The future skates now

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

His English may be rough around the edges, but Tomas Vincour is fitting in smoothly with the Edmonton Oil Kings.

The 16-year-old was the first overall selection in the CHL import draft by the Oil Kings this past June. The club wanted a player they could build around and Vincour looks to be a guy they can do that with.

"He has really impressed me more as a person than a hockey player," said Oil Kings head coach Steve Pleau.

"Don't get me wrong, he's a heck of a hockey player, but he's been able to adjust and fit in perhaps a lot quicker than a lot of pro guys that have come over here."

Pleau is a guy who would know that situation quite well.

PLEAU HAS EXPERIENCE

The former head coach of the American Hockey League's Peoria Rivermen has had to deal with many European players making the transition to the North American game.

"A lot of the guys have the skill to play here, but they can't fit in with their teammates or they can't find ways to do things with their time. He's the type of guy that always has a smile on his face and he wants to fit in. He has told the guys to call him 'Vinny'."

Vincour spent last season playing for Kometa Brno in the U-20 Czech Junior League. In 41 games, he posted 15 goals and 24 assists, while racking up 58 penalty minutes. He has also played five career games in the Czech 1 Liga (pro division I).

Vincour is very excited to be a part of the Oil Kings future, but he admits learning English is the toughest part.

"I am learning lots on the ice," said Vincour. "In Europe, the game is very technical where over here it's very physical. I am adjusting well (on the ice), but I am having a tough time learning language."

Oil Kings GM Bob Green, who played a big part in selecting Vincour, is very happy with what he's seen so far in camp. Vincour scored twice in the Oil Kings' preseason tournament, and in their final two exhibition games this past weekend he also tallied twice.

"I think he is a guy that we can build this team around and I think it's helped that he has some chemistry with Brent Raedeke," said Green.

"We knew we were going to have to find someone to play with Tomas, and Brent has stepped up to the task and we feel fortunate."

One of the biggest knocks on European players is their lack of physical play. Some take time to adjust and turn out well, while others just can't grasp the physical element of the North American game. So far Vincour has shown he likes to take the punishment and he'll play the physical game.

ADJUSTING WELL

"We were told Tomas would be a guy that would adjust to the North American style of game and he enjoys that element of the game," Green said.

"This past weekend in Cranbrook, he went hard to the net a couple of times and got knocked on his rear end, but it didn't stop him, he went right back and got himself in position."

Vincour isn't eligible for the NHL draft until 2009 and he very well could be a high selection when that time comes, but the Oil Kings aren't going to put too much pressure on their young prospect.

"First and foremost we want him to get comfortable with his surroundings," said Pleau.

"Do we think he can be an offensive player for us, yes. But we have to remember this is his first season over here and we have to give him all the time he needs to be comfortable. We think he can be an everyday contributor for us in a lot of ways."


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