I may be a prisoner of the moment, but so be it. If this version of Vinnie Hinostroza, the one who has five assists in six games with the Chicago Blackhawks this season, is going to be the long-term version of Vinnie Hinostroza, then I think the Blackhawks need to invest in this version of Vinnie Hinostroza.
This is not the same player that left the Blackhawks organization in 2018. At that point in his career, Hinostroza had yet to develop the defensive side of his game to a bonafide NHL-level, where he couldn’t get by just on his speed and offensive ability. Through his time with the Arizona Coyotes, Hinostroza looked the part of a solid NHL bottom-six offensive player. Then he joined the Florida Panthers, an organization that was looking to be a Stanley Cup contender and coached by his former bench boss in Chicago Joel Quenneville.
Hinostroza saw nine games and 9:50 minutes of ice per game. He produced zero points.
However, since returning in trade to Chicago, who had to pay the high price of … *checking notes* .. Brad Morrison, Hinostroza has averaged 12:06 minutes per game with five assists in six appearances. He put the exclamation point on his re-arrival in Chicago with three assists on Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings in a 4-0 win for the Blackhawks.
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) April 17, 2021
This is a new opportunity to make his mark in the NHL for Hinostroza. Coming from a team that is dominating the Central Division and at the top of the NHL, he had no place in the lineup. On a team battling for playoff positioning, he fits right in. Perhaps it’s the hunger he needed to revive his career.
Getting a 2nd chance to wear a sweater with the Blackhawks, Vinnie Hinostroza said is "something I’ll never take for granted again. These streaks come from hard work, practice and the weight room. I’m not going to be satisfied. … I love this team and we have a great group here."
— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) April 18, 2021
A native of Bartlett, Illinois, Hinostroza was drafted by the Blackhawks in the sixth-round of the 2012 NHL draft. He played two seasons at the University of Notre Dame, Stan Bowman’s old stomping grounds, and then made his professional debut with the organization at the end of the 2014-15 season with the Rockford IceHogs.
The next season, he led the IceHogs in point as a rookie and then cracked the Blackhawks’ NHL lineup for 49 games. He split time again between Rockford and Chicago in 2017-18, skating in 50 NHL games with 25 points. He was traded to Arizona that offseason.
Vinnie Hinostroza is playing like he wants to keep playing in Chicago beyond this season#Blackhawks
— Mario Tirabassi (@Mario_Tirabassi) April 18, 2021
Getting back to his “hometown” team and the team that gave him his first shot in the NHL seems to have re-lit a fire in Hinostroza’s career. Having just turned 27 and welcoming his first child into the world a few months ago, there’s a new lease on life and a rejuvenation in his game being back in Chicago. Again, maybe this is a “prisoner of the moment” situation, but I try to be an optimistic person. Hinostroza is an unrestricted free agent this season, he is playing for his livelihood in the NHL and I’m sure he wants that future livelihood to be with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Hinostroza: "[I was thinking in Florida] about being in the NHL and what it means, how you work your whole life to be here. I just want to be the hardest working player. It’s something I’ll never take for granted again."
Has 5 points in 6 games since returning to the Blackhawks.
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) April 18, 2021
Is there room for Hinostroza in the Blackhawks’ future plans? He’s not “young” by NHL standards, so he doesn’t fit the “rebuilding” narrative that President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman and the organization is pushing for. He’s also a small, energy-driven, two-way winger. The Blackhawks have those kinds of players already and they are younger and possibly near the same level of play right now. Is he expecting a raise from his $1M cap hit? If so, the Blackhawks might try to save some of that money and roster space for a younger, cheaper player.
If there is a drop-off in his play down the stretch of the season, with just 11 games remaining for the Blackhawks and a pivotal three-game series against the Nashville Predators coming up next, then the case is made easier for Chicago. But say Hinostroza continues on this torrid pace to end the season and is one of the catalysts to Chicago making it to the postseason. Then all bets are off, I’m my book. If that happens, give him a reasonable deal and keep him in the organization.