|“I just thought I was dreaming the whole time and even now,” said Sexton. “It’s still hard to believe. I’m trying to enjoy every second.” |
A few days before Dan Sexton
was called up to NHL a friend mentioned to the Minnesota native how nice it would be if he were playing with the Ducks when they visited the Wild on Friday.
After all, Minnesota is Sexton’s home state, and the right wing, then with Manitoba in the AHL, agreed it would be a heck of an opportunity. Little did he know that wish would soon by granted by a late night phone call from the Ducks.
At approximately 10 p.m. on Thursday when he was in Peoria, Illinois on the road with the Moose, Sexton picked up the phone to find out he was being brought up to the NHL for the first time. He was even more overcome with joy when he figured out that he would indeed be making his way to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul to play his first game for the Ducks.
“One of the first things that went through my mind was who they were going to playing the next day,” said Sexton, who was recalled after Teemu Selanne
fractured a bone in his left hand at Dallas. “I said ‘Okay, I hope this happens. And it did’”.
With little time to spare, he immediately phoned his parents to tell them the good news that he would be playing his first career game in Minnesota. “My dad and mom were really excited.” Sexton said. “They had a party they were going to go to that they had to blow off. The team quickly got four tickets for my mom, dad, sister and her boyfriend. That was nice.”
He got little sleep on Thursday night, a few hours at the most, before waking early for a 4 a.m. flight to begin the day he had long envisioned. Sexton let his friends know, but he was unable to get them tickets on short notice. When he came out for warm-ups, he was surprised to see how many of them turned out regardless.
“I saw a lot of people there that I didn’t talk to or say anything to,” Sexton said. “They gladly bought tickets. I really appreciate that. It’s pretty good friends to be able to do that. A lot of them came from two, three hours-plus away to be there, so it was really cool.”
|“Anaheim was first in my head,” said Sexton (right) of signing with the Ducks. “It never wavered for me. I just wanted to come here so bad. In the end, Anaheim was the best opportunity. It was hard to leave school, but easy to come to a place like this.” |
Against the Wild, Sexton played exactly 13 minutes on the team’s second forward line with Saku Koivu
and Bobby Ryan
. Though the Ducks would see a late two-goal lead slip away and lose 5-4 in a shootout, it’s a night the 22-year-old from Apple Valley, Minnesota (about 20 miles from St. Paul) will never forget.
“I just thought I was dreaming the whole time and even now,” he said. “It’s still hard to believe. I’m trying to enjoy every second.”
Last year at this time, being in an NHL lineup was far from Sexton’s mind. He was in the midst of the second of what he thought would be four seasons at Bowling Green University. But when his goal and point totals would continued to grow, so too would interest from the league in wanting to sign the undrafted player as a free agent.
“This time last year I had never talked to an NHL team,” said Sexton after Monday’s practice at Honda Center. “I was having a pretty good start to my year in college. I was really in the dark about everything, which was probably good for me because I didn’t worry about anything. Luckily enough, I had kind of dream year last year where a lot of things went right for me.”
In 38 games as a sophomore for the Falcons, he tallied 17 goals (fifth in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association) and 39 points (tied for fifth). He earned honorable mention honors from the CCHA at the completion of the season.
By that time, he had decided to hire an agent to gauge the league’s interest. One team in particular continued to peak Sexton’s curiosity throughout the process. “Anaheim was first in my head,” he said. “It never wavered for me. I just wanted to come here so bad. If you’re not drafted you can go anywhere as a free agent. In the end, Anaheim was the best opportunity. It was hard to leave school, but easy to come to a place like this.”
I was really excited to get here and try to contribute right away. I want to try to get better, learn more every day and develop as much as I can. I just feel really fortunate to be where I am now because I would have never seen it coming a year ago.” - Dan Sexton
Signed to a two-year entry-level deal on April 7, Sexton began his first professional season this year with Bakersfield of the ECHL. He flourished there with 13 goals and 26 points in 18 games before playing a five-game stint (one goal, three points) with Manitoba.
“It’s been a good little ladder process up to the NHL,” he said. “It was pretty necessary. Even though I didn’t want to be in the ECHL, at the time it was a blessing in disguise to be there and get my confidence up before I got thrown into the AHL. Who knows what would have happened? I might not be here if I didn’t take those steps.”
Now, he’s playing on a line with the veteran Koivu and 2008-09 Calder Trophy runner-up Ryan. The trio was active in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Senators with 10 of the team’s 36 shots. “We wanted to generate chances and we did everything but score,” Sexton said. “If we can keep doing that, they are going to start coming in bunches. That is when it will get even better.”
In the meantime, Sexton is doing his best to soak up as much knowledge from veterans around the room. He may not have ever thought this is the place he could be last December, but he hopes to make his mark now that it’s become a reality.
“Overall, it’s been good so far,” Sexton said. “I was really excited to get here and try to contribute right away. I want to try to get better, learn more every day and develop as much as I can. I just feel really fortunate to be where I am now because I would have never seen it coming a year ago.”