The National Hockey League's expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, has added the first player to their roster, signing 21-year-old free agent Reid Duke to an entry-level contract.
Duke is no stranger to Golden Knights assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon, given that Duke has played for the past three seasons for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League -- a team long coached and managed by McCrimmon before he left last offseason to join the Golden Knights in Las Vegas.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 6, 2017
The Golden Knights last week achieved official team status by making their final expansion fee payment to the NHL, allowing them to start signing college or, in the case of Duke, junior free agents.
Duke was originally drafted by the Minnesota Wild with the 169th overall pick in 2014.
But the Wild chose not to sign Duke, a Calgary native, to an entry-level deal before last June's draft, so Duke was eligible to re-enter the draft. He was not selected, however, which made him available as a free agent.
McCrimmon said via the team's Twitter account Monday that they believe Duke's game will continue to evolve once he leaves the junior ranks.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Duke has a high skill level but also plays "a big, strong, heavy game," McCrimmon was quoted as saying.
"We believe he's going to be an NHL player," added McCrimmon, who continues to have an ownership stake in the Brandon franchise.
Duke, a center, will finish out the season with the Wheat Kings. He's scored 35 times and has 67 points in 54 games for Brandon this season. He's expected to join the Golden Knights at their first development camp, which will likely be held after the draft in late June or early July.