March 6, 2017
By Taylor Rocca
Trivial Pursuit aficionados take note – Reid Duke is the first player in franchise history to sign with the NHL’s expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
Duke, the 21-year-old Brandon Wheat Kings star and product of Calgary, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the expansion Golden Knights as announced by Vegas general manager George McPhee Monday morning.
There is a serious degree of familiarity for both sides involved in this deal. As head coach and general manager of the Wheat Kings, Golden Knights assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon traded for and coached Duke for the better part of two seasons.
“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,” McCrimmon told Dan Marrazza of NHL.com.
“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.
“It’s real exciting for us to be bringing Reid into the Golden Knights organization.”
Duke has established himself as one of the premier overage goal-scorers in the WHL during the 2016-17 campaign, registering 35 goals to go alongside 67 total points in 54 outings with the Wheat Kings. Over a five-year WHL journey, the 6-foot, 192-pound forward has logged 250 points (113G-137A) in 306 career WHL regular season contests.
“Obviously, I have a connection to Reid, an affiliation with Reid,” McCrimmon said. “But Reid’s a player that was identified by Wil Nichol (Golden Knights director of player development). Wil was really the guy that was eager to continue evaluating Reid over the course of the season.”
On top of his strong regular season numbers, the former Lethbridge Hurricane has stacked up 25 points (8G17A) in 27 career WHL post-season contests, culminating with 24 points (8G-16A) in 21 games during the 2016 WHL Playoffs as the Wheat Kings were crowned Ed Chynoweth Cup champions under the tutelage of McCrimmon.
McCrimmon, who owns the Wheat Kings and remains involved as governor after being hired by the Golden Knights in August 2016, brought Duke to Brandon via a blockbuster deal with the Lethbridge Hurricanes back in September 2014.
Drafted fifth overall by the ‘Canes at the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, Duke began his WHL career by posting 25 goals and 70 points over 132 games with Lethbridge.
On Sept. 30, 2014, McCrimmon went out and acquired Duke along with defenceman Macoy Erkamps and prospect forward Tak Anholt from the Hurricanes in exchange for defenceman Kord Pankewicz and forwards Brett Kitt and Ryley Lindgren.
Since then, Duke has enjoyed a solid career in southern Manitoba, notching 88 goals and 180 points in 184 career regular season contests with the Wheat Kings.
This isn’t the first time NHL scouts have noted Duke’s potential.
Back in 2014, the native Calgarian was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the sixth round (169th) of the NHL Draft, but eventually went unsigned.
The Golden Knights were unveiled as the NHL’s 31st franchise earlier this season but officially joined the NHL’s ranks on March 1 when the organization’s final expansion payment was received by the NHL.
At that moment, the franchise was permitted to begin signing players.
The Vegas Golden Knights will begin play in the NHL’s Pacific Division at the start of the 2017-18 season.
Duke is in his overage junior season and will graduate from the WHL at the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign.