Tomas Vincour, a center with Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, is trying to merge a power forward's skill set with a smaller player's wheels.
"He projects to be a power forward," Oil Kings coach Steve Pleau said of the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder. "He's a big, strong kid who skates and shoots the puck very well. He plays up and down and a physical brand of hockey and he's very effective.
"He's a big, strong kid. He goes up and down the wing and he plays a north-south game, which I think allows him to be very effective. He uses his skating to drive the net and he takes the puck to the danger areas."
Vincour was born in Brno, Czech Republic, but said he liked playing in the WHL rather than his home country's leagues, where skill is emphasized instead of a hard-working attitude.
"I would say I like North American hockey better than Europe," Vincour said. "In Europe it's more of a technical game, but in North America it's a more physical game, which I like better."
Vincour, who is ranked No. 42 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, knows moving to Edmonton increased his visibility to NHL scouts.
"I think since I played in Edmonton it helped my draft ranking," Vincour said. "Playing in Edmonton made me a different person than I was before. It was a tough move for me because I left my whole family, my friends and my girlfriend back home, but it made me a stronger person and it turned out well in the end."
Despite playing just 49 games, Vincour was fifth on the team in scoring with 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists). He also had 3 assists and a plus-2 rating in six games for the Czech Republic at the 2009 World Junior Championship, and earned an invitation to the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game in January. A shoulder injury, though, kept him from participating.
Two separated shoulders also ended his season prior to the playoffs, but despite the injuries, Vincour knows he needs to continue playing a physical brand of hockey.
"I am a big player and I like to play a physical style," Vincour said. "If I play physically then I will get the attention of everyone and that's the first thing, but also I like to play physical because it feels nice to hit someone and it knocks them off the puck."
For an average 16-year-old who didn't speak English, moving so far from home could have been pretty difficult, but Vincour quickly learned the language, and his outgoing, optimistic personality helped him adjust.
"At first when I came to North America there was a big difference for me because I didn't speak English," Vincour said. "There is also a different hockey style in North America because there is a smaller rink here than in Europe, so it took me a while to adjust. But after a while I got better playing in our system in Edmonton and I felt more comfortable in Edmonton."
Pleau also has seen an easy transition for Vincour.
"I think he's done very well adjusting to the WHL,"' he said. "He's certainly not intimidated by his new surroundings. Like any kid it takes some time to adjust to the schedule and the number of games we play and the travel. He's an exceptional kid, he's outgoing and he has a great personality. His teammates have really enjoyed him and all of those things are positives for Tomas.
"I would say I like North American hockey better than Europe. In Europe it's more of a technical game, but in North America it's a more physical game, which I like better."
-- Tomas Vincour
The fact that Vincour arrived at the same time the expansion Oil Kings did last season has afforded him playing time he might not have gotten with a better team. He had 16 goals and tied for the team lead with 39 points in 65 games in 2007-08 as Edmonton finished 11th in the 12-team Eastern Conference.
"Playing on a young team doesn't bother me because if you're a young player you can still make a big difference," Vincour said. "Sometimes it pays for you to be on a younger team. If you're on an older team you can learn a lot of things from the older guys, but it doesn't matter to me because I'm just happy that I still get the opportunity to play hockey."
This season, he helped Edmonton finish in an eighth-place tie with Prince Albert. In the tie-breaker game, Vincour had an assist on the Oil Kings' first goal in their 2-1 overtime victory that clinched the club's first playoff berth.
His injured shoulders kept him out of Edmonton's first-round four-game loss to the Calgary Hitmen, but Vincour can expect more top-line minutes next season.
"Being an expansion team, we are very young," Pleau said. "He's played quite a bit, but I think that no matter what team that Tomas played on this year he would've been in your top-six forwards and playing a lot. He played a lot of minutes this season."
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