While I still believe that Reid Duke will eventually play a key role as a forward for the Chicago Wolves, perhaps the 21-year-old deserves a pass if his first four games in professional hockey haven’t been anything to write home about. Duke has the skillset to be a game changer, and at some point his talent will be on full display. But after missing more than five months with a shoulder injury, it’s only normal that it’s been an adjustment period since his return.
Following the Wolves 2-1 overtime loss to the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday afternoon at Allstate Arena, head coach Rocky Thompson addressed Duke’s play since coming back from a long absence.
“Let’s not forget, Reid was out for a long time, and it’s going to take a bit of time for him to get some of the rust off. That’s only normal. But I thought today was one of his better games,” coach Thompson said of the Calgary, Alberta native.
As a junior player for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, Duke registered 254 points in 311 games, so there is good reason to believe that his soft hands and quick wrist shot will eventually translate into offensive production at the pro level.
While Duke has yet to record a point with the Wolves, and has a plus/minus differential of negative three, it is important to recognize that he is competing with and against players who are in midseason stride.
But fortunately for the Wolves, Duke exhibits speed and elite level skill when the puck is on his stick. Look for him to gradually improve game by game in terms of his execution and confidence.
By the time the playoffs roll around, look for Duke to be a top-six forward for the Wolves. The combination of his ability to finish off plays, and T.J. Tynan’s playmaking skills could potentially be a dynamic duo for head coach Rocky Thompson’s hockey club.