Calgary native Reid Duke
led Team White's stampede against Team Green by scoring twice in the 12 to 4 victory during Tuesday's Development Camp scrimmage.
Duke, who spent last season playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings, scored 20 goals and 51 points in 52 games in the Western Hockey League.
But, it's the other areas of Duke's game that the Wild asked him to focus on during the past week.
“He’s a highly skilled kid, and he always has been,” said Brad Bombardir, the Wild’s Director of Player Development, who coached Team Green against Duke and Team White. “[Duke] just has to play the game the right way in order to earn some of those opportunities.
“It’s funny, because we had a conversation with him this morning, me and [assistant general manager] Brent Flahr, and kind of talked about the things he has to do in order to allow those abilities to flourish.”
Part of Development Camp is instilling organizational philosophies — on and off the ice — into prospects. When it comes to the Minnesota Wild and Coach Mike Yeo, it means playing two-way hockey.
“When you’re on the ice twice a day and working and hanging out with pros and guys that you want to be on the team with in coming years, it’s huge,” Duke said.
That skill was on display when Duke broke a 1-1 tie in the second half of Tuesday's scrimmage. After defending a passing lane below his own goal, Duke sped through the neutral zone off the puck. He took a pass in full stride from defenseman Zach Palmquist, and scored on a breakaway with a snap shot to the glove side.
Duke waited for Team White to win the puck and control possession before exiting his zone, taking care of his defensive responsibilities first.
“When it comes to Mike Yeo and the way he coaches, we told [Duke] there’s no negotiation, and there’s a certain way you have to play away from the puck, and through bodies, and through battles,” Bombardir said. “He took it to heart, and I thought he played very well. He was very noticeable tonight. I was very impressed with him.”
Duke scored his second goal when he went one-on-one against defensemen Carson Soucy, working his way across the crease and roofing the puck over a prone Brody Hoffman to give Team White a 3-1 lead.
“I wanted to go through the legs, but it just got caught up there, and I saw it popped out again,” Duke said. “I tried to bounce on it as quick as I could and thankfully I grabbed the open corner there.”
Duke acknowledged his conversation with Bombardir and Flahr, and said he has room to grow as he returns to Brandon.
“I have to develop off the ice. One of the biggest gains you can make in hockey is developing lower-body strength,” Duke said. “You feel big on your home team, but once you’re coming up to the NHL, guys are a lot bigger. You have to develop in the gym, and you get some gains from that out on the ice.”