Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan began his pre-game press availability by first thanking the players who were traded out of his lineup on Monday, Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese.
Both have played a handful of seasons with Penguins and been versatile pieces used in multiple roles.
“I just wanted to take an opportunity to say thank you to Zach and Don for everything they did as players for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were a pleasure to coach. These guys were great teammates and did an awful lot for the Pittsburgh Penguins…,” Sullivan began.
Aston-Reese was an undrafted college free agent from Northeastern. After a half-season with the WBS Penguins, he made his NHL debut in the 2017-18 season, during the Penguins defense of back-to-back Stanley Cups. He played in 16 games, but his rookie playoff run was cut short when Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson crushed him with an illegal hit, breaking Aston-Reese’s jaw.
You may remember Aston-Reese’s IG post for his first meal, weeks later after his jaw was unwired. He celebrated with a bowl from Chipotle. Wilson was suspended for the hit, but the Capitals won that series and eventually the Stanley Cup.
But posting an innocent meal on social media for a self-deprecating laugh became part of Aston-Reese’s charm.
Dominik Simon rose to infamy as a member of Sidney Crosby’s line and a trusted Crosby linemate. While fans lamented his lack of finishing skills, Penguins coaches and Crosby lauded his ability to create chances for linemates.
Simon played in 228 games as a Pittsburgh Penguins, beginning with three games in 2015-16. However, Simon didn’t play in any playoff games, and his name is not on either Stanley Cup ring. Simon scored 73 points (22-51-73) in parts of six seasons with the Penguins. He played one season with the Calgary Flames, 2020-21, before returning.
Edit: PHN corrected Simon’s career totals to 73 points, not 73 assists.
Aston-Reese settled into a defensive role and became one of the most difficult forwards to score on in the NHL. Analytics gurus lauded his defensive numbers. The Staten Island native, whose father grew up in Pittsburgh as a Penguins fan, played 2013 games over five seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sullivan also laid out what he expects from newly acquired winger Rickard Rakell: