For NHL draft prospect Shea Theodore, it’s a matter of how hard you work, not where you’ve played
If Shea Theodore needed convincing that a professional hockey career was worth the physical and mental strain of improving his game, the budding defenceman received one in Grade 9.
The Aldergrove native accompanied his father Cam on a school work-day program to experience what the millwright manages while maintaining and constructing machinery for sawmills. He quickly learned that gripping a hockey stick was far superior to turning a wrench.
“That was one of the hardest days of my life,” admitted the offensively-gifted Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman, expected to be a second-round pick in the NHL draft on Sunday in Newark, N.J.
“I fell asleep in the lunchroom after five hours. He has to work hard in different aspects of his job and he bounces around to various mills. Hopefully that work-ethic help will carry me far.”
CLOSE TO HOME
However, by staying near his B.C. home and preferring to play minor and then triple-A major midget in the Fraser Valley — instead of opting for one of the Lower Mainland’s more prominent programs — he had an opportunity to join the Burnaby Winter Club.
But staying put meant Theodore was able to maintain friendships and a love for the game. He was never expected or pushed to play in the same league as elite prospects, and the comfort factor complemented his own drive to succeed.
After all, his mom Corrine works at a bank. And his sister Alyssa is studying kinesiology in the Fraser Valley while also playing in two beer leagues, where she was the leading scorer. She also holds down a part-time job, too, so there’s a mutual respect for what everybody has on their plates.
“My dad never really put pressure on me to be the best player,” stressed Theodore. “I never got yelled at on the way home after games, and it’s always been pretty relaxed around our house.
“He said if you’re good enough, scouts will find you and that’s what happened. I was always one of the better players on my team and I’d get lots of ice time, but I had lots of friends growing up and it was good to stay and play with the same guys for four or five years until I moved to play major midget.”
Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not that Theodore is so laid back that he just takes what comes to him naturally and simply goes with the flow.
‘HOLDS HIMSELF ACCOUNTABLE’
Below that calm demeanour, the pulse races to reach a pro potential. It played out this season as Theodore amassed 19 goals and 50 points while the rejuvenated Thunderbirds advanced to the WHL playoffs.
He also had five assists in seven games as Team Canada claimed the world under-18 championship under the guidance of Vancouver Giants coach Don Hay.
“He holds himself accountable,” said Thunderbirds bench boss Steve Konowalchuk.
“When you get down on him, he looks in the mirror and you can tell it bothers him and he responds the right way. I don’t come down on him very often, because he usually comes to play. He’s not satisfied to be an OK player, he wants to be the best.”
COMPARED BY COACH
What that means is open to interpretation. Theodore projects as an NHL player in a few years — unlike possible top pick Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks, who may beat the odds and get there this fall — and it’s not surprising that a player who’s so good with the puck needs to be better without it.
Positioning and battling are challenges for all blueliners — especially those with giddy-up who love to jump up in the play.
Theodore often gets compared to Mike Green of the Washington Capitals or Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, but Konowalchuk believes he may be akin to Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues.
Konowalchuk worked in player development for Colorado when Shattenkirk — the 14th overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Avalanche — had 26 points in 46 games in the 2010-11 season before he was dealt in a multi-player swap.
“Shattenkirk needed to get stronger and harder defensively, but he could really pass,” added Konowalchuk. “Theodore can really beat guys 1-on-1 and move it up the ice and run the power play, because he has those offensive gifts every team is looking for. The next step is becoming a well-rounded player.”
Maybe that’s why Theodore followed Ed Jovanovski when the high-risk, high-reward defenceman played for the Vancouver Canucks.
LOOKED LIKE A ROVER
Even when he started to ascend the hockey laded at age eight, Theodore looked more like a rover than a blueliner because he could cover a lot of ice. By the second year of bantam, he was a two-way threat.
“When they needed a goal, they’d put me on forward and I’d get a couple of goals and then (go) back on defence— I was kind of all over the map,” recalled Theodore. “But then by my midget year, I went strictly to defence.”
ON THE RADAR
And that’s when he really started popping up on the radar. Theodore was sick the week before the 2013 NHL Combine and admitted to puking after the windgate test to measure peak anaerobic power and the V02 test to test the transport and use of oxygen. He was then interviewed by 22 teams and headed home.
To do what?
“Hang out with friends,” summed up Theodore. “Nothing too reckless. I live in a small town and there’s not a whole lot to do there.”
He wouldn’t have it any other way, until the big city lights come calling.
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