He may not have received much fanfare at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, but even though Tomas Vincour
wasn’t selected until the fifth round (129th overall), he has quickly climbed very high up the Dallas Stars’ list of prospects.
Just over a year after joining the organization, Vincour (pronounced vin-SORE) enjoyed an outstanding final season of junior hockey in Canada and is now considered one of the club’s future impact players.
The 20-year-old right winger projects as a skilled goal-scorer in the professional ranks. He recorded 29 goals and 48 points in 57 total games last season in the WHL, including 12 goals and 22 points in 24 contests following a mid-season trade from Edmonton to Vancouver. Vincour then added seven goals and 13 points in 15 playoff outings, as he helped the Giants advance to the Western Conference Finals.
After spending last week at the Stars Development Camp at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, Vincour looks forward to a summer of training. He will likely play this coming season with the Stars’ top minor league affiliate, the AHL’s Texas Stars, who are based in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park.
“Tommy had a great season,” said Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development Les Jackson. “He started in Edmonton and ended up in Vancouver with (head coach) Don Hay and I just think the experience he got there was awesome. Don Hay is well-respected at that level, he prepares guys for pro and Tomas made some great strides. I suspect he’s going to move right into Austin and be an impact player there for us. He’s a great kid, got a great set of hands. There’s some things he needs to develop, which is fairly normal, but for the most part, he’s on the right track. He’s got the right attitude and he’s hungry.”
Vincour indicated that he welcomed the trade from a last-place club to one that afforded him his first chance in three WHL seasons to experience the greater intensity of the playoffs.
“The Vancouver Giants is a great organization, Don Hay a great coach, and there were great guys in the room,” said Vincour, a 6-foot-2, 199-pound native of Brno, Czech Republic. “I was real happy about the trade when we went to play in the playoffs and I could be myself there. It was good meeting new guys. They tried to teach me and I tried to learn how to be a two-way player, to be good defensively and on offense. It’s been just a great opportunity for me to play there. Every day I learned something new there, so it’s been really good for me.”
In addition to his considerable skill on the ice, all you need to know about Vincour and his commitment to becoming an elite player is that he willingly left his homeland at the age of 16, coming to a new culture where everyone spoke a different language - all in an attempt to give him a better chance at one day reaching the NHL.
“I decided to go play in North America and I really liked it,” said Vincour, who has represented the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championships the past two years, registering seven assists in 11 total games. “I enjoy every day here, it’s been great. I love to be here. It’s a different lifestyle, a different country. I wanted to try that and if I couldn’t, then I could tell myself, playing in the Czech League, ‘At least I tried, I wasn’t good enough for it.’ So I’m really happy I tried for it and that I can be here right now.”
Vincour admitted that the initial transition to life in North America, away from his family, was difficult, but the total immersion helped him adjust relatively quickly.
“The first three months, it was pretty hard, because I didn’t know words in English, so it was really tough for me,” acknowledged Vincour, who recorded 16 goals and 39 points in 65 games that year, 2007-08, for the expansion Edmonton Oil Kings. “But after three months, I started to get used to it and I learned how to speak English. The guys in Edmonton, they helped me out a lot, they helped teach me English, so thanks to them. But it wasn’t easy, especially for a European guy, when you try to come to North America and you have no idea how things are - it was pretty hard.”
While many Europeans also need some time to get comfortable skating on the smaller North American ice surface (85 feet wide compared to 100 feet in Europe), Vincour did not have that problem.
“When I was younger, I went to school and we had a full class of hockey players and we had a rink right across the street from the school and the rink was really small, like the rinks here,” Vincour explained. “Basically, I grew up on the small rink, so that’s probably why I like it better.”
As he prepares for his first pro season, Vincour was happy to participate in the Stars’ Development Camp, especially so he could receive some valuable training time with Dallas strength and conditioning coach J.J. McQueen.
“It’s really important, especially off the ice - you really have to take care of your body, because your body will work with you,” Vincour said. “If you don’t do stretching after practice, if you don’t warm up properly, you can hurt yourself and then it’s never easy. So all the stuff we’re doing here, it’s great for us, and it’s up to us if we take it or leave it. It’s really fun.”
He plans on utilizing the rest of the summer before September’s training camp to work as hard as possible on his conditioning, so he can put himself in the best position possible to compete for a key role on the AHL squad, or perhaps even a Dallas roster spot.
“It’s up to me how I prepare for the main camp and how hard I work,” Vincour noted. “We still got two months, so we’ll see. I decided to go to Edmonton and train there with my trainer and then we’ll see how ready I will be for main camp here.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets some games (in the NHL this season),” Jackson said. “He’s a pretty talented kid. You hate to say that because it puts expectations on him. But (Stars scout Dennis Holland) and the guys in the field did a great job with him, that was a good pick-up.”
Especially for a fifth-rounder just over a year ago.