In Part II of our series, we take a look at what Vinnie Hinostroza has contributed to the Chicago Blackhawks and what his future looks like with the team
In Stan Bowman’s end-of-the-year press conference on Monday, there were a lot of different objectives he discussed. But one of those that seems like the most logical step forward for the franchise was retaining and developing the young, home-grown talent the Chicago Blackhawks currently have on their roster.
Nick Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat and Vinnie Hinostroza are the three names that are front and center when it comes to this objective. Three different writers at Blackhawk Up will be taking a look at each of these players in a three-part series. Aaron Goldschmidt wrote about center Nick Schmaltz in part one of the series and I will be breaking down the play, potential, and future for Vinnie Hinostroza.
Hinostroza just completed his second semi-full season with the Blackhawks, finishing the year playing in 50 games with the team (a one game step-up from his 49 appearances in 2016-17). Much like Nick Schmaltz a season before, Hinostroza was a player that got a taste of the NHL in 2016-17 before being sent back to Rockford in February to continue to get playing time and improve his game.
The first thing that everyone has to mention when it comes to Vinnie is his speed. Likely the fastest skater on the team, when Hinostroza has found success in the NHL, it has often times come from him using his quickness to his benefit. Take a look at one of his two goals against the Avalanche in January 2017 (goal replay starts at 2:11):
When the play begins with the puck loose in the defensive zone, Hinostroza is below the dots, but by the time Brent Seabrook gathers the puck and looks up ice, Vinnie is already at center ice. He is able to beat all of the Avs defensemen, catch up to Seabrook’s pass, and score on a breakaway.
Hinostroza started the year in Rockford again in 2017-18, but was called up in December to give the Blackhawks a spark. Early on, he did just that. Hinostroza had 3 goals and 6 assists in the first 12 games back with the team and 6 goals and 8 assists through the first 22 games back.
He would finish the year with 7 goals and 18 assists in 50 games. Stretched out over an 82 game season, Hinostroza would be somewhere around 11 goals and 30 assists on the year.
Hinostroza once again showed off his speed several times this season; a quickness that opposing defenses had to respect. One of the prettiest plays Vinnie had this year came in a game against Ottawa when he had the primary assist on a Kane tally:
There is a lot to like on this play. First, Hinostroza is able to collect a loose puck in the neutral zone and push it ahead to set himself up offensively. He then outskates the first Senators defender in the play, giving him an open look at the goal. But now that he has drawn in both of the Ottawa players involved in the play, he is able to dump a pretty pass back to the ever-dangerous Patrick Kane, who is able to squeak it into the net.
And if we are going to talk about pretty assists, there is no way to leave out his cross-ice setup for Jonathan Toews against the Vegas Golden Knights in January:
This is a play where, once again, Vinnie uses his speed to gain an advantage on a rush against a defenseman, before finding Toews alone across the ice for the open net goal. When utilizing his speed, Hinostroza can be very dangerous.
What was even more exciting this year (compared to the previous season) was Hinostroza’s ability to find the soft spot on the ice and get himself in front of the net. Here are a few examples of Vinnie finding his way to an open spot on the ice or in front of the net to tally a goal this past year:
All of these plays show the intelligence Hinostroza has on the ice and how he plays more fearless than many other players that are his height and weight. For being a smaller forward, Hinostroza is willing to go to the hard spots on the ice and also has the instincts to get himself in the best position to succeed. Whether it be getting out in front of the goaltender or finding a spot on the back side of a play to get himself open, Vinnie has shown signs of coming into his own at the NHL level.
And how can you not love the guy that is able to put up the game winning goal against the Nashville Predators:
Where does Hinostroza fit in?
While Schmaltz and DeBrincat have clear roles on the Blackhawks, Hinostroza is a bit of a question mark as to where he fits in the lineup. Hinostroza played on all four lines throughout the course of the 50 games he played with the ‘Hawks this year, and it is evident when you look at who his assists went to this season.
Schmaltz had four goals this year that came from Hinostroza. David Kampf tallied three goals from Hinostroza passes (with only one other goal on the season from Kampf) as well as three goals from Brandon Saad. Finally, Jonathan Toews, Artem Anisimov, and Jordan Oesterle all had two goals that came from Hinostroza dishes.
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This array of goal scorers from Hinostroza passes shows the amount of moving around Vinnie had throughout the year and the inconsistency he had on his lines. Would Hinostroza benefit from having the same linemates around him for a number of games? I would say yes, as almost every player gains chemistry with his fellow forwards the more he plays with them.
When Hinostroza was having success, it tended to come in hot streaks. Vinnie had a six game point streak back in January when he was on a line with Toews and Saad, but when he was eventually moved off the top line, the points became harder to come by.
But regardless of who Hinostroza skated with, the forward was always giving a strong effort at both ends of the ice. He finished the season with a 54.5 percent Corsi-for and a 2.4 percent relative Corsi, both positive numbers for a young player. At 24 years old and only 106 professional games under his belt, I don’t think we have seen the ceiling from number 48 yet.
If Hinostroza can find consistent linemates and continue to develop his shot, he will be a challenge for opposing teams for years to come and a great asset for the Blackhawks. His speed and scrappy play reminds me a bit of Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson. The numbers are similar too when compared to Arvidsson’s second season in the NHL where he played 56 games and had 8 goals and 8 assists; not to mention the two forwards are the same height (5’9”) and very similar in weight (Hinostroza 173, Arvidsson 180).
What will Hinostroza demand?
Luckily for the Blackhawks, Hinostroza is a restricted free agent this summer and will be easy to sign back with the team. There would be demand for a player like Hinostroza on the open market, but it would not be the likes of the other two players we are looking at in this series.
I would expect Hinostroza’s deal this summer to land somewhere in the $1 million to $1.5 million range. This may be wishful thinking, of course, as Stan Bowman showed he is still willing to pay more than he probably needs to in his re-signings of Erik Gustafsson and Jan Rutta earlier this year. However, I can’t see Hinostroza getting a deal of $2 million or more.
If Hinostroza continues to improve and takes the next step at the professional level, he could absolutely become a $2.5 million to $3 million a year player. If he totally breaks out, a la Arvidsson, he could land a deal very similar to what Nashville gave the winger last summer (7 years, $4.25 million AAV).
But we are still a little ways from finding out exactly how high the ceiling is for Hinostroza. The forward is due to see a full season in 2018-19 and may start to get a little consistency in the other forwards on his line. The future is certainly bright for Vinnie; the question is if he can live up to his potential.