By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Jayson Shaugabay and Danny Nelson are two names Green Bay Gamblers fans will get to know fondly in a couple of years.
The two have several things in common – they both play hockey at Minnesota high schools, are talented on the ice, were high draft picks by the Gamblers in the United States Hockey League Futures Draft this past May, have represented Team USA in international competition/ and are now gold medalists.
Shaugabay and Nelson were two of 20 members of the U.S. Under-17 Men’s Select Team that competed last month in the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Visp, Switzerland.
Team USA beat every team in the field to capture the country’s eighth first-place finish in the highly-contested tournament since 2007.
“It feels great,” Nelson said about winning gold. “It’s a huge honor, especially representing my country and getting the opportunity to play for gold.”
“I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “It’s something I never thought I was going to do. It’s very cool.”
It was the first time for Shaugabay and Nelson, who are both 16 years old, to travel internationally and play for Team USA.
“It feels good to feel like I’m more a part of the team,” Nelson said. “Even if I didn’t score goals and have assists, I’d still feel like I was part of the team. To contribute makes it even more special.”
Competing in the tournament was a valuable learning experience for both.
“It was good for my competitiveness to know I’ve always got to be good if I want to keep moving up because everybody is going to be good,” Shaugabay, who tallied one goal and one assist in the tournament, said.
Nelson, who finished with six points (three goals, three assists), which was the second-highest total on Team USA, also said the competition was great.
“It shows me what I need to do to improve, what my strengths are hopefully make the team next year, too.”
Creating a friendship
Since both Shaugabay and Nelson are elite hockey players in Minnesota, they’ve known about each other for a few years, but the pair didn’t know each other before being drafted by the Gamblers.
Shaugabay was the Gamblers’ first-round pick, 11th overall, in the USHL Futures Draft.
Nelson was selected by Green Bay in the second round with the 26th pick.
Shaugabay is a quick forward who played in 20 games last season for Warroad High School but tallied 53 points (29 goals, 24 assists).
Nelson, who is a big forward at 6-foot-2, played for the U15 Osseo Maple Grove hockey team last season.
At the end of June, Shaugabay and Nelson attended the Gamblers’ future camp and got to know one another.
A couple of weeks later, both guys were in Amherst, N.Y., competing in the BioSteel USA Hockey Boys Select 16 Camp and were chosen for the U.S. Under-17 Men’s Select Team.
Before heading to Switzerland for the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament, Team USA held practices in New Jersey.
Shaugabay and Nelson were roommates for that and were paired up while overseas, too.
The two got to know one another well and built a friendship.
They come from different parts of Minnesota: Shaugabay from up north in hockey-rich Warroad and Nelson from about 350 miles south in Maple Grove, which is a suburb of Minneapolis.
“We had good chemistry,” Nelson said. “We both knew each other, what we liked to do and our bedtimes were similar. It’s nice to get to know him.”
Shaugabay said hopefully, it’s the start of a long friendship.
“I learned he’s a fun kid to be around,” he said. “He’s nice and respectful. It’s a good friendship all around.”
The path for both Shaugabay and Nelson to get to Green Bay is still undetermined in some regards.
Shaugabay is currently competing in the Elite League right now in Minnesota and will play his junior season at Warroad High School in the winter.
He then could play with the Gamblers in 2022-23 or the following year after completing high school.
Shaugabay committed Aug. 2 to play collegiately at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Nelson is planning on playing his junior year for Maple Grove High School, and he could play for the Gamblers in 2022-23, like Shaugabay.
Nelson has yet to make his college announcement.
Both players said they are looking forward to playing junior hockey for the Gamblers.
They got a taste of what to expect when they attended the futures camp in June.
“All the coaches are nice to me, and they’re great people,” Shaugabay said. “That’s why I loved getting drafted by them because I want to go to a place where I feel welcomed and like family, and that’s what I felt there.”
Nelson said he’s also excited to play in Green Bay.
“Going to their camp and seeing all the guys they have now, got me excited,” he said. “It’s cool to see what my future could be like.”