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Jake Sanderson signs with Ottawa Senators

The No. 5 overall pick of the 2020 NHL Draft will report to the NHL this week.

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Fighting Hawks defenseman Jake Sanderson skates to the blue line during player introductions prior to game one of the NCHC quarterfinals series against Colorado College at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday, March 11, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — Prior to Jake Sanderson, there was only one top-five NHL Draft pick in UND hockey history.

That was Jonathan Toews, who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks after two years at UND and went on to captain three Stanley Cup-winning teams and win two Olympic gold medals.

Sanderson's pro career also will begin after two years at UND.

The star defenseman from Whitefish, Mont., who had an injury-plagued sophomore campaign with the Fighting Hawks, signed a three-year contract with the Ottawa Senators on Sunday morning, as expected.

"Congrats Jake," UND coach Brad Berry wrote on Twitter. "Thank you for making a tremendous impact here with North Dakota Hockey. You will do great things in Ottawa."

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Sanderson, who will wear No. 85 for the Senators, will report to Ottawa on Monday. It is unclear whether he will be able to get in any NHL games this season after suffering a hand injury during a March 5 playoff game against Colorado College. The injury occurred when he dove into the crease to keep a puck out of the net and Tiger defenseman Bryan Yoon accidentally stepped on Sanderson's hand.

Sanderson had an operation the following week and missed both the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff and NCAA regional. UND was ousted Thursday night with a 2-1 overtime loss to Notre Dame.

Ottawa hoped to sign the No. 5 overall pick of the 2020 draft last offseason, but Sanderson opted to return for one more year of college hockey. When he was in the lineup, he was dazzling, tallying 26 points in 23 games.

But he was often sidelined. He missed two games due to the flu in November, two due to an injury in December, six due to the Olympic Games in February, four more due to an injury sustained at the Olympics and two postseason games due to the hand injury.

"We're very pleased to get Jake under contract," Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion said in a statement. "An important cog to our future on defense, Jake is an effortless skater who possesses all the tools to be a complete NHL defenseman. A mature leader despite his young age, he played big minutes in college with a blend of poise and confidence. While he still has progress to make in overcoming a current injury, we are hopeful of seeing him in our lineup before the end of the season."

There's a good chance that Sanderson will be the only defenseman UND has to replace off of its roster from this season.

The other seven — Tyler Kleven, Ethan Frisch Cooper Moore, Chris Jandric, Brent Johnson, Luke Bast and Brady Ferner — all have eligibility remaining.

None of the current commits appear ready to come in, so the Fighting Hawks will likely have to grab someone out of the NCAA transfer portal to fill Sanderson's roster spot.

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Sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson
Sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson stands for a portrait at Ralph Engelstad Arena during the UND hockey media day event on Wednesday, September 22, 2021.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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