Some draft-eligible prospects garner tons of attention because of what they can do now and what they've already achieved. These types of players are usually seen as the safer picks.
Other draft eligible prospects are a lot riskier, and garner interest not so much because of what they've done, but moreso because of the potential for what they might be able to do in the future.
Defenceman Shea Theodore is not only firmly in the latter category, but he also might be right at the top of the list for a lot of NHL teams heading into this year's entry draft.
Despite being a defender, Theodore is a high-end offensive weapon, and could easily be the best pure offensive-defenceman in the draft. Theodore has all the tools needed to put up points, as he is a fast, agile skater, has smooth enough hands that he can dangle through opposing teams, has a hard, accurate shot, and an even better pass. The most dangerous thing about Theodore, though, is his offensive hockey IQ, as he has the creativity and vision to read the play well, find his openings and then assess which of his skills will be best suited to advance his team's attack. An absolute beast on the PP, and can easily be the focal point QB.
Much like another highly-touted defensive prospect, Ryan Pulock, was for the Brandon Wheat Kings, Theodore was one of the most potent offensive players on a very flawed Seattle Thunderbirds team this season, despite being on the blueline. Given plenty of freedom to take risks and control the puck, he put up 19 goals and 50 points in the regular season, and his play was good enough for him to earn a spot on Team Canada's U18 team, where he had 5 assists in 7 games as the Canadians won the gold.
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For a player that's as agile as Theodore is, he also has a tantalizing frame that is full of potential. He stands at 6'2," which is plenty tall for a defenceman, but is severely lacking in terms of thickness and strength, weighing in at various weights, likely averaging somewhere around 170-180. Theodore's strength now is concerning, but he still has plenty of time to hit the gym and bulk up.
But for as much focus and attention that Theodore puts in the attacking zone, that same emphasis is a full step below in the defending zone, with his -24 this season only adding to that notion. His aggressive work up the ice often forces his team into the wrong end of odd-man rushes, though he hustles hard to get back. Going back to his size, Theodore is significantly lacking in the physical side of the game, for both throwing hits and clearing out the crease, and doesn't possess the same instincts in his own zone that you would normally see out of high-profile defencemen.
Overall, when scouts look at Theodore they know they're looking at raw material, and are using their imagination to picture what he could potentially become if given the proper development curve. His weaknesses are clear, but they can certainly be fixed over time, as muscle can be added through proper training and diet, while defensive play can be heavily improved through good coaching. If his frame and defensive game can get to even a passable level, combining that with his already high-end offensive capabilities could make Theodore an incredibly dangerous blueliner.
While the Stars' current prospect depth on D is well-noted, there is still a good chance that the team could be looking to add at least one more defenceman with their first four picks. Predicted to go late in the 1st round or early in the 2nd round, the Stars will have a couple spots available around the time Theodore is projected to end up. Dallas' scouting network has strong ties to the WHL, and with Stars prospect Branden Troock also playing for the Thunderbirds, there is a very good chance that the Stars are well aware of what Theodore brings to the table.
If Dallas does draft Theodore, the organization's aforementioned prospect depth on the blueline would allow the team enough of a luxury to give him ample room and time to develop, which could turn into something very, very impressive a few years down the road.
Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus:
Theodore is an offensive defenseman who possesses many tools. He put up big numbers at age 16, and although he did not match that pace at age 17, he was still very good. He is a dynamic skater, with a powerful stride that lets him pick up speed quickly. He can be a real threat when rushing the puck up the ice. He thinks the game so well in the offensive end, displaying a high level of ability with the puck. Theodore can dangle, but he is more of an instinctual passer, whether on outlets or controlling the point on the power play. He possesses a big shot as well. Theodore's issue is not about what he does with the puck, but rather what he does without it. One NHL scout said that he needs a lot of work in his own end. He can be the victim of risky turnovers and bad defensive positioning. To his credit, he has shown improvement in that area, and he has exhibited commitment to playing defense. He needs to continue to gain strength, as he is not the most threatening physical player. He has a lot of upside, but whoever drafts him will likely have to commit to waiting a number of years for that upside to manifest itself.
The Hockey News:
Though the T-birds gave higher-seeded Kelowna Rockets all they could handle in the first round of the WHL playoffs, Theodore and company ultimately blew a 3-0 series lead, succumbing in seven games.
Still, Seattle wasn’t expected to do much this season. That the team was competitive can be attributed in part to the team’s star blueliner. “Decent size, skates pretty well and rushes the puck well,” one scout said. “Probably tries to do too much right now, but Seattle’s not a very good team again. Definitely a gambler, but I don’t have a problem with that. That’s coachable.”
Theodore got a chance to show his wares on the international stage with Canada at the under-18s in Russia and won gold at the Ivan Hlinka tournament during the summer.Next year, he’ll likely have top 2012 bantam draft selection Matthew Barzal to get the puck up to, so Theodore’s already impressive offensive output will get a further boost.