ANAHEIM, Calif. – Shea Theodore is about a month shy of turning 20 years old. Compared to many kids his age at prospect camps around the NHL, he has something the others have yet to develop:
Theodore, drafted in the first round of 2013 (No. 26 overall) by the Anaheim Ducks, is a pretty likeable young man. While his contemporaries are honing their abilities when speaking with the media, the defenseman is at home chatting.
The offensive-defenseman is patiently waiting for his opportunity to make it to the big show. And the Ducks have been very clear that he’s not being hurried into the pros. (They learned their lesson with Cam Fowler.) He stopped for a couple minutes following Anaheim’s prospect camp scrimmages to chat with myself, Elliott Teaford and Mark Whicker, both of the LA News Group.
Have the Ducks given you any indication as to where they’d like you to be in your training? Bob Murray said he’s not going to rush you along. So where do you see yourself and making the roster? This season? Next season?
I’m assuming I’ll start out in the minors. They’ve got a pretty solid top six right now with [Kevin] Bieksa coming in. I’m not trying to rush myself or get too down on myself if I don’t make the team right away. It’s not really an expectation of mine. BUT, then again, I’m trying to work hard and move my way up the ladder of the depth chart. That’s all I’m trying to do right now.
Because it’d really hurt to be in San Diego for a few months now?
There are worst places you could be…
(Big smile) Yeah, it’s tough.
What was the biggest difference between Seattle [Thunderbirds of WHL] and Norfolk [Admirals of AHL] last year?
The speed and the size is obvious a big difference. You go from playing with 16 and 17 year old guys to 25, 26 year old men who are a couple years pro. I thought I handled myself pretty well in those games. I know you have lots of support all over the ice. I felt like my offensive, my puck skills, weren’t really helping me out in games, but I felt like I played a pretty good game. I’m excited for next year.
What did you want to prove in Seattle last year to yourself? Speaking about things you wanted to improve in your game, things you wanted to establish.
I think just going into the season it was more of my defensive game. I know that’s what Bob wants me to really focus on. I felt like I went into the year and came out a plus player on a team that was OK, we had our ups and downs. But I felt like I was really on the defensive side of the game a lot more. I played a bigger d-role. I was playing lots of minutes. I had a fun year. It was good for me.
When did it start, in terms of that was going to be your sport? When did you realize you might have a future doing this?
I know I started pretty early, skating around at two or three. He’d bring me out after some of his games to rip around, but I think five or six, I really started playing. When I got drafted in the bantam draft, that’s when you’re like “ok, here’s the plan going forward” and really see yourself as a hockey player, as opposed to “what am I going to do for the rest of my life.”
Where you grew up, that’s pretty close to the border?
Yeah, I live two minutes away from the U.S. border. It was only two-and-a-half hours for my parents to come down to Seattle and watch me play for a couple years. It was really nice.
What was it like living that close to the border? You are Canadian, but did you have American friends, people you’d hang around, you’d go visit?
A little bit. I went to the high school there and that was kind of a different experience. Going from Canadian to American it’s a little different. They’re more football oriented…
[Interrupts] You went to an American high school? (Author’s note: It didn’t occur to me until later he’d go to a Seattle-area high school because he’s playing junior in the city. D’oh!)
Yeah, I went to two different ones; a different one my grade 11 and my grade 12 year. It was fun. It was a good experience. We had a couple Americans on the team, but we were all Canadians thrown into it; trying to get our courses figured out. Seeing if math and science would transfer over.
The metric system? Celsius to Fahrenheit?
Oh yeah! That was a little tough. I know the US geography wasn’t really there for some of the classes.
What’s the capital of Montana?
Couldn’t tell you. I really couldn’t.
We can’t either. Don’t worry about it… Did you have big border crossing hassles?
I didn’t come across every day to Canada. We all lived down there in Seattle. There were a couple times where I’d be heading out for the season and they’d say, “How long will you be there for?” I’d say, “Seven or eight months.” And they’d bring me inside for a little talk. That was the only issue I think I had.
Did you have hockey in your family growing up? Did your parents play?
A little bit. I know my dad played in men’s league. Nothing too stressful. I wouldn’t really say it runs in the family.
What do your folks do?
My dad works at a sawmill. He’s working long hours every day and it’s not easy. My mom works at the bank, the Royal Bank of Canada. They’re both hardworking people trying to support me the best they can.
What’s he do in the sawmill?
He’s a millwright.
What does he do?
He kind of fixes [things]. Runs around fixing. I went to work with him in grade 8, it was ‘take your kid to work day’ or something like that. I fell asleep around 9-9:30…
IN THE SAWMILL?!
In the lunchroom. They had a comfortable couch. We started at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning.
You weren’t impressed. That wasn’t going to be a career for you?
That was the moment, even he said, he “didn’t really see this out for you, might do as well as you can on the ice.”
You spent so much time in Seattle. Talk about it being a hockey market. It’s a poorly kept secret the NHL is looking to expand there. Could the NHL survive?
I think so. Our fans in Seattle really adapted over the four years we were [there] and we’re just 45 minutes south of Seattle. Towards the end of the year we were averaging about 4,500 fans in a smaller rink, about 6,000. With how well the Seahawks are doing, the fan support is definitely there. I could see a team doing really well there.
When you started paying attention to NHL players, and you started evolving your own style, who did you identify with?
A couple years ago I was looking at guys like Erik Karlsson; Mike Green he had a couple good years when I was trying to adapt my game. Growing up I looked at a guy like [Ed] Jovanovski with the Canucks. I was a big Canucks fan. I had a couple 55 jerseys laying around my house. That’s the kind of game I [adopted] and I really focused on my skating and my vision.
Were you a Kesler fan, too?
Ah, yeah, a little bit. Little bit.
You’d better be now.
At least by camp.
Yeah, I know, even with Bieksa coming here. I watched him kind of grow up through the system there. He not a young guy. It’ll be good experience out here to learn from him.
The way the game has evolved, guys like you have gotten more prominent. Is it an exciting time to be a skilled defenseman?
Yeah, I think so. The game is really changing. You’re kind of getting the bigger stay-at-home defensemen more out of it. There’s still lots out there, but I feel like the faster, more agile kind of defenseman is what the game is becoming and moving to. Hopefully I can find myself a spot.
Why did you choose junior hockey over college?
When I was drafted, it was kind of just on the table there. My mom she kinda really wanted me to go to school and do that. I had a good opportunity in Seattle. The team wasn’t doing well at the time so, I knew when I signed there I’d be playing a lot of minutes. And I was as a 16 and 17 year old, playing lots of minutes, and that was good for my development.
Did you commit to a program at all?
No, not at all. I think my mom was filling out some information and trying to get something going (laughs). I signed with Seattle pretty quick.
Have you worked with Scott Niedermayer much?
A little bit. I talked to him at camp. I’ve been to their main camp a couple times. I know he’s a Hall of Famer defenseman, of course, whatever tips he gives you, you can really learn from it. He’s a good guy and I’ve talked to him a couple times, but nothing really too in depth.
Looking at your stats, you’re an assist first, then score goals type of player. What makes you so effective?
I think I move the puck really well. Sometimes I’m able to see a guy open that nobody really sees, whether it’s through a seam up or just up to the winger, making a simple play. I don’t know. It’s just a game I know they like out of me and it’s what I’m going to try going forward.
What else are you working on before main camp opens? Have they given you anything to work on?
Just put on more weight. You can use as much as you can get, so I’ll be in the gym countless hours all summer. I hope to come in a lot thicker and try to be able to handle myself more.
Will you train up there?
Yeah, I’ll train in Vancouver.
Awesome. Thanks, Shea.