Ducks defenceman Shea Theodore finds his footing quickly in NHL playoffs

Theodore finds his playoff footing quickly

CALGARY — Shea Theodore estimates he was called up by the Anaheim Ducks and sent down to their minor-league affiliate at least 15 times this season.

The 21-year-old Ducks defenceman from Langley, B.C., has gone from a bubble player to contributor quickly in his NHL playoff debut.

Two goals and three assists in his first three playoff games has Theodore feeling he belongs in the high-stakes hockey environment.

“I just think my confidence level is pretty high right now,” Theodore said Wednesday. “The coaching staff definitely believes in me. That’s huge for my game.”

The 90-minute commute between Anaheim and San Diego, Calif., made Theodore’s frequent moves between the parent club and the Gulls somewhat easier.

Cam Fowler’s knee injury the last week of the regular season, projected to take two to six weeks to heal, opened the door for Theodore to be a regular in the lineup.

He averaged just over 20 minutes ice time in the first three games of Anaheim’s Western Conference quarter-final series versus the Calgary Flames.

Theodore scored twice in Game 2, including the tying goal of a 5-4 overtime win, and tied with Jakob Silfverberg for a team-high five shots on net.

“I’m here now,” Theodore said. “I’m trying to play my game, get more comfortable as it goes. It’s been a fun ride so far.”

The six-foot-two, 195-pounder has been paired with Kevin Bieksa, who is 14 years his senior and a player Theodore followed when Bieksa was a Vancouver Canuck.

“When he starts talking about playoff games he watched me play 10 years ago, I don’t really like that too much,” Bieksa said.

The Ducks drafted Theodore in the first round (26th overall) in 2013.

The former captain of the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds helped Canada win gold at the 2015 world junior hockey championship in Toronto before graduating to the pro ranks.

Theodore had two goals and seven assists in 34 games for Anaheim this season, as well as five goals and 15 assists in 26 games for the Gulls in the American Hockey League.

“He’s playing to his strengths and his strengths have always been a puck-moving, offensive type of defenceman,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said.

“Yes, it’s a surprise he’s doing it in his first Stanley Cup appearance, but again that’s the uniqueness of the NHL.

“There’s always going to be players that are going to step in and move forward and other players are going to tread water because it is a different season, a different animal.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press