At the end of the 2017-18 season, the experiment that was the Vegas Golden Knights franchise passed with flying colors.
As the team exceeded expectations, so too did defenseman Shea Theodore. After proving his abilities in the inaugural season, Theodore was a restricted free agent heading into the 2018-19 campaign. On Sept. 25, Theodore put pen to paper on a seven-year contract which cemented his place on the Golden Knights roster long-term. With the signing behind him, Theodore went to work on a career season.
Theodore skated in 79 games and recorded career-highs in goals (12), assists (25) and points (37). Those totals were the highest among Golden Knights defensemen and his 202 shots ranked second overall on the team. With new single-season bests behind him, Theodore is focused on improving on those numbers in 2019-20.
"I want to be a bigger leader on this team," Theodore said. "I want to contribute as much as I can. This summer it's going to be a lot of refocusing and getting in the gym so I can do all that next year."
If leading by example is how Theodore wants to expand upon his leadership qualities, he has a few moments to point to from his second season in Vegas. On Jan. 12, the Golden Knights erased a 3-1 deficit against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center and the teams entered overtime level at 3-3. During the second minute of overtime, Theodore stormed into the Chicago zone and slipped a shot through the legs of goalie Collin Delia to lift Vegas to victory.
Video: VGK@CHI: Theodore goes five-hole in overtime
In two seasons with Vegas, Theodore has skated in 27 postseason contests and has 18 points (4G, 14A) to show for it. Eight of those points came in just seven games during the 2019 first round as he led the Golden Knights in playoff assists (seven). He said the main thing he's noticed about playoff hockey that makes it so unique is the intensity and that aspect of the game was on full display when the Golden Knights took the San Jose Sharks to Game 7.
"It was a grind," said Theodore. "I think a lot of people don't really realize how tough it is to play in the playoffs. There are a lot of people out there that think teams just walk through, you play, and you win. It's tough. That was tough mentally and physically."
Theodore was able to cut through the pressure at times during the postseason and no play embodied his confidence more than his goal against San Jose in Game 4 when he cut through three Sharks on his way to the net.
Video: SJS@VGK, Gm4: Theodore splits defenders and scores
When the Golden Knights abruptly fell to the Sharks in Game 7, a season's worth of progress came to a halt. It takes time for a team to move on from a playoff series loss, but Theodore is using it as motivation for next season.
"I think when you go through something like that, being that close, to come out on the losing end its tough," Theodore said. "I think we can really build off that as a team and come in a little bit next year hungrier and working a little bit harder."