OSTRAVA, Czechia -- Jake Sanderson knew from the jump.

Sanderson, a sophomore with the Ottawa Senators, figured there was something special about Minnesota Wild forward Matt Boldy the moment the two became teammates for the first time some six years ago.

"I knew he was legit when I was at the National Development team in junior," said Sanderson, teammates again with Boldy for Team USA at the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Czechia. "Looking at him progress throughout the years is really impressive to see. He's such a mature guy for his age. He's such a good power forward in this league.

"He's going to dominate it.

"He already is."

Boldy and Sanderson were teammates at the U.S. National Team Development Program for one season in 2018-19.

That's all it took for Sanderson to realize what a pain in the ass Boldy could be to defend at the NHL level.

"It's his size and his ability to protect the puck," Sanderson started. "And he's not just protecting it with one hand on his stick. He's protecting it with both hands on his stick where he can shoot it and make passes.

"That's an impressive skill to have."

It's also the general consensus when polling those with and against the Minnesota Wild standout.

"He's awesome," said Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin, who's representing Sweden overseas and has already had one-on-one encounters with Boldy and Team USA in preliminary action at the Worlds. "He's so good with the puck. In the battle he always wins it and gets out with the puck. It's almost like he has a magnet on his stick.

"He always gets the puck, whoever he plays against.

"It's so hard to play against. He's so good on the puck and he can make plays.

"He's great for our team, for sure."

Unfortunately for Brodin, Boldy's on the other side for the next two weeks.

And -- in red, white, and blue -- Boldy's already well on his way to a standout tournament with six points (three goals, three assists) in four games. His efforts are tied for first with those of Johnny Gaudreau of the Columbus Blue Jackets (two goals, four assists).

He's impressed even those teammates that may not have known a lot about the 23-year-old veteran of three NHL seasons coming into the tournament.

"He's kind of a surprise because I know for sure I may have only played Minnesota once this past year," said Jeff Petry, with both Team USA in Europe and the NHL's Eastern Conference with the Detroit Red Wings. "Seeing what he does on the ice, seeing how he protects the puck, strong on his skates... smart player.

"I've been impressed with what he's brought so far."

Those who know, however, know.

Cole Caufield also goes way back to Boldy's days at the National Team Development Program, and isn't surprised to see the Millis, MA product blossom on both stages.

Like Sanderson, Caufield could kind of see it coming.

And with that, he took some things from the Boston College product.

"Very quiet, kind, goes about his business and works hard and does his thing," said Caufield, who netted 28 goals and 65 points this season for the Montreal Canadiens. "His maturity at a young age as a person and as a player is special to me. I think I learned a lot from him.

"It's obviously special to see him do well and have success.

"I'm not surprised with the success he's having. He's only going to get better."

Boldy's exploits bode well for Team USA in May.

It helps set the stage, too, for his fourth go-round with Minnesota next season.

There's still room to improve, after all, on Boldy's 29-goal, 69-point season that saw the 6-foot-2, 201-pound winger finish second on the Wild in scoring to only Kirill Kaprizov, a follow-up of a 31-goal, 63-point performance as a sophomore in 2022-23.

The ceiling can be that much higher, teammates on both sides of the Atlantic have attested.

And that bodes well for Minnesota.

"Just with how strong he is, how shifty he is with the puck and protecting the puck, I think he might be one of the smartest players with just protecting the puck, putting the puck in his feet and turning away from you," Wild teammate and Worlds foe Joel Eriksson Ek said.

"He's still young, and he's going to get better.

"But for sure he's a really important piece for our team."

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