Despite a few rough seasons for the Dallas Stars recently, the unexpectedly rapid development of 21 year-old right winger Tomas Vincour has been one of the team's most pleasant surprises.
A 5th round, 129th overall selection by the Stars in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Vincour's adjustment to the professional game has come quicker than anyone could have expected. The young Czech already has 71 NHL games under his belt, more than top Stars prospects Scott Glennie, Alex Chiasson and Reilly Smith, all of whom were drafted in the earlier rounds before Vincour in 2009.
The big winger, who stands at 6'3" and weighs north of 200 pounds, has always had an NHL-caliber physical stature, and combining that with a strong work ethic and impressive puck control down low made him a reasonable choice for duty in Dallas.
Vincour would undoubtedly be playing in Dallas once again right now were it not for the ongoing lockout, but despite being relegated to the lower league of the AHL, Vincour's playing time this season could yield even greater results for both himself and the Stars going forward.
During his earlier years in the WHL, Vincour showed himself to be a reliable, albeit unspectacular, scoring threat, registering 123 points in 171 games, although most of that time was spent with the weaker, newly-developed Edmonton Oil Kings expansion team.
Even though he was used primarily on the bottom two lines during his 71 games in Dallas so far, he still registered a total of 12 points, and was given some chances to play on the second line and on the powerplay. On most nights he plays the style of game that would suit him ideally on a checking line, but he has at times also shown flashes that he could become a contributor higher up in the lineup.
With a forward core that features Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Brenden Morrow, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, and Derek Roy, premium offensive minutes would have been hard to come by for Vincour if the NHL were in session, limiting his chances of further developing his scoring game.
However, the lockout is allowing him to apply what he's learned in Dallas to currently improve that area with the AHL's Texas Stars.
Vincour has one goal and five assists in eight games so far with Texas, playing juicy minutes with fellow prospects Smith and Cody Eakin on the team's top line and on the powerplay. His six points rank him second on the team, behind only linemate Eakin's seven. Stats for the team can be found here.
Most intriguingly, Vincour seems to be developing an effective chemistry with Eakin as his center, and if this duo continues to find success together it would be very likely to see the two playing on the same line again with the Stars once the NHL comes back.
While AHL success doesn't always translate into NHL success, it certainly doesn't hurt, and a player needs to learn how to dominate games at lower levels before they are able to do it at hockey's highest. Vincour is learning exactly that right now, and if he can continue to do it all season it will help him establish himself as a legitimate part of Dallas' offensive attack heading into the future.