 minutes on the ice during the Pens’ 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals, including one shift on Pittsburgh’s second power-play unit.
“It was a dream come true really. Coming here to a hometown team is a blessing, so I was really excited,” Reese said.
Coach Dan Bylsma said he was impressed with Reese’s play.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Bylsma said. “He’s a skating guy, you saw him doing a lot of good things, alleviating pressure on the defensive zone by skating and making plays. He played quite a few minutes and was out there against some of their better players as well.”
Reese grew up during one of the more successful eras in Penguins’ history, when his current-employer Mario Lemieux led Pittsburgh to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and ‘92. Two decades later, Reese can call Lemieux his boss, as he is the fourth local player to join the Penguins, following Ryan Malone, Bill Thomas and Nate Guenin.
“I’ve said many times, I’m definitely a product of the early Stanley Cup teams, that’s when hockey really started to pick up in Pittsburgh,” Reese said. “Western Pennsylvania is a football and baseball town, so those Cups brought hockey to Pittsburgh.”
The Pens’ newest addition to the blue line was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Wednesday after Pittsburgh dealt defenseman Ben Lovejoy to the Anaheim Ducks for a 2014 fifth-round draft pick. A day later, Reese played about 10 miles away from where he was raised in place of Kris Letang, who was out with a lower-body injury.
“I felt really calm out there and the players around me on this team are just unbelievable,” Reese said.
Reese joined the Penguins organization during the offseason, and displayed his ability as a two-way blueliner during his 39 games with WBS, leading all team defensemen with 15 points (3G-12A).
Reese’s love for Penguins’ hockey at a young age played a large role in the start of his playing career, but his journey back to the Golden Triangle had a few pit stops along the way. After playing for Upper St. Clair High School’s hockey team, he was drafted by the New York Rangers in the 2003 NHL Draft and spent four seasons, from 2003-2007, playing college hockey for Harvard.
He has spent most of his career between the Phoenix Coyotes’, Columbus Blue Jackets’ and New York Islanders’ AHL affiliates, but laced up for 74 NHL games over three seasons with the Islanders, earning 17 points (3G-14A).
“I’ve been up and down enough times over the last few years to know what to expect,” Reese said. “Hopefully my role will grow and I’ll get more minutes and responsibility as time goes on.”