Chicago Blackhawks winger Vinnie Hinostroza did not start his second season in the NHL the way he wanted to. In fact, the twenty-three year old did not even start the season within the NHL. Instead, he kicked things off with Chicago’s affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. With the Hawks re-acquiring players like Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad this summer, there was no room for Hinostroza on the roster and he ended up being booted down to the AHL. It was not how he planned on opening up his second season and he was not happy about it.
Instead of channeling that anger and frustration into something destructive however, Hinostroza chose to make an impact and show what he was capable of. In twenty-three games, he tallied nine goals and thirteen assists, showing off the very best of what he had to offer. Though Rockford offers a different level of play than the NHL, the time spent there still showed that Hinostroza had talent and that he could produce when necessary, something that the Hawks are looking for from all of their players.
With the Hawks dropping a stretch of five games recently, big changes have been in the works and one of those changes involved giving Hinostroza another chance. He showed hard work and talent in his rookie season, moving quickly to get the puck, but the team was looking for control and poise out of him as well. With his time in Rockford and time spent over the summer preparing himself for the game, Hinostroza was ready to take on his role as a new and improved player.
He got that chance on Friday night, when the Hawks faced off against the Buffalo Sabres. After Tanner Kero cleared waivers, Hinostroza was brought up to make his season debut. He did not log any goals or assists during the night, but he had plenty of opportunities with the puck and he was able to stay in control during those times. Instead of recklessly using his speed, he has figured out when it is best to use it and when it is a better time to think through his options. Even Coach Joel Quenneville noticed the change in the winger and appreciated the work that he had put in.
Speed is definitely a huge part of today’s hockey games, with a league slowly moving more towards speed and away from just huge hits. Hinostroza has had a chance to develop himself and he knows where he can fit in on the roster. However, he will have to constantly adjust his level of play if he wants to keep his spot. Monitoring when his speed is most useful will be key, as well as working on getting his body to the net. The Blackhawks have struggled with consistent net presence through the past few years, so if Hinostroza can secure that role, as well as work on his puck possession, he’ll definitely catch the eyes of the coaching staff in a good way.
It was frustrating for Hinostroza to start his season in Rockford, especially now that he knows he has something to offer the team. If he wants to stay up here, he’ll need to start contributing in some big ways, especially since the Blackhawks need to start seeing some all-around team contributions. They picked up two wins over the weekend, beating the Sabres and then the Arizona Coyotes, but neither team is a huge threat. In the upcoming week, they’ll take on the Florida Panthers and the Winnipeg Jets. They’ll also face a division rival, the Minnesota Wild, which will be a huge test for both teams. If there’s any right time to shine for Hinostroza, this week would be the time to really break out of his shell and bring the best of his game to the table.