WHITEFISH — Jake Sanderson was the first Montana native that was named team captain of the U.S National Junior Team; he also competed in this year's 2022 Olympics in Beijing. But he was just getting started. Sanderson added one more accolade recently, as he officially signed his entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators.
The contract is a three-year deal and ends Sanderson's college career after his sophomore season at the University of North Dakota.
"I think just a two-game schedule will probably be the most change. In college, you just play on the weekends, but obviously an NHL, you play every other game or every other day," said Sanderson. "So it'll be a really busy schedule and super taxing on the body, that's kind of something that I'll have to get used to, and I'm sure I will as the weeks and the months go on."
Sanderson played for the National Development team from 2018-2020 and said that's when he realized this dream he had could very much become a reality.
" I think when I played for the National Development team, that's kind of when I realized it was getting more serious, and there's probably a pretty good chance of that happening," said Sanderson. "Just with seeing some other guys that went through the same team and two years there and then two years at North Dakota, I don't think there's a specific time but just, you know, as I became more confident with myself, that's kind of what I realized."
And for as where Sanderson finds his confidence?
Sanderson said, "I think just with myself, just putting in the work every day. I'm confident about my preparation, how I go about my day, so just making sure I'm working hard every day."
Sanderson had to lean on confidence, as his USA hockey debut wasn't the easiest. He found out he had COVID-19 right before traveling to China and then he got injured in Team USA's game versus Canada.
"It was a difficult time for me just physically obviously getting injured but also mentally as well. Just getting COVID Right before at camp and traveling over by myself," said Sanderson.
"But once I got over there, I was just super relieved to play. That one game was pretty special, even to play against Team Canada too, another great team. So it was a really good game. It was really hard for me because I hadn't played hockey in like two weeks. Coming right off COVID, my lungs weren't quite there."
But now Sanderson is there and excited for this new chapter he's starting to write at just nineteen years old.
"Obviously, you really want to win as a team. But I think just the memories you make with your teammates and having the opportunity to play in the NHL is pretty special. I'm just being patient for when my time comes, but I'll be ready and super grateful," said Sanderson.