By Thomas Harrington
The Anaheim Ducks drafted Shea Theodore in the first round two years ago, and he finished his WHL career this past season.
Theodore followed the running theme of the Ducks and their prospects this past season, starting out the season on injured reserve after injuring his elbow during training camp. Once healthy, he joined Norfolk for five games on a conditioning assignment before being sent down to the WHL and joining the Seattle Thunderbirds in mid-November. In those five games in the AHL, Theodore put up three goals and five points, and showed that he was ready for the pro game. Unfortunately, because of the NHL-CHL transfer agreement, Theodore cannot play in the AHL until he is 20 years old or has completed four years of junior hockey. Once he joined the Thunderbirds, Theodore quickly settled in and became the team’s top defenseman again. He started out as an alternate captain, but when Thunderbirds’ captain Justin Hickman, a Boston Bruins prospect, went down with a season ending injury, Theodore took over the role as the team’s captain.
Overall, Theodore appeared in 43 regular season games for the Thunderbirds and scored 13 goals and 48 points. While it’s a far cry from the 79 points he put up the previous season, considering that he missed so much time with injury at the beginning of the season, and more time mid-way through the season when he joined Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, it’s incredibly impressive. Theodore’s 48 points were good for third on the team. More importantly, besides his offensive numbers, Theodore dramatically improved his defensive game this past season. Besides being their best offensive threat from the blueline, Theodore was also their number one shut down defenseman this past season. For his great season in the WHL, Theodore was named the league’s top defenseman of the year for the second season in a row. Theodore finished his Thunderbirds career as the franchise’s leader in goals and points by a defenseman, and second in all time assists.
Theodore was not able to lead his team deep in the playoffs, but it wasn’t for lack of effort, as he scored three goals and nine points in only six playoff games. Those nine points led the Thunderbirds in scoring in the postseason. After the Thunderbirds were eliminated, he rejoined the Admirals for four games and scored six more points. Overall, he played in nine AHL games and scored 11 points, excellent numbers by the young defenseman. Despite appearing in only nine games, he was fourth among defensemen in Norfolk in scoring last season
Theodore was one of the top players for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. He was paired with Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse as the team’s top defensive pair, and together, they were absolutely stellar. Theodore didn’t score much in the tournament, recording only one goal and two points in seven games, but his defensive play was top notch. He also manned the point of Canada’s top powerplay unit. Over the course of the entire tournament, he was on the ice to shut down the opposition’s top offensive threats, and no one scored an even strength goal against Team Canada when Theodore and Nurse were on the ice together. Together, they were two of the best defensemen in the tournament and helped lead Team Canada to Gold, their first medal since 2012 when they took home the Bronze, and their first Gold Medal since 2009.
Theodore was drafted as an offensive defenseman, and his offensive potential hasn’t changed. At this point in time, he may have the highest offensive ceiling of any defensemen the Ducks have, including players currently on their roster like Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm. What has changed is his defensive game. When he was drafted, he was described as a Mike Green clone, but that label no longer applies. Based upon his strong two-way play in the WHL, and domination at the World Junior Championships, it’s clear that he has taken huge strides in terms of his defensive game. He’s also become much more of a physical player in the two years since he was drafted.
This coming season, Bob Murray has indicated that the current plan is for Theodore to spend most of the season in the AHL. The Ducks have a strong top six, and Korbinian Holzer will fill the role of the seventh defenseman. If they run into injuries, Josh Manson is the player most likely to be called up, but if the Ducks need more offense from the backend, Theodore will get called up. With that in mind, I am expecting Theodore to make his NHL debut this season, but I don’t think he’ll be ready for full time NHL action until later in the season or next year.
This year, I want Theodore to focus on his two-way game and on adjusting to the pro game. He won’t be scoring at over a point per game in the AHL, and as long as he focuses on the defensive aspects of his game, the scoring will come. He’ll man the Gulls’ top powerplay unit, along with fellow prospect Brandon Montour. He’ll also likely be on the team’s top defensive pairing with Manson.
Theodore will start his entry-level contract this fall, so he is under contract with the Ducks for the next three seasons. I have little doubt the Ducks won’t re-sign him when it ends. With his offensive potential, he could really help the Ducks’ powerplay, which struggled so much this past season. It was clear he had the offensive game when he was drafted, and his improvements in defensive and physical play make it clear that he will be in the NHL in the very near future.
My next prospect update will be on Nick Ritchie.
We have been tracking the off-season status of the Ducks prospects. If you want more information about a specific prospect, then please visit here: Ducks Prospects: Summer Updates
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