Reid Duke has waited patiently for an opportunity to play in the NHL. After making history Monday, he now may have a chance to make that happen.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play next season, made the right wing from Brandon of the Western Hockey League the first player in their history when they signed the 21-year-old to a three-year, entry-level contract.
"I'm so thrilled," he told NHL.com. "I'm pretty speechless right now. I signed the contract with [Knights assistant general manager] Kelly McCrimmon. [McCrimmon] has been so instrumental in my career, beginning with bringing me over here to Brandon in 2014. I owe him so much. He's been a big part of my life, and I'm happy to share this moment with him."
McCrimmon has been the owner of Brandon since 1992-93, and served as GM and coach from 1989-90 until Aug. 2, when he was hired by Vegas.
"Reid embodies what the Vegas Golden Knights stand for," general manager George McPhee said. "He's talented, he's a man of character and he never gives up.
"This was just a matter of being able to get a deal done with a young man we've been following for a year, and when it was done, we were ready to announce it. We're delighted he's actually the first guy. He embodies everything that we want in hockey players and sets a great example for all the other young men who are going to sign."
Duke (6-foot, 192 pounds) was a sixth-round pick (No. 169) of the Minnesota Wild in the 2014 NHL Draft but never signed with them. He skated with the New York Rangers at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in Michigan in September, and also attended development camp with the Montreal Canadiens.
He has 250 points (113 goals, 137 assists) in 306 WHL games with Lethbridge and Brandon.
"It's tough, coming in as a free agent, because things are much harder sometimes that way," Duke said. "But looking at it now, it was such a blessing in disguise for everything to work out as it has here in the last little while. I'm so thankful for the opportunity that Vegas has given me and excited to move forward with them."
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