BostonBruins.com — Nearly five years ago, Ben Sexton got a call from the Boston Bruins after he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 Entry Draft.
Last month, he got another call — this one saying he was officially a member of the Black & Gold.
On March 20, the B’s announced that they had signed Sexton to an entry-level contract, and since then, his life has been nothing short of a whirlwind.
“[I was] finishing up my college career at school, and then I signed my first professional contract, which was obviously exciting for me and my family, and hopefully this is just the beginning,” Sexton said as he and his fellow P-Bruins finished up practice this week in preparation for a final playoff push. “I’ve got a lot of hard work in between now and [becoming a Bruin] — I was just fortunate enough that the Bruins gave me an opportunity.”
Hard work and resilience define Sexton’s game. He played four years at Clarkson University, appearing in 102 games and battling through injuries throughout his career to remain an integral part of the team. He missed eight games as a junior but still managed to to finish the season tied for second on the team in scoring with 20 points.
At the end of that season, he was named the recipient of the Ironman Award, given to the player who most demonstrates the will and determination to overcome injuries and contribute to the team.
“Injuries are part of the game, and when you miss time like I did, it makes you realize how much you do love the game and how much you really want it,” Sexton said. “Hopefully in hindsight, it’s just a little blip in the road, and I’ve recovered well from all of [the injuries] and I came back stronger.”
Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney said that Sexton’s tenacity in the face of adversity is one of the biggest reasons he has been able to be successful.
“Ben has certainly had his fair share of injuries and setbacks over the past four years, but he is the type of kid that responds to a challenge rather than pick up his toys and go home,” he said. “An example was how hard he worked hard this past summer to get his knee back to full strength as he made several trips, on his own accord, to see the right doctors and physiotherapist.”
“Ben is a lead-by-example type player that will also grab a teammate and hold him to a higher standard.”
Even when he hasn’t been on the ice, Sexton has taken pride in his ability to lead by example, and that didn’t go unnoticed by his coaches: He was named a team captain in both his junior and senior seasons at Clarkson.
This season, Sexton played in 35 games, tallying six goals and a team-best 22 helpers with a plus-five rating. In this year’s ECAC Tournament, he finished with five assists in six games.
Even now that Sexton might be one of the newest guys in Providence’s dressing room, but he still plans to bring that leadership and prove, through his work ethic, that his style is one worth emulating.
“At the end of the day, I’m always going to work hard, and anyone that knows me knows that,” Sexton said. “I’m someone that will come to the rink every day and do my best to help in any way that I can. I’m a younger guy here, so I’m just trying to show the older guys that I’m willing to put in the time to be successful.”
Leading by example is something Sexton has seen, and admired, in a current Bruin — a very well-known Bruin who most would agree is worth emulating.
“I think everyone kind of looks up to a guy like Patrice Bergeron — just the way he carries himself on and off the ice and his work ethic,” Sexton said. “And his attention to detail at both ends of the ice is something very admirable.”
Still, there’s another player currently sporting the Spoked-B that Sexton is often compared to, and all you have to do is look at Sexton’s work ethic, his compete level and his 214 penalty minutes over four years at Clarkson to figure out who it is.
“Anytime you get to be compared to a guy like Gregory Campbell — everyone knows his work ethic and what he brings to the Bruins,” Sexton said. “It’s obviously a nice compliment. I’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then in order to be like a guy like Gregory Campbell, but you know, he is a good comparison.”
“He’s very good on faceoffs, he’s a guy who plays hard at both ends of the ice, he brings it every night. he competes hard, he finishes checks, and he’s good in the D zone, so hopefully one day, I can be like Gregory.”
Sweeney said he sees a lot of Campbell’s toughness in Sexton, a player who will lay it all on the line to make a play.
“Ben comes across as a quiet, reserved kid off the ice, but once he laces up the skates, he becomes this intense, hard-nosed player with a warrior mentality,” Sweeney said. “He will simply try and do whatever the situation calls to help his team win a game.”
Throughout his first handful of games with the P-Bruins, Sexton has already made an impact, netting a goal and registering four penalty minutes in four games. At the moment, though, Sexton’s focus is on improving his skating and adjusting to the quicker pace of the professional game.
“Ben has stepped in to the Providence lineup, in a playoff race atmosphere, and has laid down to block shots, won key faceoffs and chipped in with his first professional goal,” Sweeney said. “As all young players must do, he is still adjusting to the pace and demands of three games in three days at the AHL level, but whatever you ask of Ben, he will do to the nth degree to try and win.”
“The biggest thing for me is just continuing to focus on my skating and trying to get better every day,” Sexton added. “It’s getting a little bit quicker out there — the pace of play here is a little bit faster, and anything that I can do in the offseason or during the season, I’m obviously looking to try to help with that.”