Reid Duke’s season went sideways at last year’s rookie camp.
The 22-year-old forward, once the lone Golden Knight, hurt his shoulder in a scrimmage against the Los Angeles Kings last September and had surgery in October. Now he’s back, and the team’s first player to be signed is taking on a leadership role ahead of the Vegas Rookie Faceoff.
“Everything’s healed, ready to go. I’m excited to be healthy this time around,” Duke said. “I want to open some eyes. I want to play fast, lead this group. Obviously, there’s a couple openings on the Knights’ roster, so I figure anything’s possible right now.”
Knights director of player development Wil Nichol mentioned Duke as one of a few players who have set the tone for rookie camp, and it showed on the ice. After practice Duke stretched in the middle of the center circle with his teammates all around him and named the three stars of the day.
Defenseman Dylan Coghlan was given the first star, and as a “reward” he had to skate a lap in front of all his teammates.
“It’s kind of a new tradition,” Duke said. “I gave him the hot lap to start, but I’m sure he’ll get something on me and I’ll probably be doing that lap next practice.”
If Duke does do the lap it at least means he’s back on the ice after his injury and surgery limited him to 16 games last season with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves. He didn’t score a point in those games, but admitted he had mental hurdles to clear after his physical ones.
“You kind of know in the back of your mind that maybe it’s not quite healed yet,” Duke said. “There’s a big mental side of it, just to trust yourself that you can take those hits and make hard plays. It took some time.”
Now that his shoulder is right he’s out to prove he can score like he did in 2016-17, when he had 71 points in 59 games for the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings.
“It’s nice to be playing some hockey, finally,” Duke said.
Two of the Knights’ three 2017 first-round picks, Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki, skated together at rookie camp practice Friday with Glass at center and Suzuki at wing. The two were joined by fellow 2017 third-round selection defenseman Erik Brannstrom on the team’s first power-play unit along with forwards Lucas Elvenes and Keegan Kolesar.
One Las Vegas store isn’t taking defenseman Nate Schmidt’s 20-game suspension lying down.
Store702, which sells Golden Knights-themed apparel, came out with a shirt that features Schmidt’s face with a banner that says “#FREENATE.” The shirts are available online or at Store702’s location on Eastern Avenue.