It’s been a long, strange journey this year for defenseman Troy Vance. Initially spotted as a dark horse draft candidate playing for the Philadelphia Revolution of the Eastern Junior League, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound blueliner found his way to Victoriaville of the Quebec League in the second half and helped the team to a decent playoff run. The end result was a fifth round selection (135th overall) by the Dallas Stars at the draft in Minnesota. The Stars, it turns out, helped Vance along the way in his QMJHL career decisions.
“Dallas actually got me out there,” Vance said. “They came to watch me when I was playing back home and said ‘hey, you should come out for a skate with Victoriaville.’ I didn’t think anything of it. I went out there, (Victoriaville) gave me a contract and the rest is history.”
The Tigres had run into injury troubles on the back end and Vance made an immediate impact, with four points in his first five games. He went into a prolonged offensive drought after that, but still finished the regular season with a plus-8 rating. In the post-season, he racked up four points in nine games before the Tigres fell to the eventual league and Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs. Even that brief spell with major junior opened up Vance’s perspective on what was possible.
“I learned more in the two months in Victoriaville than I had in the past couple years,” he said. “It was a whole other world. Everything is so much faster. The coaches there, the whole organization was just great. It was an easy transition, actually.”
For Dallas, Vance is a work in progress. Before the draft, one scout had said he worried about the blueliner’s hockey sense, even though Vance’s size and mobility made him an intriguing prospect. But those in the Stars organization see the positives in his development path.
“The fact he is very raw tells you he has so much upside,” said Tim Bernhardt, director of amateur scouting for the Stars. “We saw plenty of him there (in Victoriaville) and saw plenty of improvement.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Vance is that he’s only been a defenseman for a couple years. Growing up in Pennsylvania (he was born in southern New York state), the youngster was a New Jersey Devils fan and favored fellow forward Petr Sykora. And though the 6-foot-6 frame is naturally the first thing that comes to mind when Vance is being discussed, he’s far from a lumbering giant. With the teenager planning on going back to Victoriaville for a full major junior slate next season, he’ll get a chance to really spread his wings.
“He’s big, mobile and can move the puck,” Bernhardt said. “He’s actually very underrated in his ability to move the puck under pressure.”
The Tigres ended the season as a young team once leading scorer Philip-Michael Devos was traded to Gatineau, so an exciting core will return. Vance even got to share his draft year trial with a couple teammates, Chicago 2011 first-rounder Phillip Danault and goaltender David Honzik, who went to Vancouver in Round 3.
“They had more experience with it from the beginning of the year,” Vance said. “So with interviews, if we had interviews with the same team, we would talk about what it was like and that really helped.”
Next year it will be Vance doing the helping. And if his progression continues on its sharp path, the Tigres are in for a lot more success.
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