Shea Theodore has something to prove in Sin City.
The 21-year-old native is changing hockey addresses this fall — at least he hopes to be.
First, Theodore has to stick with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who acquired the smooth-skating blueliner from the Anaheim Ducks on June 21.
Theodore told the Times on Tuesday that the trade came as “a big shock.”
“I had no idea,” Theodore said. “You could definitely say I was pretty shocked.”
The cost of the Ducks keeping some of their talented young core came at Theodore’s expense.
The Knights were slated to select one player from each of the 30 existing NHL teams with the hockey clubs forced to expose some talented and intriguing options.
Theodore, who turns 22 this August, was exempt from the draft process as a player had to be of a particular age or have a certain amount of NHL or pro experience.
The Golden Knights acquired Theodore and in exchange stayed away from certain Anaheim players. Instead, they selected Ducks defenceman Clayton Stoner.
“This was a long process, but we felt we made a trade that works for both teams,” Anaheim general manager Bob Murray told the team’s website.
“Vegas will be pleased as well, acquiring a good young prospect in Shea. Our needs aligned and we were able to work out a deal.”
With the shock of being dealt having worn off for the most part, Theodore now has his sights set on the Golden Knights’ training camp. He realizes there will be a ton of competition there, and that he isn’t a lock to be pencilled into the expansion squad’s lineup on opening night.
“I’m extremely excited,” he said.
“It’s going to be a good opportunity. They’ve got a lot of defencemen, so I’m just going to go into camp and try to make the roster. I’m an offensive guy that can help the team (in that way) so I’m looking forward to trying to do that.”
Training camp will be a huge test for Theodore, who will be battling established NHLers including Deryk Engelland, Jason Garrison, Brayden McNabb, Luca Sbisa, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt, and Jon Merrill, among others, for a place on the team’s blueline.
“I’m not sure what to expect when I get there,” Theodore admitted. “Every training camp I’ve been to has been a pretty good grind. It’s a challenge for sure with more guys than usual competing for a roster spot. It’s always fun but it’s going to be a grind.”
Theodore has something to prove this season, not only to his new team, but to his old one, as well.
“Obviously when you get traded you want to prove your (former) team wrong, that they should have kept you,” he said. “From what I understand, it wasn’t their choice and they were not happy about trading me. It’s my job to make them regret their decision, so it’s going to be a good challenge.”
In 53 career NHL games, the six-foot-one, 194-pound defenceman has five goals and 17 points.
Theodore found his stride in the 2017 post-season by tallying twice while adding six assists in 14 contests.
He described this past season as up and down, bouncing between the Ducks and their American Hockey League affiliate, the San Diego Gulls.
But playing a regular role with a Ducks squad that made it all the way to the third round of the playoffs before bowing out to the Stanley Cup finalist Nashville Predators gave Theodore a wealth of valuable experience.
“I played pretty strong in the playoffs, so I’ll take that momentum with me into next year,” Theodore said. “Getting to play all the way to the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is something not many people can say they’ve done. I’m definitely going to take that experience with me next year.”
This summer, Theodore is training in Burnaby with “a lot of other pro guys who I’ve been playing with and against in the American (Hockey) League, and who I’ve been training with for quite a while.”
As for potentially living and playing hockey in Las Vegas, and all the trappings it brings, Theodore’s sole focus is his job, not extracurricular activities.
“I don’t know too much about Las Vegas,” he said. “My parents went there on a vacation. I’ve definitely heard nothing but good things about the team.”
Theodore, who played major junior with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, was originally a first round draft pick of the Ducks (26th overall) in the 2013 NHL entry draft.