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Walker Duehr becomes first South Dakota-born player to score in NHL

The 25-year-old was already the first South Dakotan to play in the NHL after his 2021 debut.

NHL: Calgary Flames at St. Louis Blues
Calgary Flames right wing Walker Duehr (71) is congratulated by defenseman Chris Tanev (8) after scoring his first career NHL goal against the St. Louis Blues on on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, during the second period at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo.
Jeff Curry / USA Today Sports

ST. LOUIS — Sioux Falls native Walker Duehr scored his first NHL goal on Thursday, Jan. 12 for the Calgary Flames, becoming the first South Dakota-born player to score at hockey's highest level.

The 25-year-old was already the first South Dakota-born player to play in the NHL. Thursday's game, a 4-1 win over the Blues, was Duehr's third game in the NHL since making his debut on Nov. 14, 2021 with the Flames.

Duehr, a right winger, has played most of his hockey in the American Hockey League over the past two seasons in the Flames' minor-league system. In college, he played four seasons at Minnesota State in Mankato, and signed a professional contract at the end of the Mavericks' season in April 2021. He also played three seasons in the USHL playing for Sioux City, Tri-City (Neb.), Chicago and the Bloomington Thunder, a former team based in Bloomington, Ill.

On Thursday night, Duehr generated two-on-one rushes on consecutive shifts. He rushed up right wing on both plays and he converted the second — off Nazem Kadri's cross-ice pass — to put Calgary ahead 1-0 with his first NHL goal.

His parents, Victoria and Neil, made the nine-hour trip from Sioux Falls to St. Louis for his call-up on Tuesday, when the Flames also played the Blues. He then cashed in on his first goal Thursday.

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"From going from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and then he left and went through so many different teams, and then for him to have the opportunity — finally — in the NHL, it's just unreal," Duehr's mother, Victoria, told the team's website on Tuesday.

"There's a lot people in the hockey community that known about Walker and I think they're pretty proud and pretty happy," added his father, Neil. "He's a role model for a lot of kids in South Dakota that this is doable. You've just got to keep working."

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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