WHITEFISH — Whitefish's Jake Sanderson was selected fifth overall in the 2020 NHL draft by the Ottawa Senators . However this year's accolade is not just impressive but historic as he accepted his invitation to join the 2022 U.S. men's hockey team in the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics. Sanderson, along with Brock Faber and Maddie Beniers, will become the first teenagers to play for the United States in thirty years.
"It was after the World Junior tournament was canceled. And John Vanbiesbrouck the general manager was there with us in Red Deer and he pulled aside, myself, Brock Fabor and Matty Beniers just the three of us and he told us," said Jake Sanderson. "We were just like jumping around hugging each other were super excited."
Although this honor may seem intimidating, Sanderson was a part of of the gold medal U.S. team at the 2021 World Junior Championships and says that experience has helped him with the enormity of this one.
“Cole Caufield, Zegrass, Cam York like all those guys handled the media really well and they're pretty mature guys. So kind of just looking up to them as leaders kind of helped shape who I am as a leader today,” said Sanderson.
Leadership and work ethic is something that has been instilled in Sanderson from a young age. His dad Geoff Sanderson was drafted 36th overall by the Hartford Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes) in the 1990 NHL draft and played for the league for 17 years.
"My dad obviously played hockey for a really long time. So I think just looking up to them and you know how they raised me and my brothers. I just looked up to them a lot. How they're always positive throughout the day."
MTN asked Sanderson if he could believe this is now his life and he answered, "I still can not believe it. The people that invested time in me to help my dreams come true. I think the least that I can do is just give my hardest every single day and help put Whitefish on the map."
When Sanderson was then asked what he hopes every young boy and girl see when they look at him representing his country he said "I think just believe obviously, I came from a really small town and I moved a lot when I was younger but I think if you just believe and you put in that work, anything can happen."