Sports

Ottawa Senators Draft Whitefish Native Jake Sanderson

University of North Dakota defenseman played for Glacier Hockey Association, U18 national team

The Ottawa Senators selected defenseman Jake Sanderson with the fifth overall pick on Tuesday night in the NHL Draft, which was conducted virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Whitefish native and University of North Dakota freshman entered the draft ranked as the fourth-best North American skater. He was the first collegiate player, American and defenseman selected in this year’s draft. He is the second Montana-born player to be drafted by a NHL team, after Bigfork native Bill Lindsay was a fifth-round selection by Quebec in 1991.

“I was just really excited to spend the moment with my brother and my parents,” Sanderson said in a UND press release. “I am just so excited and pumped up right now.”

The 6-foot, 185-pound defenseman played for the U.S. Under 18 National Development Team Program in Plymouth, Michigan, where he was team captain and played in 47 games, finishing with 29 points, the most among all blueliners.

Growing up, Sanderson played hockey as a member of the Glacier Hockey Association (GHA) through the Peewee level. He comes from a family steeped in hockey tradition — his father, Geoff, played 17 seasons in the NHL and two cousins also played in the league.

“We’re super proud of Jake; he’s an outstanding person and a very hard worker,” GHA President Clint Muhlfeld said. “It just goes to show how far along hockey has come in Montana that we’re now able to produce hockey players that can compete at very high levels.”

Muhlfeld added that Sanderson was recently training in Whitefish and was able to spend time interacting with younger players, which is “very rewarding from a youth hockey perspective.”

“These kids have a great role model to aspire to, and it’s a realistic goal,” Muhlfeld said. “They can go to college and play in the NHL — it’s really inspiring for our players and the overall hockey community.”

Sanderson will spend the 2020-21 season playing for the UND Fighting Hawks.

The NHL draft was initially scheduled to be held in Montreal the last weekend of June, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Stanley Cup playoff tournament, originally scheduled in April, was also pushed back to the fall after the regular season was suspended on March 12.

The Senators did not qualify for the playoffs this season. Ottawa’s last postseason appearance was in 2017, when the Senators fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Finals.