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Despite lack of points, consistently strong play keeping Tomas Vincour around

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

It might not seem like it after a casual glance at the statistics list, but rookie winger Tomas Vincour has been a consistent contributor at both ends of the ice for the Dallas Stars.

Recalled from AHL Texas back on Feb. 6 when the Stars were decimated by a rash of injuries, Vincour was one of four or five minor league call-ups in town when he first arrived, but now, with all the injured guys back in the lineup except for leading scorer Brad Richards, Vincour is the last one left. 

While other forwards such as Francis Wathier, Raymond Sawada, Travis Morin, Colton Sceviour, and even Aaron Gagnon have been re-assigned back to the AHL, Vincour remains with the big club because he has been a solid asset just about every night.

And even though the 20-year-old native of Brno, Czech Republic has yet to register a point through his first 13 NHL contests, his strong performance has earned him premium ice time on one of the Stars’ top offensive lines, alongside constant threats Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson.

“I’m feeling great,” said Vincour, who registered five goals and 12 points in 44 AHL contests before his recall. “My confidence is getting higher every day and I have to give credit to my linemates, Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, because those two guys are great players and they make it easier for me. They help me a lot.”

“He’s a right-handed forward and he got a real good shot,” added Eriksson, who has had to adjust to new linemates after Richards was hurt and James Neal was traded. “I think he’s been playing real well and I think he’s been creating a lot of chances out there and that’s always nice to see that. He almost got one last game, too, he has to keep going. I think he’s played real well.”

Because the rookie has helped generate countless scoring chances, firing 16 shots on goal, he wasn’t getting frustrated by his inability to finish. He’s contributed in other ways, of course, delivering 22 hits and blocking eight shots while averaging 10:04 per contest, but the law of averages suggests it’s only a matter of time before he finds the back of the net.

“I’m a big believer that if you work hard, then the goals will come, so I believe that the goals will come,” Vincour said simply. “I know I’m getting chances, and this is the NHL, that’s what I was dreaming about all my life. I’m not going to be frustrated because I don’t score.  I know I’m getting chances and as soon as I get a bounce, then one goal, two goals will go in.”

“He’s got a pretty good personality, I don’t think it wears on him like you see on a lot of other guys,” captain Brenden Morrow said of Vincour’s inability to hit the scoresheet. “He’s a pretty easy-going guy. Maybe internally, he’s pressing a little bit, but he’s got a pretty good attitude and you don’t really notice it.” 

Coach Marc Crawford indicated that Vincour’s situation reminded him of a player named Rich Chernomaz, from his days with St. John’s of the AHL way back in 1993-94.

“He’s done everything but score and you’d like to see him score,” Crawford said of Vincour. “It’s funny, I had a player at the minor league level and he played nine games for me and he hadn’t gotten a point yet and I sat him out in the 10th game. That seemed to be the tonic, the guy went on to be the American League leading scorer that year. I’m not saying I’m going to do that with Vinny, but he’s doing lots of very good things, playing extremely well. He’s finding people, he’s hanging on to the puck. 

“He is an intelligent young hockey player. The other part that he’s got to continue to improve upon, is he’s got to finish. He gives us every reason to believe that he’s going to be a finisher and be a guy that does that, but if you see me sit him out, you’ll know why.”

What’s even more noteworthy about Vincour’s success is that he didn’t appear to be very high on the Stars’ radar to be a possible NHL player this season, as well as the fact that he wasn’t even having all that great of a season in the AHL. But of all the call-ups, he’s the one that has had the biggest impact and made the most of his opportunity.

“He’s just played with confidence and he’s played consistently,” noted winger Adam Burish. “That’s the biggest thing for guys coming up from the American League. It’s doing it night after night and doing it consistently. And while he’s not putting up points, he’s playing solid, he’s playing steady, he’s doing the things that Crow asks him and that’s what keeps you around. He protects pucks, he doesn’t turn pucks over, he’s responsible defensively and if you can do that consistently, you can stick around.”

“He’s been great,” added Morrow. “A bit of a surprise, I think, but some guys just seem to excel at this level a little better than the minors and he’s one of those guys. He’s got good hockey sense, he finishes his checks, he’s a big, strong body, he protects the puck well and he’s got a great shot. He’s been a good complement for that line and he deserves to be here right now.”

Morrow’s assertion that Vincour’s game seems better suited to the NHL than to the AHL seems to be right on, and the 6-foot–2, 199-pound winger himself agreed. 

“Players are better and they move the puck much more than we do in the AHL here in the NHL,” said Vincour, who came over from the Czech Republic to play junior hockey in Canada at age 16. “That’s the way I’ve been playing my whole life. In Europe it’s somewhat more technical.  There’s a lot of Europeans in the NHL and that’s why I think it’s a little more structure, guys making plays in the neutral zone, that’s the kind of plays I like to do. You’re playing with better players and they think it well and count on you to know what they’re going to do with the next step.”

“He’s got a big body on him, he’s starting to understand how to use that and he can hold onto the puck in the offensive zone and make some space for other guys,” Burish said. “He’s been pretty effective that way and the more he plays, he gets a little more comfortable. He’s a guy that up here, compared to the American League, some guys have a knack being here instead of the AHL, and he’s one of these guys that fits in here and he’s been doing a nice job.”

As he continues to adjust to the faster NHL pace, Vincour feels like he is getting more comfortable with each game, and that can only be a good thing for both him and the Stars.

“I think I’m getting used to it right now,” said Vincour, the Stars’ fifth round selection (129th overall) in the 2009 Entry Draft. “I’m trying to learn something new every day and every minute on the ice right now is so important.”

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