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Injured, Injured, And More Injured: Reid Duke, James Neal, Mikhail Grabovski

All things considered the Golden Knights are rather healthy as they progress through training camp. Nonetheless, they aren’t without a few bumps and bruises, a few we were already aware of, and one new one that popped up yesterday. Here’s the quick run down of the injured Golden Knights.

Reid Duke

The first Golden Knight now becomes the first to be injured while physically wearing a Vegas uniform. After participating in every session during rookie camp and playing both games in El Segundo against the Kings, Duke was held out from the first day full training camp with a injury sustained in the second rookie game.

Gerard Gallant confirmed the injury during his post practice press conference but would not disclose any details nor the severity. Duke was on the ice throughout the entire second game in El Segundo, finishing off his final shift with 1:30 left in the 3rd period. Before he exited that final shift, he was checked into the boards after dumping the puck into the Kings zone. The camera panned away so we were unable to see if Duke was injured on that play or earlier in the game.

He was seen hanging around the glass watching practice, but never dressed to play and was not in the locker room during media availability.

James Neal

Neal broke his hand early in the Predators Western Conference Finals series with the Ducks. He continued to play with the injury all the way through Stanley Cup Finals and logged more than 21 minutes in the last game of the series.

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Whose Name Should Be On The Back Of Your Golden Knights Jersey

Right now if you head down to The Armory at T-Mobile Arena, you can become one of the first to pre-order a Golden Knights jersey. The tough part is deciding which name to choose to put on the back. We’re here to help aid in that process.

The Safe Picks
Marc-Andre Fleury and Deryk Engelland

The Flower is already the fan favorite in Vegas, and will almost certainly be starting in net on Opening Night. Engelland is the hometown hero who is the only free agent that decided to join the Golden Knights (I know there were others, but c’mon). Both are safe because we are pretty darn sure neither are going to be traded before the season begins. Short term, these are safe and good options. Long term might be a bit riskier.

Fleury has two years left on his contract and the Golden Knights are already lining up options to take over behind him. Odd are Fleury will be around for the entire inaugural season, but his second season and beyond gets tough. He’s going to be a candidate for a deadline deal in 2019 and will likely not remain with the Golden Knights after he hits free agency. Similarly, Engelland will be in Vegas for this season, but the future beyond 2018 is a major question mark. Really can’t go wrong with either, but chances are, you’ll be needing a replacement sooner than later if you go this route.

The Names You Know
James Neal, David Perron, and Brayden McNabb

You can expect every guy on this list to be on the first 23 man roster the Golden Knights release, but they are all going to be dangled to other teams as the season progresses. Here’s the biggest problem with having a jersey with any of these names on the back of it, the better he plays, the more likely he is to be shipped out. So, you are either stuck with a jersey of a guy playing poorly or a guy playing great (for a bad team) who is probably getting traded. Not exactly ideal for your first Golden Knights jersey.

The OGs
Reid Duke and Vadim Shipachyov

Both are great options but come with major concerns. With Duke, the concern is right away in the fact that he’s probably not going to make the team out of camp (and possibly ever). But, he’ll always be the first Golden Knight, he’s an awesome guy , and everybody loves a good underdog story.

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When Will We See The Golden Knights Top Prospects In Vegas

After reading scouting reports, watching highlights and attending a day of development camp, it’s time to take a shot at the best case scenario for when each Golden Knights prospect may make it to the NHL.

We’re not going to fast track anyone. It never hurts a kid to play a an extra year or two in juniors. It’s better to overcook them than throw them in there raw. It’s like having a kid in 8th grade and suddenly throwing him into 11th grade. It’s too much, not only on the ice but socially for some of these kids. So we’ll be open minded, if someone’s ready, we’ll play him, but there’s a good chance all of these guys will be headed back to amateur this year. -George McPhee on 2017 Draft Picks

Alex Tuch (Acquired via Expansion Draft trade from Minnesota)

The plan is to begin the season on the Vegas Golden Knights roster. Tuch believes he’s prepared for Vegas.

I’m confident in my abilities to make the team next season. I’m concentrating on being in the lineup for that season opener. I’m going to come into training camp and really show them what I’ve got. I’m excited to get going. -Tuch

Tuch is still on an entry-level contract so the organization has the power to option him to Chicago. However, team officials seem eager to get Tuch in the mix. Probably, one of the reasons the 21-year-old is in town this week.

They gave me the option, I thought it’d be a really good idea to go over there and get a lay of the land a little bit. I also want to help some of those draft picks that will be coming in. I think I can be a leader. -Tuch

It’s going to be a numbers game come October, and because the Golden Knights have the option to send him to the AHL, that’s what may wind up happening out of necessity rather than desire or skill. But, if he’s not on this one, expect to see Tuch on opening day rosters for years to come.

Reid Duke (Signed as free agent on March 6th)

Most entry-level free agents don’t have the same expectations high-round prospects do. Duke is different though. As we’ve mentioned before this team signed the former Wheat King for a reason. He was clearly one of the leaders on and off the ice at Development Camp and is spectacular with the media. Duke has done an excellent job handling the pressure of being the franchise’s first player. His letter to NHL prospects on NHL.com showed the confidence and intelligence scouts raved about. Making the Golden Knights this season would be major surprise. Duke will need a year or two to develop in the AHL but the organization will give him every opportunity to succeed. He’s a clear fan favorite, but he also seems to be an organizational favorite, and a guy they would like to see make it to the NHL in Vegas, if nothing more than to prove they were right for making him the historic first Golden Knight.

Cody Glass (Selected 6th overall in 2017 Draft)

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Development Camp Day One Interviews And Observations

The fist day of Development Camp is in the books and there were certainly some standouts. Here are our observations from the afternoon at the Las Vegas Ice Center.

  • Two players really stood out, one in each session. In the first session it was Alex Tuch. He looked like a man among boys on the ice. The other was Keegan Kolesar, the player acquired in the draft day trade with Columbus.
  • Reid Duke seemed to take on somewhat of a leadership role on the ice. It’s possible we made this up, but Jason and I both recognized it separately, so we are going with it.
  • None of the goalies really stood out. One in particular had a rough day, but I’m choosing not to say who it was because it was the first day of camp and that’s just mean.
  • Gallant’s role was somewhat secondary. Dave Prior did most of the coaching with the goalies, and Gallant stayed to the side until it was time to address the team in huddles.
  • The main focus from the management team, and specifically Wil Nichol, Director of Player Development, who said it in a media scrum, was to teach the players the culture of the Golden Knights. That mainly meant, take care of your business on the ice and get out in the community and be great people off the ice.
  • The Creator was present in the rink for the first half of the day before he took off for Montana. He was having a great time watching his players, talking to the media, and even taking some pictures with fans.
  • We spoke to a ton of players after the practice and there was a majorly positive attitude accross the board. All seemed to be pumped to be in Vegas, but even more so understood the expansion team likely offers them the most opporunity, and you could tell many expect to seize it.

Here’s our recap of a few players we were able to interview including Tuch, Kolesar, Duke, Nick Suzuki, and Jack Dugan.

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What To Watch For At Development Camp

For fans that plan to go down to the LV Ice Center this week, here’s what we’re watching for at Development Camp.

The first Golden Knight
It’s pretty clear Reid Duke is a fan favorite already. After a week of signing autographs and snapping fan selfies, the first Golden Knight will take the ice. This week, look for Duke’s all-around skill that got the attention of the Vegas scouts. It could be beneficial for fans to compare the skill of Duke with like Alex Tuch, Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki.

Alex “The Great” Tuch
Minnesota didn’t enjoy giving up Alex Tuch. And why would they? The Wild invested a first-round pick on him and waited while he developed in the NCAA. The New York native has the size and skill to be an effective NHL power-forward. Hockey Future’s highlights Tuch’s stick-handling, shot, speed and hockey IQ. McPhee passed on a known commodity, hopefully, doubtful fans will get to see why this week.

Three in the top 15
I’m most excited to see the first-round talents drafted by Vegas, Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, and Erik Brannstrom. All three are highly-regarded so their skill should be obvious to an idiot scout like myself. They’re young, incredibly talented but underdeveloped. It’ll be fun to watch them mature over the next few years.

Coaching
It should be the first chance we have to take a look Gerard Gallant’s coaching style. We aren’t sure how much it will be him taking the reigns or if he’ll let Rocky Thompson (Wolves), Phil Axtell (Mallards), or any of the other developmental coaches take control, but either way, the coaching is on display as much as the players are.

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Rookie Games Scheduled Against Kings

While we are still waiting on the finalization of the Golden Knights preseason schedule, another set of games just popped up that at least some of those under Vegas’ control will play in. 

LA Kings Insider has learned that the Los Angeles Kings will return to Toyota Sports Center to host the Vegas Golden Knights for a pair of rookie games in mid-September. –Jon Rosen, LA Kings Insider

These very well could be the first games ever to feature Golden Knights wearing Golden Knights jerseys. The two games are going to be played at the Toyota Sports Center, the Kings practice facility in El Segundo, California. 

Rookie games are common in the NHL and are usually stocked with a bunch of young players on training camp roster invites and/or AHL contacts. It will be interesting to see how many of these such players exist for the Golden Knights in year one as they’ll still be trying to figure out how to shuffle what ever is left from the Expansion Draft with their Entry Draft picks and players that acquire via trade between now and September. Non-roster invitees are likely to be somewhat of an after thought, but apparently not too much if these games have made it in to the schedule. 

No matter what the roster looks like, Vegas is on the schedule to play a pair of games in El Segundo against the Kings. I was originally thinking we would have to wait until the end of September to see the beginning of the Golden Knights domination of the Kings, guess now that domination will start with the Reid Duke captained Rookie VGKs. 

Roster Move All But Confirms Chicago Wolves As AHL Affiliate

The plan is still to wait until the Chicago Wolves season ends to make the announcement that the Golden Knights will become their new parent club, but sometimes hockey logistics get in the way of a good plan.

With Reid Duke’s WHL season ending last week, we have explored opportunities and options for him to play additional games this year. The Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League – who are currently the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues – agreed to take Reid on a professional tryout agreement. Reid will be available to play for Chicago beginning Friday. We are appreciative of the Wolves organization for affording Reid this opportunity, which will be beneficial for his development as a player -George McPhee in Press Release

Duke’s WHL season wrapped up on the 29th of March when the Wheaties were swept by the Medicine Hat Tigers. Duke scored three goals and racked up eight penalty minutes in the four game series.

But now, the 21 year old is left with no where to play. Normally, an undrafted free agent like Duke would find his way to the AHL or ECHL for the final few games of the season. If he’s promising enough, he may even find his way on to the NHL team. Well, Vegas doesn’t have any of those, so they had to find something to do.

It was originally reported back in January that the Golden Knights and Chicago Wolves were in discussions. Then in February a team source told us the deal is done but nothing could be confirmed until the AHL season ends. Finally, during George McPhee’s Q&A with the fans in March the GM confirmed Vegas would have complete hockey control over their AHL affiliate.

Add it all up, and this is not a favor the Chicago Wolves and St. Louis Blues are granted the Golden Knights. This is the first transaction Vegas is making with it’s AHL club… despite what the team says.

The Golden Knights AHL affiliation discussions are still ongoing. We will announce those details after the affiliation agreement has been finalized and confirmed. -McPhee in Press Release

This is a move any NHL club would make with their minor league affiliate, just Vegas has to call it something different… for now.

Another Side Of Reid Duke

Reid Duke has a good size chip on his shoulder after being drafted 169th overall in 2014 by the Minnesota Wild but not being offered a contract with the team. However, that chip pales in comparison to another event in Duke’s life which he had never talked about publicly until a recent interview with the Calgary Herald.

Engrossed in a period of deep concern over where his hockey career was going, Reid Duke received a phone call in the fall that would alter his life forever. It came five months ago Monday, with news his close uncle, Sheldon Reid, was one of four men who died in a plane crash that also killed former Alberta premier Jim Prentice. -Eric Francis, Calgary Herald

Duke’s uncle Sheldon was a major influence on his life as well as on his hockey development. Sheldon turned an old horse barn into a fully functional hockey rink in which Reid practiced hours a day growing up.

I spent thousands of hours there with my two brothers and Sheldon’s son, Dylan. It’s literally a horse barn. The Zamboni is parked in horse stalls, which is pretty cool. It’s just amazing the part he played in my life – he was a huge part of my career. -Reid Duke

His uncle was also crucial in motivating him to be the best hockey player he could possibly be.

He was such an amazing person. After that incident, it really made me focus on not taking anything for granted and really remembering everything he taught me and everything he would want for me. He wasn’t someone who would just come to hug and smile, he really, really pushed me, whether it was on or off the ice. -Duke

There’s no question the impact it had off the ice as during the media tour in Vegas, Duke found a way to work his family into answers to questions every time possible. He gave off a sense that it wasn’t just about him, it was about everyone who helped to get him to this point, especially his uncle, whom he never mentioned by name. I got that feel before knowing this story, now I really get it.

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If Nolan Patrick’s A Golden Knight, It’ll Be For Good Reason

Since the signing of Reid Duke, the entire Golden Knights fan base have been playing make-believe GM. The dream transaction almost every armchair general manager (including myself) wants to make, is drafting top rated prospect Nolan Patrick. By now, we’re all aware Nolan and Duke play together in Brandon, Manitoba. Patrick is currently projected first or second in most analysts mock drafts. Duke, who becomes the Golden Knights first signed player could also become the team’s first player ambassador.

Of course, we can’t expect Kelly McCrimmon to exchange all of his Brandon currency for Vegas gold but his influence could help. If he believes Patrick is worth trading future assets for, I’m sure his boss will listen. George McPhee wouldn’t just trade up for a splash, but we have to imagine McCrimmon’s opinion is heavily valued by the GM. Conspiracy nuts like myself and Alex Jones expect lottery shenanigans leading to Vegas magically getting the first pick, but the possibility of drafting four to six is real if the odds are legit.

McPhee will be having very serious conversations with all 30 GMs in the near future so he’ll know (he might already) what the price of moving up will be. Analysts like Craig Button and Bob McKenzie are both down on this year’s draft but that doesn’t mean a team will make trade-swapping easy on Vegas.

Now that we know the situation, we have to ask the obvious question, is trading up for Nolan Patrick is even worth it? The projected number one pick’s numbers are silly over the past three plus seasons in Brandon. In 28 games this season, the right-handed center has 42 points. Last year he posted 102 points in 72 games with a rating of +51. Out of Patrick’s 18 goals this season only a few are assisted by Duke. While both centers play many shifts on separate lines, they continuously show up together on Brandon’s lethal power play unit. The Wheat Kings are in the top half of the WHL, scoring 64 PP goals this season. Teaming up on special teams in Vegas could be one reason to reunite Duke and Patrick. 

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Interview: Reid Duke, First Golden Knights Player

The first player in franchise history, Reid Duke, was kind enough to lend us a few minutes to talk about his historic signing with the Vegas Golden Knights. The interview aired live on KXNT Radio as I (Ken Boehlke) filled in as the host of The Alan Stock Show.

Reid and I talked about his decision to come to Vegas, playing with Nolan Patrick, the media tour he’s been on, and played a quick game of trivia.

 

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