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Reid Duke, the first Golden Knights player, looking for fast start with Wolves

Reid Duke was signed by the Vegas Golden Knights with a lot of fanfare. On March 6, 2017, he became the first player in franchise history to sign a three-year entry-level deal.

But any realistic hopes of playing in Vegas during the Golden Knights’ inaugural season were shattered when Duke underwent surgery on his left shoulder last October to repair an injury he suffered in rookie camp a couple weeks earlier. He returned in March to play in 14 regular-season games and two playoff games for the Wolves, but Duke didn’t envision beginning his professional career with a shortened season.

Duke, however, took positives from his downtime. He watched “a lot of hockey” and saw how fast the Golden Knights play. He also witnessed the implementation of coach Gerard Gallant’s system, which brought the Golden Knights to the brink of a Stanley Cup.

“It was difficult at the beginning. After signing, I wanted to do everything I could to give myself the best opportunity come fall,” Duke said. “To start off with an injury like that, it was pretty disheartening. But it was kind of a blessing in disguise, I feel, because I got the opportunity to be in Vegas for the rehab and got the chance to watch the big club and just learn a lot from them and be around the guys.”

The Wolves' Reid Duke prepares for a faceoff during a game earlier this season in Rosemont. | Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

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This season, the 22-year-old forward is applying those lessons with the Wolves. Duke has three goals and an assist in helping the Wolves to a 4-0 start. He is thriving in a system that closely mirrors what the Golden Knights are using.

“After learning that last year, that was one of my biggest focuses this past offseason, just to get that extra step and that quickness,” Duke said. “After watching them play, I knew I needed to add that aspect of my game, or at least improve on it.”

Playing fast would help Duke stand out on what looks like a talented Wolves team. It also would assist him in the eyes of a Golden Knights organization that already has high expectations.

“Everybody’s pushing to get to that next level in Vegas. That’s where we all want to be,” Duke said. “If I just keep applying everything that I’ve learned, I think that I’m going to get my opportunities and just do the best that I can down here, and hopefully I’ll be called up. That’s the main goal in the end.”