Shea Theodore: Kent’s next big thing

Sep 17, 2012, 11:52 AM | Updated: 12:07 pm

By Tim Pigulski

Editor’s note: This article ran in the Sept. 14 edition of the Kent Reporter.

Shea Theodore isn’t your typical 17-year-old. After all, when he was just 16, before he could legally obtain an unrestricted driving license in his home province of British Columbia, Theodore left his parents and home town of Aldergrove, British Columbia to move to Kent and play for the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds had selected Theodore in the third round of the Western Hockey League’s 2010 Bantam draft, helping him take the first significant step in pursuit of his dream of someday playing in the National Hockey League.

Standing 6 feet tall and weighing 170 pounds, Theodore exceeded all expectations in his first WHL season, registering an impressive 35 points in 69 games for an underachieving Thunderbirds team unable to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season. His individual performance last year catapulted him up the draft boards into a position where many experts predict him being selected by an NHL club in the first round, making him one of the top 30 players in the world at his age.

theodore
Shea Theodore is hoping to help lead the Thunderbirds to the playoffs as he prepares for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. (photo courtesy of WHL.ca)

In speaking with the impressive young defenseman, I learned that his success wasn’t always a sure thing.

“To be honest … I wasn’t sure if I was even going to make the team [as a 16-year-old]. I don’t think I had much hype coming into camp,” he recalled, referring to the Thunderbirds’ yearly August training camp.

During the brief camp, Theodore impressed general manager Russ Farwell and head coach Steve Konowalchuk enough to convince them to give him a shot. He didn’t disappoint, transforming before fans’ eyes from a relative unknown to one of the best offensive defenseman in the league.

Even with the newfound hype, the young defenseman has been able to keep everything in perspective.

“It’s certainly nice to hear it, but at the end of the day I just put it in the back of my mind,” he said. “I just think about the season and making the playoffs, which is the most important thing right now. Whatever happens after that happens. Hopefully it’s good news.”

Hearing that the Thunderbirds’ top player is still focused on the team’s goals should excite a fan base starving to witness some postseason hockey. Even with the prolonged playoff drought, things are looking up in Seattle.

“We’re going to have a great team this year. There will be a lot of new faces that will help out and we should be much better,” Theodore predicted.

One of those new faces is defenseman Jesse Forsberg, who was acquired from the Prince George Cougars this offseason in exchange for center Colin Jacobs. During training camp, Theodore and Forsberg suited up together on the same defensive pairing, providing a sort of “thunder and lightning” combination — Theodore as an offensive powerhouse and Forsberg as a more conservative stay-at-home defenseman. The two were very impressive and should create a formidable top-line tandem that will give opposing teams fits.

Recently, the T-Birds’ young blueliner was selected to play for Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic, which pits the top under-18 players from around the globe in a week-long competition. Although he didn’t register any points in the tournament, Theodore helped his Canadian team go undefeated and win a gold medal, eliminating Finland in the tournament’s final contest.

“It was a pretty special feeling to be selected as one of the top 22 players in Canada and represent your country,” he said. “We certainly did that, coming home with a gold [medal].”

Theodore compares himself to recent Thunderbirds defenseman Brenden Dillon, who played for the team from 2007 through 2011.

“I may not be as big, but we are similar in some ways as far as skating and moving the puck.”

Dillon, who stands 6-3, went undrafted by an NHL team, but after an impressive final season in Seattle, was signed by the Dallas Stars. He has since enjoyed a significant amount of playing time for their minor league affiliate, the Texas Stars, with a few brief appearances for the big league team.

Even with his tremendous talent, Theodore still enjoys many of the same simplicities as others his age, and it sounds like he’s beginning to take in the Seattle lifestyle.

“Last year I got to catch my first Mariners game, which was pretty big,” he said. “This year I’ll try and head to a Seahawks game.”

If you’re lucky, you may even be able to catch him and some of his teammates exploring Kent Station on their days off, enjoying some fine dining and seeing whatever new movies might be in theaters.

“It’s great. It’s got some nice stores and good food, and a lot of good movies came out last year,” he said. “I’d say that the movie theater is the biggest hit amongst the ‘Birds.”

It’s not often that fans have the opportunity to see a future professional play at such a young age. It’s a privilege that followers of Seattle sports would be wise to exploit as soon as possible due to the high likelihood that Theodore will only be in the Pacific Northwest for two or three more years.

Thunderbirds fans have a lot to look forward to, from Theodore to 15-year-old phenom Mathew Barzal. Barzal, also from British Columbia, was the T-Birds’ first overall pick in last year’s WHL Bantam Draft and was very impressive in training camp, but he won’t be eligible to play for the team until next season.

Before we wrapped up, Theodore left me with some interesting words for the upcoming season: “Be prepared for a new team. There will be quite a lot of changes, hopefully for the positive, and we’re going to make the playoffs this year.”

Thunderbirds fans should hope he’s right.

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Shea Theodore: Kent’s next big thing