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Reid Duke's Change of Scenery Gives Wild Fans Hope

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When you Google the name Reid Duke, you end up with a 25 year old champion. However that Reid Duke is the champion of Magic the Gathering and not the player that lands at number 18 on the Hockey Wilderness Top 25 Under 25 rankings list.

Reid Duke was drafted by the Wild in the 6th round (169th overall)  in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Born in Calgary, Alberta, the 6-foot tall center is a big scorer in the Western Hockey League. He scored 15 goals and 25 assists (40 points) in 62 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in his draft year. After getting traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings (which is the biggest story line with Duke, and we'll get to that in a minute) he scored nearly a point per game and cracked the 20 goal mark.

In the prospect development camp last year, he and fellow 2014 draftee Chase Lang, got in to a bit of a scrap. His fearlessness, toughness, and ability to go to the tough areas of the ice to score is a reason to like him. In the 2015 edition of the prospect development camp scrimmages, Duke was noticeable all over the ice. In scrimmage number two, he was a post away from netting a hat trick while displaying really good speed all over the ice. It was his performance in the PDC that caused me to slightly over-react and rank him way, way higher than 18.

Duke stood out on a terrible Lethbridge team. The Hurricanes were the worst team in the league. Dukes 40 points were nothing to save his plus/minus which was an awful -43. After getting sent back to juniors by the Wild, he played all of one game with the Hurricanes - they lost 9 - 2. He would get traded to the Wheat Kings, a team that is in the upper-echelon of the WHL year after year, and Duke was manning the second line. He played 52 games, scored 51 points, and played in six playoff games for the Wheat Kings.

Here's what some scouts had to say about Reid Duke:

Duke is a spark plug-type forward who likes handling the puck and using his good wheels through the neutral zone. He followed the play back to his own zone, showing a noticeable commitment to the defensive zone. Duke is a solid player overall who showed he is a versatile offensive threat and can succeed at a high tempo. Many would have liked to see him manufacture a little bit more offense and play with a tad bit more patience for opportunities to arise.   - Future Considerations

Expectations were extremely for high for Duke as he joined the WHL and while he has yet to live up to the hype, he has been stuck on bad teams in Lethbridge for his career so far. His potential is strong but his development has plateaued slightly because of his situation. Duke has electrifying speed and skill around the puck and can think the game well enough offensively but is not big and needs to improve his overall strength to win more battles for the contested and dangerous areas of the ice. His skating gives him appeal for the next level regardless of his output and in the right situation Duke’s talents could certainly be cultivated into meeting the expectations that he encountered when he started at this level.  - ISS Hockey

A change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered for Duke and his development shouldn't plateau now that he is playing with better linemates and doesn't have to carry his team.