Jake Sanderson expected to be in Montreal for this year's NHL Draft.

He was going to spend a couple of June days in the city with his family, go to the Bell Centre for the event, walk across the big stage under the bright lights, receive a jersey and pose for pictures with an NHL franchise after becoming a first-round pick.

It won't happen that way.

The coronavirus pandemic shifted it to a virtual event that will take place Tuesday and Wednesday.

But UND is doing everything it can to make sure his draft experience -- and that of fellow freshman defensemen Tyler Kleven and Mitchell Miller -- will be a memorable one.

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"Part of the draft experience is going to a destination city with your family and making a day or two out of it," UND coach Brad Berry said. "It's a neat experience for players and families to do that. Obviously, this year is obscure and things aren't normal. We just want to make it a great experience within our home. Nobody can go to Montreal, but it's a situation where they can experience it with their families.

"We've been going through our compliance department, (athletic director) Bill Chaves and (Ralph Engelstad Arena general manager) Jody Hodgson to see what we can do. What we want to try to do is give them what they could have experienced in Montreal, only at The Ralph. I think we're going to have a pretty special night (Tuesday) and a pretty special day all day Wednesday."

Sanderson is expected to be picked in the top 15 and become one of the highest-drafted players all-time at UND.

The only nine UND players have gone in the top 15 in program history: Jonathan Toews (No. 3, 2006), Jason Herter (No. 8, 1989), James Patrick (No. 9, 1981), John Marks (No. 9, 1968), Brian Lee (No. 9, 2005), Tyson Jost (No. 10, 2016), Drew Stafford (No. 13, 2004), Roger Bamburak (No. 14, 1963) and Derek Forbort (No. 15, 2010).

Most of them experienced their draft days in person.

Sanderson's day will be quite different, beginning with a 9:30 a.m. practice in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

How draft day will play out

In some respects, Sanderson's experience has already started.

The NHL mailed him a box with hats for all 31 teams, so he can slip the right one on after he gets picked. Sanderson spent Sunday night in his Walsh Hall dorm room taking the hats out of their plastic coverings and peeling off the stickers.

Then, he contacted one of his professors to ask for an excused absence from his late-afternoon Tuesday class, which was scheduled to run up to the draft. Sanderson said his professor was very understanding.

Sanderson's parents, Geoff and Ellen, will be driving from Calgary to Grand Forks in order to be with him on draft day. His older brother, Ben, a student at Montana State University, also will be in Grand Forks.

Kleven's family will be present, too. Although he's projected to go on Day 2, there's a chance he could sneak into the end of the first round. Miller's family is driving from Ohio and will be there in time for Day 2, when he's expected to be picked.

Ralph Engelstad Arena will be their stage.

Arena workers lowered the year-old center-hung scoreboard, which is the largest in college hockey, and will broadcast the draft on it.

Each family will be assigned their own suite (making sure social distancing is involved) and they'll watch the event from there.

Working with TV networks

UND sports information director Mitch Wigness and Ralph Engelstad Arena's David Folske worked with the TV networks -- NHL Network will produce a feed for NBC Sports in the United States and Sportsnet in Canada -- so they can get live shots of the players.

Folske removed the wide-angle lens cameras from behind the basketball backboards in the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center and attached them to the front of the suites, so the networks will be able to get video from inside the family suites.

He also set up a camera in a separate suite for interviews. The arena will be the backdrop for that one. Sanderson is expected to do both pre-draft and post-draft interviews on national TV. All of the players will have their own headsets for coronavirus safety reasons.

The arena will use its usual pregame lighting, dimming the overhead lights. The fascia ring and in-arena monitors will be set in pregame mode, too, with the 'North Dakota' animation on the screens.

After the players get picked, they'll begin their media rounds, just as they would have if they were at the draft in person.

They'll first do their national TV interviews from the broadcast suite. Then, they'll also do Zoom interviews with the NHL team's local market as well as interviews with local North Dakota media.

"Our other players will be in and around the rink, too," Berry said. "They're excited about the draft and for their teammates."

But for all the differences, in some ways, the draft will still be the same. The players will still have butterflies, they'll still have family to lean on and celebrate with and they'll still have an experience they won't forget.

"I'll be nervous leading up to it," Sanderson said. "But mostly, I'm just excited. We've waited for so long. Now to finally have it here means a lot. It's just excitement for me and my family and friends.

"It will be super nice to have my family here. They're the people who have been with me since Day 1. They've helped me so much. Having them come here means a lot."

2020 NHL Draft

First round: 6 p.m. Tuesday, NBC Sports Network.

Second-seventh rounds: 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, NHL Network.