Dan Sexton grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, less than a half hour from the Xcel Energy Center. What better place to make his NHL debut on Friday night in an Anaheim Ducks uniform?
“It was pretty special,” Sexton said. “Getting called up is unbelievable, but to be in your hometown you feel like it’s just a dream to be honest. I was really excited to come here and, you know, just kinda get the game going. I was pretty nervous up until the game started and then I started to calm down a little bit. It was definitely special and I had a lot of friends and family here. A lot of them haven’t seen me play in a long time so it was pretty cool.”
Sexton played on a line with Saku Koivu and Bobby Ryan, effectively stepping right into the right-wing vacancy created by Teemu Selanne’s broken hand. Selanne returned to Orange County to have surgery on the hand, and he is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks.
So, depending on how he performs, Sexton could be here a while.
Since being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Bowling Green over the summer, the 22-year-old has risen rapidly through the Ducks’ system. He began the year with ECHL Bakersfield, as did almost all the Ducks’ minor-leaguers, who have been forced to live without an American Hockey League affiliate this season.
By posting 13 goals and 26 points in 18 games, Sexton led the Bakersfield Condors in scoring and was the runner-up for the ECHL’s Rookie of the Month award in November. That earned him a call-up to the AHL with the Manitoba Moose, where he quickly acclimated himself with points in each of his first two games.
After five games in Winnipeg, he got the call late Thursday.
“It was at about 10 o’clock at night and then I just kind of thought to myself, oh wow, it’s going to be in Minnesota if I get called up, and I did,” Sexton recalled. “It was just crazy. I called some people and word spread pretty fast and I had a lot of friends here and it was pretty cool seeing them in warm-ups and stuff and it was pretty cool.
“It would have been nice to get the win, but it was still a good experience for me.”
In addition to the pace of the NHL game, the speedy winger will have to adjust to the crowds in Anaheim; the Wild literally sell out every home game despite the team’s struggles. As if there were any lingering questions about how crazy Minnesotans are for their hockey …
“My mom was crying and stuff when they found out, but I haven’t seen them,” Sexton said following the game. “I’ll probably see them right after here. My dad and mom were big supporters of me my whole life growing up, so it’s pretty cool to share it with them and give back for everything they’ve done for me.”