University of Notre Dame freshman Vince Hinostroza was one of the nation’s top NCAA rookies this season. The Bartlett, IL native led the Fighting Irish in rookie scoring with 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 34 games.
Hinostroza, along with teammate Thomas Di Pauli (WSH), represented the United States at this year’s World Junior Championship. The Chicago Blackhawks' prospect's efforts didn't go unnoticed as Hinostroza was recently named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Hinostroza after practice on Friday at the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.
Q: This is obviously your first time here in the NCAA Tournament. What has it been like for you?
VH: It’s been really cool. Obviously St. Cloud State beat the guys that were here last year in last year’s regional. So to have the opportunity to [play] them is certainly exciting for us. It’ll be a good game tomorrow.
Q: Notre Dame has some great leaders like T.J. (Tynan) and Jeff (Costello). What have those guys and the other leaders on the team taught you that has prepared you to play on a big stage like this?
VH: I think the message that they sent throughout the whole season was that it is a long season and we just have to play our own game. If we have a bad game here and there, we can’t worry about it. We just have to keep moving forward. Towards the end of the season, I think we had a good stretch there and I think we have that momentum here, too. They just taught us freshmen a lot and we just have to keep carrying that momentum here in the NCAA Tournament, as well.
Q: You and Tommy (Di Pauli) both played with Team USA in the World Junior Championship earlier this year. What was that experience like for you and what were you able to bring back to Notre Dame that has helped you to get to this point?
VH: I think when you go overseas and play on the big rinks in the World Juniors you’re playing with some of the best players in your age group. And some of those guys are going to be playing in the NHL soon right after that. So you see some great players there and you learn a lot from them. I think that I was able to bring back a lot of things like skating and learning not to over-handle the puck that has really helped me here at Notre Dame in the second half.
Q: What was the one thing you were able to bring back from the World Junior Championship that was either lacking or missing in your game prior to it?
VH: I think the gritty part of my game because in the first half of the year I wasn’t really finishing much of my checks and stuff like that. At the World Juniors, we were kind of forced to finish all of our checks and play that kind of gritty game, so I was able to bring that back with me in the second half and it really helped me out.
Q: I know that you’re a prospect of the Chicago Blackhawks. Did you attend their prospects camp last summer?
VH: Yes I did.
Q: What did you learn from that camp that you were able to bring back that has helped you at Notre Dame this season?
VH: There’s obviously a lot of great players there and a lot of older guys. I think the greatest thing for me about the camp was the strength and speed of the game. There were guys there that never stopped moving their feet and were just so strong on the puck. I think the puck protecting aspect and just the speed of the (pro) game were the greatest things that I learned about being at the camp and have tried to apply them to my own game here at Notre Dame.
Q: Jeff Jackson is a coach that’s very methodical and detail-oriented in the way he runs his team. Was that something that was easy for you to adjust to or did it take some time?
VH: The coaching staff here is great and they produce great systems for us. It’s all to produce offense, so we play defense to create offense here and I love playing offense, so it’s been easy for me to adjust to playing the systems here. It wasn’t very hard at all to get used to because we practice them a lot. So it was a pretty easy adjustment for me.
Q: What is the one lesson that Coach Jackson and his staff have taught over the course of the season that has allowed you to take that next step in your development?
VH: I think the whole idea of having confidence. As a young guy, you sometimes get overwhelmed and get kind of nervous to make plays. I think what they’ve allowed me to do is make plays this year and helped me build up my confidence. But they’ve also been pretty hard and strict on me too, and I think that’s really helped me a lot as well.
Q: How would describe yourself as a player and what do you personally feel are some of your greatest strengths?
VH: I like to pass the puck and make plays, so those are the strengths of my game.
Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF