Vinnie Hinostroza training with Patrick Kane to help elevate game going into 'prove-it' year with Blackhawks


Vinnie Hinostroza training with Patrick Kane to help elevate game going into 'prove-it' year with Blackhawks

Six rookies cracked the Blackhawks' Opening Day lineup last year as part of a transition to infuse more youth into a roster with an aging core, and Vinnie Hinostroza was one of them.

But it was a roller coaster campaign for the Bartlett native.

He was an every day player during the first half of the season, appearing in 48 games and compiling six goals and eight assists, before getting assigned to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs for the rest of the year — aside from the regular season finale — to fine-tune his game and gain more confidence.

To help advanced that and search for consistency, Hinostroza has been training with Patrick Kane — and Ryan Hartman — this summer in Chicago, working on edge work and skating drills.

"Skating with Kaner every day, it's unbelievable to watch what he does," Hinostroza said Saturday at the Chicago Hockey Charity Classic in Geneva. "We skate with [Prodigy Hockey skills coach] Brian Keane, and he really works on the small details. Going into the season, not only are we working on strength — that was my main focus last year — but also the little tiny on-ice thing like the edges and stuff like that.

"I think I'm getting a lot stronger, trying to do the right things, working out with Kaner and working out with these older guys. It's nice to be in the gym and on the ice every day."

There's an extra motivation for Hinostroza as well this offseason with the way the Blackhawks' playoff run ended in a four-game sweep to the Nashville Predators. The 23-year-old winger played in only one of those four tilts, logging just 6:48 of ice time in a 5-0 Game 2 home loss.

Does that sort of exit sit with a player and team all summer or does it get tossed in the trash can as quickly as possible?

"It's definitely motivating," Hinostroza said. "Who wants to lose that early when you've got such a great group? I think everyone was really focused going into the summer. Once workouts started I think everyone forgot it, but in the back of their mind it's still there cause you don't want to happen again."

The 2017-18 season is an important one for Hinostroza. He's set to become a restricted free agent at the end of it, and he is not only looking to secure a full-time roster spot but prove to management that he's worth keeping around beyond that.

It won't get any easier with the Blackhawks adding Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels into an already crowded mix to compete for a bottom-six role.

But that's a challenge Hinostroza is looking to tackle head-on.

"I obviously just want to come in with confidence and try to prove myself," he said. "I feel like I wasn't always myself last year, I was up and down there. I just want to come in and play my game as hard as I can every day."

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

For the first time in a decade, the Blackhawks officially will not be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at the United Center, the Blackhawks will be sitting at home mid-April instead of looking to add to their trophy case.

Exactly 366 days before, the Blackhawks actually became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff berth, also the result of a game against the Avs:

The last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs, Denis Savard was the coach and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were just 19 years old in the midst of their rookie seasons.

The next year, Joel Quenneville took over as coach after four games and led the Blackhawks all the way to the Conference Finals.

Of course, the following year (2009-10 season) brought the first of three Stanley Cups.

For perspective on how incredible this stretch has been for the Blackhawks, here's how the other professional Chicago sports teams spent 2008:

—The Bears finished 9-7 in Matt Forte's rookie year (he's since retired) with Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith as head coach.

—The Cubs led the National League in runs scored en route to a 97-win regular season...before falling flat against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. Lou Piniella was still the manager and Theo Epstein was still three years away from coming to Chicago.

—The Bulls found some incredible luck, pulling the No. 1 overall pick and selecting Chicago native Derrick Rose. He helped the Bulls to a 41-41 season as a rookie under coach Vinny Del Negro.

—The White Sox lost to Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS after winning the AL Central under manager Ozzie Guillen. Carlos Quentin enjoyed a breakout season (36 HR, 100 RBI) while Gavin Floyd won 17 games. 

The Blackhawks still have eight games left before the 2017-18 season ends April 7.

Alex DeBrincat records third career hat trick, but Blackhawks lose to Blues in overtime

Alex DeBrincat records third career hat trick, but Blackhawks lose to Blues in overtime

For Alex DeBrincat, it was probably nice to hear Chelsea Dagger again.

But how about three times?

The 20-year-old rookie snapped out of a 13-game scoring drought in a big way on Sunday night, recording his third hat trick of the season. DeBrincat did all he could to help give the Blackhawks two points, but they only came away with one in a 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues.

DeBrincat is now the first rookie in franchise history with three hat tricks in the same season, passing Steve Larmer. His last two hat tricks came against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 27, 2017 and Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 25.

"It's pretty cool," DeBrincat said of his third hat trick, "but I wouldn't be able to do that without the guys we have in this locker room and the linemates I've had. Most credit to them."

Entering Sunday, his last goal was on Feb. 17 against the Washington Capitals.

"Obviously it's frustrating when you go through a slump that like that but what I've learned is to stay positive and there's other things you can help your team win with," DeBrincat said. "Just kind of focus on those things."

He netted goals No. 23, 24 and 25 on the season, tying Patrick Kane for the team lead. He is also tied for second among goals scored by a rookie this season.

DeBrincat opened the scoring with nice wrist shot on the power play to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead midway through the first. With less than a minute to go in the period, he tapped one home in front of the net to make it 2-0.

In the third period with the game tied at 3-3, DeBrincat put his team in front 4-3 with 3:13 left in regulation. 

“We were talking about [DeBrincat] today, it had been a while since he had scored," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But whether he scores or not, he does a lot of good things in the game, and he’s very aware of his positioning, and doing the right things, finding pucks, getting in shooting lanes, or denying passing lanes. So he’s effective in a lot of ways, but nice to see him score a nice power-play goal today.”

But Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo even things up again after a shot from the point found its way past J-F Berube with 1:22 left. Patrik Berglund would net the game-winner in overtime to hand the Blackhawks a loss.

"I feel like we’ve played well and we just came up a little bit short," DeBrincat said. "I feel like that’s been the theme of this whole season.”