Camden Shasby is more than the latest acquisition for the Anchorage Wolverines junior hockey franchise. He hails from Alaska hockey royalty.
Shasby is the only son of University of Alaska Anchorage hockey coach Matt Shasby, who made their family name a household one on the Last Frontier during his time as a player for the Seawolves and then the Alaska Aces, formerly of the ECHL.
While he is proud of where he comes from and has enjoyed following in his father’s footsteps, Camden Shasby also wants to add his own chapter to the family’s legacy.
“It’s pretty cool since he played for UAA and the Aces, and now I get to play for an Alaska team too,” he said. “I want to do my best for Anchorage.”
Earlier this month, the Wolverines acquired the 18-year-old defenseman from Fargo Force of the USHL, where he appeared in 53 games and recorded one goal and 10 assists.
“This team really wanted me, and it feels nice just to be wanted by a team,” Shasby said. “Where I was before, I just wasn’t getting the playing time I wanted, so it’s nice to be here.”
The Wolverines’ motto is “We always want local guys,” according to first-year head coach Nick Walters, who is a former local product himself.
“Whether they’re from Alaska or specifically from Anchorage, we’re always looking for those guys,” Walters said. “Right now we’ve got to build a team and the guy has got to be good enough and everything else, but anytime you can add a player of Camden’s skill level, it’s something you have to find a way to make room for, and that’s what we did.”
Matt Shasby is very excited to have his son back home and playing for Anchorage’s other hometown hockey team.
“It’s one of those things where he left the state early to go play hockey Outside, and the opportunity came up with the Wolverines and their quality coaching staff and team,” Matt Shasby said. “(We) just thought it was the right time to make that move back home. It’ll be great to have him home every night and just chatting hockey.”
Camden is the oldest of Shasby’s three kids, and the move will also allow him to spend more time with his sisters.
“He gets to be a big brother and take his little sisters to hockey practice, pick them up from school, and do big brother duties,” Matt Shasby said. “He gets to reclaim his old room, but I’m sure his sisters will be in there all the time bugging him to play Fortnite or whatever.”
Matt Shasby plans to be at every Wolverines home game as long as it doesn’t conflict with the Seawolves’ schedule. And while he’ll mostly just be a proud dad in the stands at those games, he will still be looking out for prospective talent as well.
“I’m hoping to just enjoy watching my kid play hockey, but I’ll always be recruiting, analyzing and all that good stuff,” he said. “It’s tough to turn that off.”
‘It was all his call’
Matt Shasby left the state to play junior hockey himself back in the day but waited until his senior year of high school to do it. Sending his son off at the young age of 14 was not an easy decision.
“It’s difficult and one of those decisions you make (and wonder) if it is really what’s best for his future,” he said. “Is it healthy socially? Is it healthy emotionally? You hope things work out and you hope he can accomplish his personal goals, but you also listen to your kid, and if it is not working out and he wants to come home, you just have to allow that to happen and not push him to do something he’s not fully committed to.”
In the end, Matt Shasby ultimately left the decision to come home up to his son once the opportunity presented itself.
“He thought about it for a while, and he just wanted to come home and help his hometown team out and hopefully do some good things,” he said. “It was all his call.”
Poised to make an immediate impact
While he’s new to the Wolverines, Camden Shasby isn’t a stranger to the NAHL: He was on the other side of the team’s in-state rivalry with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs during the 2021-22 season.
“I’ve played against (the Wolverines), but it’s a lot different to play in front of and for my hometown for the first time,” he said.
He scored a goal in one of the games they played at Anchorage’s Ben Boeke Ice Arena and celebrated with a shushing gesture directed at the home crowd. He’ll likely be showered with cheers instead of boos the next time he scores on the Wolverines’ home ice.
Given that the USHL is the highest-level junior hockey league in the country, Walters believes that Shasby’s experience playing with the Force will make him an “instant difference-maker” for the Wolverines in their quest to return to the Robertson Cup finals.
Anchorage has a few other former USHL players on the roster, including defenseman Trenton Powell as well as forwards Tyler Hennen and Cole Christian.
“Of course we want local guys, but at the end of the day you want good players,” Walters said. “Good players win games.”
The Wolverines have been prolific on offense over their last eight games. They’ve outscored their opponents by a goal margin of 40-28 dating back to Oct. 21, going 6-2 over that span.
They’re confident that Shasby will be a tremendous asset in keeping up that potent prowess with the skills he brings to the table.
“He will add to that from the defensive end,” Walters said. “His skating and his stick skill from an offensive standpoint, and ability to break the puck out and join the rush and just what he can do on the blue line, is going to help propel our offense even more.”
Shasby will make his debut for the club this weekend in a two-game series against the Kenai River Brown Bears. The first game will be on the road Friday night. On Saturday, Shasby will be in front of friends and family at Ben Boeke Ice Arena, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m.
“It’s going to be awesome to be in front of the fans for the first time too,” Shasby said.
A potential extended stay or future return is possible
Even though he is committed to play at Division I Western Michigan University, Shasby hasn’t closed the door on possibly joining his dad at UAA at some point down the road.
He’s been impressed with the strides that the UAA hockey program has made since his father has been at the helm. The Seawolves have notched notable wins, the most recent being an upset of No. 6-ranked Wisconsin on the road.
“It might change my mind a little bit,” Shasby said. “If Western (Michigan) doesn’t work out, I might come back home. It’s definitely something I’m thinking about for sure, but I’m focusing on Western right now.”
But before he heads to college, Shasby will try to bolster the Wolverines’ chances of returning to the Robertson Cup final. And Walters believes that combination of success and local talent is a recipe for success.
“When the fans come, they like seeing the local guys on the line sheet, and it gives it more of a community feel,” Walters said. “You’ve got hometown boys playing for the hometown team, and anytime you can add those guys, it is special because the kids get to play in front of their friends and family.”