The story of training camp has been the apparent rapid ascent of Tomas Vincour. He broke in with the big club for 24 games in 2011 after a rash of injuries, and he never really looked out of place. He didn't score much at all, but one never got the sense that this was a kid barely out of juniors who didn't belong on an NHL rink. So far as a professional the Vincour story has centered around his lack of offensive production, and most feel that his lack of offensive production limits his ultimate ceiling.
I am not one of those. There are some players that put up hollow stats where you have no idea how good that player really is. There are also some players that put up relatively few counting stats, but the lack of production hides the fact that the player is actually very valuable. I think Tomas Vincour is part of the latter category, and I think the Stars do too which is why he is on the cusp of beginning his first season with an NHL roster spot out of camp.
Vincour has a boatload of potential, and he has loads of current value that traditional goal, assist, and +/- totals hide. He has everything you'd want from a young player except actualized results. There is no reason to think those results couldn't come this season. Follow the jump to find out why Vincour could make a big mark on the 2012 Dallas Stars.
I need to put a disclaimer at the top of this post. Tomas Vincour only played in 24 games last year at the NHL level for a total of 226 minutes and 15 seconds. His 24 games is roughly 1/3 of a season, but he only averaged 9 minutes per game. This is a small sample size, but it's also over a long enough period of time to make you really take a step back to consider what type of impact Vincour can have on the 2011-12 Stars. I will be referencing a few Hockey Metrics so if some concept is foreign please click here to solve any questions, or ask if something still doesn't become clear.
I know disclaimers are supposed to be something an author of any kind is supposed to create, but then act like it isn't there. I'm breaking that rule. Make sure you read that before moving on. Ok... /rant
Tomas Vincour had an great season last year as an NHL rookie. In his first 24 games as an NHLer Vincour deposited one puck into the net, and assisted on another goal. This production probably seems underwhelming to you, and if it does don't feel crazy. One goal and one assist in 24 games should look underwhelming, but the fact that his offensive counting stats are underwhelming is the very reason why his contributions from his 24 game debut are going unnoticed. What we know about Vincour's game is that he is good in the offensive zone on the cycle, he does well along the boards, and he's responsible in his own end. What about his game are we missing with contemporary stats though?
Contemporary stats hide that fact that Tomas Vincour was a possession fiend in his debut.
Vincour had a 12.7 Corsi Relative. If you'll recall that means that when Vincour was on the ice his unit would be expected to generate 12.7 more scoring chances over the course of 60 minutes than any line that doesn't include him. His 12.7 is by far the highest of any Stars forward last year coming in ahead of Tom Wandell's 7.3. It's true that he started most of his shifts in the offensive or neutral zones, but he wasn't thrown out on the ice against opposing rookies or fourth liners. His CorsiRelQoC (the aggregate Quality of Competition he faced) was the 5th highest of any Stars forward last year.
One interpretation of this is that Vincour is a possession fiend. When his units got the puck they made sure they directed it towards the net, and when they didn't have the puck they limited the amount of scoring chances they gave up. It's a small sample for sure, but for a player as relatively inexperienced as Vincour to be moving the needle that much is eye opening. Scoring goals requires that you have possession of the puck. You have to be able to finish though, and Vincour did struggle with finishing last year.
Vincour finished last season with a shooting percentage of less than 4% when the league average shooting percentage is somewhere around 9 to 11%. That 4% is abrnormally low. One would expect the bad luck associated with a shooting percentage that poor to even out. He wasn't afraid to shoot though. He took the 6th most shots per 60 minutes of any Stars forward last year, but since he had relatively few minutes his overall shot total was low.
If you assume that Vincour is going to see an increase in ice time a real dilemma develops when trying to assess his potential for thie 2012 season. You're adding the expectation of a higher shooting percentage, lots of possession, a coach that trusts him from their shared time in the AHL, and increased ice time together in this projection equation. Those factors all suggest a surge in production. Tomas Vincour actually looks like a big time breakout candidate,
There is little reason to think that Vincour can't be a solid 3rd line player for the 2012 Stars, but I thought of an interesting comp for Vincour. His game and history are eerily similar to that of Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings. Both guys are big. Both guys battle along the boards. They both possess the puck at a very high rate, got out of the gates slowly, and have a similar distribution of zone starts though, at this point, Franzen naturally takes a higher number of defensive zone draws than Vincour.
I was very surprised to see these numbers, but they pass the eye test. Vincour was a very good player for the Stars after his promotion. I was hesitant to compare his potential to that of Johan Franzen, but the more I think about it the more comfortable I get with the comparison. It might take him a while to get there, but his 1/3 of a season run last season appears to be significant. He will be given a chance to prove he's ready for the next step starting Friday, and all reports have discussed how hard Vincour has been working this offseason. That's all you can ask for from a young player, and hopefully that hard work actualizes into NHL production beginning this season.