August 25, 2021 5 min read

In his brief NHL career, he's already learned one thing: There's no time to waste on mistakes. "I'm more decisive," Theodore said after scoring two goals against the Rangers this week. "It's kind of weird because I feel like my game has evolved so much from last year." That evolution may be due in part to a newfound dedication to weightlifting and quick decision making that helped him make an impact right away with Vegas ‍—‌and could bode well for the future.

When Theodore was first called up to the NHL midway through first season, he didn't have a point in seven games and looked like he needed some time with his AHL club. But a team can never have enough defensemen, and soon Theodore found himself back on the big stage - this time with more experience under his belt.

Shea Theodore is in the midst of a breakout season with the Vegas Golden Knights. The 26-year-old defenseman has turned heads and put up impressive numbers to boot - not too shabby for someone who was taken in the expansion draft.

Theodore's secret? Weight lifting and quick decision making: “He works out all year, lifts weights like crazy, he does everything right," his former coach Gerard Gallant said. "He’s just a good player." But it also seems that Shea has found his own style on ice. In an era where speed is king, Theodore can skate faster than most but still manages to keep control over his game while doing so. This ability to make quick decisions at high speeds is what makes him an asset to the teams he plays for.

"He's younger, but he doesn't play like a young guy out there." Marc-Andre Fleury said of Theodore. "That's good when you're a young guy and can play with older guys and not be intimidated. There's some nights that I'm intimidated by these guys and Shea is not."

For Theodore, it's all about keeping a level head on his shoulders. In an interview with Sportsnet, he spoke of the challenges in controlling his emotions while still being aware of making mistakes.

"There are times where I've learned from watching other players or just myself - you start to get frustrated and then you make another mistake, and your frustration grows more and more and you end up in the penalty box or something like that," he said. "I think at this level you have to be patient with yourself, but also not afraid to try things."

As Theodore's game continues to grow, so does his role on the team. In one five-game winning streak, he averaged over 20 minutes of ice time and his importance in the lineup is not to be understated. When his team has faced some injuries, Theodore has done a great job at stepping up in their absence. 

Commitment to weightlifting and quick decision making have helped him make an impact right away with Vegas

In the beginning of January 2018, Theodore had six goals and 12 assists for a total of 18 points. He was ranked 12th in NHL defensemen scoring around 48 points.

Shea Theodore attributes his success to weight lifting, hard work, and quick decision-making when he is on the ice. "I just think I'm playing within myself. I'm playing my game, and in turn, it's working out," Theodore says.

His quick decision-making has been key within the offensive zone to get shots on goal and increase his point production as well. He says, "You want to put yourself in positions where you can get shots on net and create those chances for the guys. Just trying to do my best out there."

Theodore also points to weight lifting as a factor of his success this year compared to previous years. He is more powerful and able to skate faster, which has been beneficial for him.

"I always try to put a little more time in the gym than on the ice," Theodore says. "It's tough when you get home and you're skating as much as we do, but I think it's something that has really benefitted me this year."

The defenseman had one goal and four assists for five points in his first 20 games. He then had eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 22 games after that.

"I just think it's the time he puts in," said Vegas Golden Knights former head coach Gerard Gallant about Theodore's success that year. "I know when I was coaching Florida, we saw Shea a couple of times in the gym and he was putting a lot of time in there. He wanted to get stronger."

"When you're heavier, it's harder to move around," Gallant added.

"But Shea worked hard on getting stronger and put in more time on the ice to get quicker, so that transition for him from the 'D' zone to the 'O' zone is moving pretty quick."

What it's like to be a young player on a team looking for success in today's NHL game

Gallant also mentioned that Theodore has a good future ahead of him as he continues to improve. "He's still young, so I think for Shea it's just going to keep getting better and better. What he's done...I wouldn't be surprised if he does that year after year."

"I'm just trying to be a better player each and every day. There are still some things I need to improve on," Theodore admits.  "There's going to be ups and downs throughout the year, but you have to try to find ways to help your team win," he says.

Shea Theodore is a great young player for the Vegas Golden Knights. He's had lots of success season after season and he has been given the opportunity to play more minutes because he can handle them well. Being a young player on a team that's looking for success is different from being on a winning team where you might not have to be as accountable. Shea Theodore has to learn how to keep working hard, even when it seems like nothing is going right. Shea Theodore finds it very hard to stay level-headed when his team is losing but when they are winning, he feels less pressure on him. He believes that teams need accountability and everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions in order to win games and it's something that he has learned from his coaches.

Shea Theodore has a great blend of speed, intelligence and physicality. He is an excellent puck mover who also can use his body to take the time he needs to make smart decisions with it in order to propel himself into becoming one of the better defensemen in the NHL. It’s no surprise that Vegas had high hopes for him when they initially selected him from Anaheim Ducks during their expansion draft, but few could have predicted how quickly he would be able to find success after joining them at such a young age - something which is definitely not easy given all we know about hockey players aging curves.

Since then, he has not been a sheltered player with the Golden Knights. When healthy, Theodore has been given a fair share of ice time as evidenced by his average TOI/GP which is (at the time of this article) at 20:37 compared to an overall league-wide average TOI/GP around 23:06 for defenders. He also has been a fixture on the Golden Knights’ top powerplay unit (for which he is featured as one of the main puck carriers). VGK has come to expect great things from this young man, and so far he has delivered every time.

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