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Golden Knights roster review: Shea Theodore

The Review-Journal presents its “Roster Review” series, which will examine each Golden Knights player’s current production and future outlook in alphabetical order. Sunday: Defenseman Shea Theodore.

Background

Theodore’s life was upended in May 2019.

That’s when a failed drug test at the IIHF World Championship revealed something far more sinister. Theodore, a seemingly healthy 23-year-old, was tested for, and diagnosed with, testicular cancer.

Theodore did his best to take the grim news in stride. He had surgery to remove a 5-by-5-millimeter lump over the summer, rested for six weeks and worked hard enough that he was ready for the Knights’ season opener Oct. 2 with no restrictions.

That he played at all is remarkable. That he played as well as he did is indescribable.

Performance

Theodore, during The Players’ Tribune essay in which he revealed his diagnosis, announced he would donate to early detection causes for every point he scored this season.

Little did he know how much it would cost him.

Theodore, who has always possessed uncommon skill and skating ability for a defenseman, has blossomed into one of the best blue-line weapons in the NHL.

His 46 points rank 10th in the league at his position. From December on — after he spent “the first month and a half catching up,” according to former coach Gerard Gallant — Theodore’s 34 points are tied for third-most, behind potential Norris Trophy finalists Roman Josi and John Carlson.

“You’re definitely seeing his elite skill,” teammate Brayden McNabb said in January. “He’s a great player. When he’s moving and skating like he can, he creates a lot of chances to make plays and opportunities for him to score. When he’s doing that, it’s fun to watch.”

Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore speaks to reporters at City National Arena on Sept. 13, ...
Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore speaks to reporters at City National Arena on Sept. 13, 2019, a day after he revealed in a post on the Player's Tribune that he had been diagnosed and underwent treatment for testicular cancer. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Erik_Verduzco

Theodore’s role has increased in concert with his play. He’s averaging a career-high 22:14 of ice time, tops on the Knights among skaters. It’s the first time defenseman Nate Schmidt hasn’t led the team.

Schmidt still handles the toughest defensive assignments, but Theodore’s importance is clear. His responsibilities are likely only going to increase as well.

Coach Pete DeBoer has played Theodore 23:16 per game since he was hired Jan. 15.

“We’re going to rely on him, for sure,” DeBoer said shortly after he was hired. “He’s an elite defenseman.”

Future

The Knights signed Theodore to a seven-year contract before last season. It’s a move that’s looking more and more prescient by the game.

Theodore’s cap hit of $5.2 million ranks 47th among defenseman this season. The Knights acted with foresight to lock up a young player on the rise, and they look poised to reap the rewards for years to come.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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