The Vegas Golden Knights have their very first player, his name is Reid Duke, and he’s just as excited as his new fanbase. The 21-year-old is currently on a whirlwind media tour that started with yesterday’s hour long media call, he joined a host of radio shows including our friends Tyler Bischoff and Coach Jim Bolla (interview begins at 39:15), and will join Ken today at 5pm on KXNT. The Brandon Wheat King forward spoke like an old pro, spitting back mature responses to the various questions we threw out at him. Now we know his age, his stats, his contract, but what should we expect from Duke on the ice with the Golden Knights?
Most hockey analysts immediately praised GM George McPhee on his first player acquisition. From all accounts the Wheat King had been scouted by many clubs over the past five seasons. Two-way forwards are incredibly valuable to an NHL team and could be one reason Vegas targeted Duke. During yesterday’s call, the young forward stressed the importance of becoming an effective all-around type player.
“I’m a solid 2 way forward, have really good skill, like to use my speed, have really good versatility, and I’m a really hard worker.” -Duke
— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) March 7, 2017
Friend of the site and Brandon Sun reporter Perry Bergson, covers the Wheat Kings and has seen Duke play on a consistent basis. The Sun reporter emailed me a few notes on Duke. Bergson was fair on his assessment giving positives and some negatives… but to appease Ken’s ridiculous expectations (he’s being sarcastic, relax) we will hold the negatives till later.
He’s a good player. He has a terrific toe drag and shot. He’s a thick kid who plays a heavy game. Very personable and mature. -Perry Bergson, Brandon Sun
Another good indication of Duke’s talent is Assistant GM McCrimmon’s desire to acquire him… again. In 2014, McCrimmon pulled off a lopsided deal to bring Duke to Brandon. After the trade McCrimmon was ecstatic saying it was “a major trade for our hockey club” and that Brandon picked up “a tremendously-talented forward with an excellent pedigree potential.” McCrimmon yesterday sounded like he’s still as impressed with Duke as he was back in 2014.
I think what’s impressive with Reid is a real high skill level and yet a guy that’s able to play a big, strong, heavy game… when we project Reid, we think his game will evolve as he becomes a pro. We believe he’s going to be an NHL player. -Kelly McCrimmon, AGM
Size, skill, and maturity are great attributes to have breaking into the league. Duke has had major success as an offensive threat in the WHL, but wants to continue growing. There are some concerns when Duke has been asked to do more for his team.
He overhandles the puck sometimes and can put his linemates offside as a result, but his game is evolving. He’s being counted on to provide more offense and I think that’s part of it. He’s a real good kid. -Bergson
Another slight on Duke is his 2014 trade from the Lethbridge Hurricanes to the Wheat Kings. At some point after a feud between Duke and Lethbridge, a trade was made. Lethbridge took a hit after the trade and came out publicly saying their hands were tied as Duke requested the trade. Some Hurricane fans called Duke a quitter and a bad teammate. None of that however, followed Duke to Brandon. Which means, the complaints from Lethbridge fans were probably unwarranted and just based off emotions.
McPhee mentioned he liked players that have seen struggle and adversity. Duke has thrived since his NHL tease, and by doing so got the attention of the Golden Knights and his former coach/GM. His maturity came off strong during yesterday’s media call. He is well aware of his new surroundings as he discussed the importance of playing against the Pacific division’s big, effective centers.
Projected to be a top six forward or a potential third line center, Duke is everything a new club is looking for. He is old enough to play in the AHL, so this will be his last season in Brandon. However, if he continues to impress McPhee and McCrimmon think he could be skating in Vegas earlier than expected.
The sky is the limit for Duke, the Golden Knights, and Vegas fans. More signings like this, and The Creator will be pushing up his championship parade by three seasons. Okay, maybe Ken will.