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Reese seeks to be piece of Pens' picture

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Zach Sill

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Center

6-foot, 202 pounds

How acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent, 2008

How he's doing: Of the less-heralded homegrown prospects playing in Wilkes-Barre, Sill probably has the best chance to make his NHL debut this season. Sill has been a valuable energy player and reliable penalty killer all four years he's played with the Baby Pens. Since returning from a hand injury that cost him 15 games, Sill has been solid on the forecheck and has fought four times in 11 games. Due to a lack of puck skills, he absolutely must play with an edge to be effective.

Why he might make it to the NHL: He's a gritty center, good skater and excellent left-handed fighter.

Why he might not: He has little offensive ability, so he needs to be physical nearly every shift.

Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

One of the many events delayed by the NHL lockout was Dylan Reese's quest to play for his hometown team.

A 28-year-old Harvard grad from Upper St. Clair, Reese played 74 games for the New York Islanders over the past three seasons before signing with the Penguins in July.

Reese has been solid if unspectacular in Wilkes-Barre, leading Baby Pens defensemen in scoring with a modest 12 points in 29 games. At plus-1, he's one of just five players on the team with a plus-minus rating in the black.

“I think I'm a two-way defenseman, good skater, good puck mover, good retriever,” he said. “That's what they want here. They have a great offense in Pittsburgh. It's one of the best in the world. For me, it's just about moving the puck up the ice and playing the least amount of defense as I can.”

While Reese is a longshot to start the season in the NHL, there's a good chance he'll get the call at some point.

With a 48-game schedule condensed into about 100 days, bumps and bruises are inevitable. The last time the NHL played a lockout-shortened season, the Penguins used 17 forwards, 12 defensemen and four goalies in 1994-95.

Well-known prospects such as Eric Tangradi, Beau Bennett and Simon Despres probably will fill most of those spots, but not all of them. There also will be room for players such as Reese and the six other AHL-NHL bubble free agents the Penguins signed for organizational depth in the first two weeks of July.

A look at the six other newcomers:

Trevor Smith: A 6-foot-1 center who is a better shooter than playmaker, Smith played 16 games for Tampa Bay last year. The Baby Pens' most consistent veteran scorer.

Benn Ferriero: After scoring seven goals in 35 games in San Jose last year, this fourth-year pro with a right-handed shot looked like a darkhorse to win an NHL job in July. He's struggled in Wilkes-Barre, however, scoring once in his past 11 games.

Warren Peters: As a 10-year pro, Peters knows exactly what his role is. He is asked to win faceoffs, kill penalties and play with grit. He won 54.8 percent of his draws while playing 58 NHL games on Minnesota's fourth line last season.

Phil Dupuis: A reliable bottom-six option who played 30 NHL games for Toronto last year, Dupuis has been a disappointment in Wilkes-Barre. He has no points and a minus-9 rating in his past 10 games. No relation to Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis, though they're both from Laval, Quebec.

Riley Holzapfel: Atlanta's second-round pick in 2006, Holzapfel was underwhelming in his first four pro seasons. He hasn't been bad for the Baby Pens, though, posting 21 points in 35 games as a second-line center or wing and showing some chemistry with Bennett.

Jeff Zatkoff: Although he has cooled since winning AHL goalie of the month honors in November, the 25-year-old former Los Angeles Kings draft pick has supplanted Brad Thiessen as the top call-up option in net.

Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached via email at

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