By Thomas Harrington
Last year was Shea Theodore’s first season playing professional hockey, and he didn’t disappoint. Anaheim fans got a few glimpses of him last season, and I think that it’s fair to say that most of us were quite impressed with the young defenseman.
Theodore started the season playing for the San Diego Gulls and picked up an assist in each of his first three games of the season. Overall, Theodore played in 50 games with the Gulls and scored nine goals and 37 points. However, Theodore’s game is about a lot more than his offensive contributions. He stepped in and was pretty much instantly San Diego’s top defenseman and played in every situation with the team. Whether the Gulls needed a goal or needed to protect the lead, he was on the ice, helping lead them to victory more often than not. Through his play with San Diego, Theodore showed why the Ducks made him a first round selection in 2013.
Theodore got his first callup in late December and made his NHL debut against Calgary. At the time, the Ducks were going through some major injury issues on the blueline and Theodore was the obvious choice to get the call from San Diego. He played over 15 minutes in that game and didn’t look out of place. Theodore picked up his first assist in his fourth game against Winnipeg and played over 19 minutes in that game. He then played over 20 minutes a night for his next four games. Theodore finally got his first career goal against Ottawa in mid-January, which was the start of a four game point streak for him that saw him score a goal and four points. He had his first two point night against Boston when he picked up a goal and an assist. After that performance, Anaheim’s defense finally got healthy and he was sent back down to San Diego.
Theodore spent most of the rest of the season in San Diego but did play in six more games with the Ducks through the rest of the season. He also appeared in six of Anaheim’s seven playoff games but received less ice time than he did in the regular season, getting primarily third pairing minutes. Still, it was a good experience for him. After the Ducks were eliminated, he went back to San Diego and joined them for their playoff run. He appeared in the final two games against Texas and scored a goal and three points in those two games. He picked up a goal and two points in the five-game series loss to Ontario.
This coming season, I’d prefer for Theodore to spend most or all of it in Anaheim. However, the Ducks currently have Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Clayton Stoner, Sami Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Simon Despres, and Korbinian Holzer under contract, along with the unsigned Hampus Lindholm. There simply isn’t any room for him right now. If the Ducks do trade one of the many defensemen on their roster, I expect Theodore to be called up shortly. When he is in Anaheim, I’m hoping he gets second pairing minutes and time on the Ducks’ second powerplay unit. It would be nice if he got some shorthanded time too, though given his youth, I wouldn’t expect him to get a ton of time on the penalty kill unit. However, if no defenseman is traded, Theodore will likely be in San Diego. For however long he’s down there, he’ll get top pairing minutes and play in every situation for the team, giving him more of a chance to develop into a top defenseman for Anaheim. While he’s with the Gulls, he needs to be their best player night in and night out. Given how he played last season, that should be very doable for him.
Theodore is signed for two more years and will be a restricted free agent when his contract is up. As one of Anaheim’s top prospects, if not their best, the Ducks should re-sign him when it’s over. Bob Murray is going to have some hard decisions to make in the coming years about Anaheim’s defense. The Ducks have a large amount of defensive talent that is 25 and younger. Murray is going to need to make sure he keeps the right players, and I believe that Theodore is one of those who will be in Anaheim for years to come. His offensive instincts are exceptional and he’s incredibly good at reading a play as it develops. The biggest thing holding him back at this point is adjusting to the NHL level of play. Once he does that, Theodore could end up being one of Anaheim’s top defensemen in the next few years.
Now that the prospect updates are done with, next up will be the strengths and weaknesses of Anaheim’s prospect system.
Theodore and several other Anaheim draft selections will participate in the Ducks rookie camp starting this Thursday, September 15. For more information please visit: 2016 Ducks Rookie Camp
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