When he made his NHL debut with his hometown Blackhawks in October, Vincent Hinostroza was understandably thrilled, excited, all of those hepped up emotions that come with the experience.
He was also very new to the pro game and everything it entailed. Now back for another stint, Hinostroza feels a little wiser in his approach.
Hinostroza was recalled on Sunday and played on the fourth line in the Blackhawks’ 7-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. It was tough to make a true assessment of Hinostroza’s outing; he logged 10 minutes, 37 seconds of ice time in a game that was loaded with special teams play. But coach Joel Quenneville liked what he did see from the Bartlett native, whose line – Brandon Mashinter – got the Blackhawks’ first goal of the night.
“I thought he made a good play on the wall, kept his feet moving, got the puck out, got a fortunate break with the play and the goal,” Quenneville said. “That line gets production off the bat. That’s certainly what we were looking for: energy.”
Hinostroza was bringing plenty of that with the Rockford IceHogs. He was also bringing production. In 41 games, Hinostroza had a team-leading 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists).
But the truly valuable thing Hinostroza’s gotten in Rockford this season is pro hockey experience. After wrapping up his second year at Notre Dame last year Hinostroza played five games with the IceHogs. This season, however, he’s gotten a real taste of the next level.
“I played a lot more pro games and got to know the game a lot better,” Hinostroza said. “I think this time I’m for sure a lot more prepared than last time.”
Hinostroza’s not the only one learning. One of his line mates in Rockford is Tanner Kero, another college player experiencing his first pro hockey season. Kero played 17 games with the Blackhawks earlier this season; in Rockford, Hinostroza said he and Kero have been finding their game.
“I think once we got to know the pro game, me and Kero, we started playing give and go more, picking our spots, chipping and chasing, stuff like that,” Hinostroza said. “Obviously, whoever we played with is playing great. It was just clicking down there.”
How long Hinostroza stays here is unknown. It’s all about seizing the opportunity, but Hinostroza feels better about doing that now with the added experience.
“I worked with [coach Ted Dent]… he’s helped me a lot and I think I’m all set with the pro game,” he said. “I understand it now and I’ve really bought into it.”