Zach Aston-Reese joins former teammate Michael Bunting in Carolina on a PTO

Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
7 months ago
As we inch closer and closer to the start of training camp, more and more players who are still on the free agent market will be signing professional tryouts (PTO) to try and earn a contract for the 2023-24 regular season.
Today, former Toronto Maple Leaf Zach Aston-Reese has joined another former Toronto Maple Leaf, Michael Bunting, in Carolina on a PTO, per Walt Ruff.
Aston-Reese joined Toronto on a PTO last off-season before signing a one-year, $840K contract with the club before the 2022-23 regular season.
Although Aston-Reese isn’t the flashiest of players when he’s out there on the ice, he’s defensively responsible, has great penalty-killing ability, hits a ton and is not afraid to mix it up once in a while.
The 29-year-old has bounced around within the last two years after spending five years in Pittsburgh. He got traded to the Ducks midway through the 2021-22 season in the Rickard Rakell deal, signed a PTO which turned into a one-year deal with the Maple Leafs last season and has now found his way to Carolina on this PTO.
Last season with Toronto, Aston-Reese played in 77 games, scoring ten goals and adding seven assists for 17 points while only averaging 10:56 of ice time a night. On top of his solid production playing mainly on the fourth line and penalty kill, he also added 163 hits to his name, which ranked him first on the team (Schenn and Acciari had more that season, but the majority of them came with their former teams before being traded to Toronto)
Aston-Reese could be a solid addition to this Hurricanes team, even if he isn’t an everyday player. He fits their style of play to some degree and could also help that already elite penalty kill become even more elite next season.
As we watched last season, he was heavy on the forecheck for Toronto and helped hem the opposition in the zone, on occasion, to create some scoring chances. That is similar to how Carolina likes to play in the offensive zone. They enter the zone, dump the puck, be heavy on the forecheck, retrieve the puck, and take it to the point. They cycle the puck and will create a lot of shots and scoring chances with their style of play.
The clip above is an example of what Aston-Reese can bring to the table when in the offensive zone.
He skates into the corner with a Tampa Bay defender, directs him into the boards, which forces a loose puck and allows his linemate to scoop it up, and Aston-Reese jams home the rebound on one of the league’s best goalies.
With already signing Bunting to a contract earlier in the off-season, if Carolina signs Aston-Reese after his PTO, they could have two solid players who could succeed in their system. Bunting also likes to play along the walls and in the corners. As we saw in Toronto, he did the dirty work and gave the puck to either Matthews or Marner and that helped Bunting produce back-to-back 23-goal seasons and a 63-point season in his first full year in the NHL in 2021-22.
(All stats from Hockey-Reference.com

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