Calder Watch: Rookies under the radar 

December, 9, 2009

For one night, at least, Apple Valley, Minn.'s own Dan Sexton was a pretty mighty Duck. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Sexton, playing in just his third NHL game, scored a pair of third period goals -- including the tying tally with just 62 seconds left in regulation -- to help the Anaheim Ducks to a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win against the Dallas Stars at Honda Center on Tuesday night.

Sexton, 22, made an interesting journey to his big night. The former Bowling Green sniper started the season with Bakersfield of the ECHL. After tallying 26 points in 18 games, Sexton was assigned to Manitoba in the AHL. He barely got to look around Winnipeg, playing in just five games (posting three points), before getting a ticket to Anaheim due to Teemu Selanne's hand injury.

After his stunning performance against the Stars, Sexton -- who looks more like a high school senior than an NHL player -- was understandably jacked up.

"I'd say it was probably the coolest feeling," Sexton told the attending media. "Take my coolest previous feeling and multiply it by 10, if not more. That's what it was."

You've got to love that! And, you have to be pretty juiced for the kid.

Can he do it again? Can he keep a job in the NHL? Who knows!

But, on Tuesday night, he scored two really important goals for a struggling team. It'll be interesting to see if the Ducks can use the huge comeback win as a springboard for a hot run. Either way, nice job, Danny!

Now, let me segue from an unheard of rookie to an eight-pack of slightly more heralded freshman. They're not the big names guys like John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene. These rooks are flying below the radar as they try to make their way against the big boys, but they've been giving their teams some quality minutes in the process.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.