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Golden Knights open first development camp

Vegas gets one step closer with 44 players taking ice for practice

by Mike Cranston / NHL.com Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- The significance of the moment was not lost on Vegas Golden Knights first-round draft pick Nick Suzuki. 

"We're the first people to step on the ice for this franchise," Suzuki said Tuesday. "It's pretty special."

Minutes later, Suzuki and his teammates huddled around the staff that included coach Gerard Gallant before the first development camp in Golden Knights history got underway with skating drills.

"Goosebumps," said Wil Nichol, the Golden Knights' director of player development, who noted that when he was hired last August, they didn't own any pucks. "What we've accomplished as a staff to get to this point, you can't help but be so excited, so proud." 

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: Mark It Down: On June 27, for the first time in team history, Golden Knights players skate on Vegas ice wearing our team's logo. pic.twitter.com/wy6d9IcY3N

Meanwhile, owner Bill Foley couldn't stop smiling. He beamed while he watched from one of the benches. He grinned while he talked to fans and friends, watching the workout through the glass at Las Vegas Ice Center. 

Foley's vision for hockey in the desert was realized a year ago when he was awarded the NHL's 31st franchise. And before the first group of players with the logo took the ice, he had a message for the 44 players taking part in the camp. 

"He just wanted to talk about what the Golden Knights represented," said Alex Tuch, acquired from the Minnesota Wild in a trade during the NHL Expansion Draft last week. "They go into battle and they battle hard and they battle together and they're kind of the epitome of a warrior. That's the theme he wanted to give to us."

Tuch was named captain of the one of the two squads. The 21-year-old played in six games for the Wild this season, so he counted as an older, experienced veteran at the camp that included all 12 of the Golden Knights' selections at the 2017 NHL Draft. 

"I chose to come to development camp for a reason. They're not going to have a lot of draft picks, so they maybe need a little bit of a veteran presence," Tuch said. "I wanted to come in here and kind of show them how a pro hockey player carries himself and plays the game. Also off the ice, with community service, that was great today."

The day began with off-ice testing. Then, some players took part in preparing a meal for those in need through Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. Then they hit the ice, split in two groups, for a workout that included shooting drills. 

Reid Duke, who was the first player signed in Golden Knights history in March, took a moment during a break in the first workout to greet Foley. 

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: Golden Knights scoring goals������ pic.twitter.com/RhkAvhAuhf

"That guy is such a presence. All these guys, they mean business," Duke said. "They're not here just for a media stunt or just to get some notoriety. They're serious and they're not messing around. I know and trust that anything they're a part of is going to be great."

The plan is for the Golden Knights to be competitive immediately, with a slew of future draft picks acquired during the expansion draft helping them eventually become a Stanley Cup contender. 

The camp ends with a scrimmage on Saturday. 

"There are a lot of good players out here," said Suzuki, the 13th player selected at this year's draft. "We're all just getting our first taste in Vegas and we're all going through the same thing."

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