Jake Sanderson sat in Suite 202 in Ralph Engelstad Arena on Tuesday night with his older brother, Ben, on his left and his parents, Geoff and Ellen, on his right.

He fixed his eyes on the center-hung scoreboard, watching the NHL Draft play out.

The first three picks were widely known before the event and went according to plan. The Detroit Red Wings picked forward Lucas Raymond at No. 4.

Then, it was the Ottawa Senators' turn at No. 5.

The local media present in Ralph Engelstad Arena focused their cameras on Sanderson an anticipation of what may come. The family sat quietly together, sensing the moment was about to arrive.

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"I think Ellen knew," said Geoff, who played 17 seasons in the NHL.

"Mother's intuition," Ellen said, laughing. "Just a mother's intuition."

Really, everyone should have known.

Of course, the Ottawa Senators selected another UND guy.

They took Sanderson with the No. 5 overall pick, making him the second-highest drafted player ever at UND. He only sits behind Jonathan Toews, who went No. 3 to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2006.

After he was picked, Sanderson hugged his brother and parents. Then, his brother reached behind their seats and dug out a Senators hat. The NHL mailed Sanderson hats for all 31 teams earlier this week and he lined them up in draft order in the suite.

"I was a little bit nervous waking up this morning, just knowing it's a special day and I've been looking forward to it for a while," Sanderson said. "But after I kind of realized it's going to happen eventually, I just kind of went on throughout my day. I went through practice, workout and all that with the guys. Then, the day starting getting busy with all the media stuff and now I'm really relieved and happy that I'm drafted and all of its over. I'm super excited to be a part of this organization."

UND players, who gathered in the north lounge of the upper bowl to watch the draft, loudly roared after the pick was made.

"That's something I'll never forget, just hearing them yell," Sanderson said. "I went to go see them after and I gave them all hugs. That's something I'll always remember."

Sanderson is just the latest UND player who the Senators have grabbed with a high draft pick.

Since UND standout defenseman Christian Wolanin signed with Ottawa in 2018, the Senators have used two first-round picks (Jacob Bernard-Docker went No. 26 in 2018 and Sanderson at No. 5 this year) and two-second round picks (Jonny Tychonick, who transferred to Omaha, at No. 48 in 2018 and Shane Pinto at No. 32 in 2019) on UND players.

The city of Grand Forks even elected a mayor this summer who used to play for the Ottawa Senators in Brandon Bochenski.

UND's trio of current Senator draft picks -- Pinto, Bernard-Docker and Sanderson -- took a photo together Tuesday night.

"Obviously, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto are here and are both Ottawa draft picks," Sanderson said. "I've been around them lately and they're great guys and I'm very excited to have a future with them, too."

UND's Shane Pinto (left), Jake Sanderson (center) and Jacob Bernard-Docker have all been picked by the Ottawa Senators in the top 32. Submitted photo.
UND's Shane Pinto (left), Jake Sanderson (center) and Jacob Bernard-Docker have all been picked by the Ottawa Senators in the top 32. Submitted photo.

A unique draft day

It wasn't a normal draft experience for Sanderson.

The event was originally scheduled for June in Montreal, but it was backed up and changed to a remote event because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even so, UND and Ralph Engelstad Arena put on a big production to try to give Sanderson the best draft experience possible. They invited his family members to come and put them in a suite in The Ralph. They lowered the center-hung scoreboard, set the arena's lighting on game day mode and surrounded suite level with cameras that were fed to national TV networks.

"They made it unreal," Sanderson said. "I was really looking forward to going to an actual draft and being in Montreal with my teammates, but having it at The Ralph, it felt like an actual draft to me, just to be with my family. It was really special. Everybody at the rink and all the media people made it feel like an actual draft, so that was really special to me."

UND's coaching staff watched the event from their own suite.

"Obviously, Jake possesses a lot of great skill," head coach Brad Berry said. "He's an excellent hockey player. Outstanding character. Tremendous worker on and off the ice. It's one of those things where he's worked long and hard over the course of his career to get to this point. Finally, today, on draft day, it showed what the NHL thinks of him, getting drafted fifth overall."

UND's highest-drafted players

No. 3 -- Jonathan Toews, F, 2006, Chicago Blackhawks

No. 5 -- Jake Sanderson, D, 2020, Ottawa Senators

No. 8 -- Jason Herter, D, 1989, Vancouver Canucks

No. 9 -- John Marks, D, 1968, Chicago Blackhawks

No. 9 -- James Patrick, D, 1981, New York Rangers

No. 9 -- Brian Lee, D, 2005, Ottawa Senators

No. 10 -- Tyson Jost, F, 2016, Colorado Avalanche

No. 13 -- Drew Stafford, F, 2004, Buffalo Sabres

No. 14 -- Roger Bamburak, F, 1963, Boston Bruins

No. 15 -- Derek Forbort, D, 2010, Los Angeles Kings