Growing up in nearby Bartlett, Illinois, Vince Hinostroza dreamed of playing for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Now that he’s officially part of the organization, he’s making an impact for Chicago’s prospect team at the 2015 Traverse City Prospects Tournament hosted by the Detroit Red Wings.
“It’s my first time wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, so that’s been really exciting,” Hinostroza said. “There are a lot of eyes here watching, and that’s also exciting.”
It’s been hard to ignore the 21-year-old center during the four-day tournament. He’s strong on the puck, makes smart plays in possession, and his energy has been a spark for his teammates.
“He’s the type of player who, if he wasn’t wearing a number, you’d have to ask, ‘Who is that?’” Mark Kelly, Chicago’s Senior Director of Amateur Scouting, said. “That’s the type of player he is. He’s on the puck, and he makes things happen.”
And Hinostroza has made things happen in the Chicago area for a while.
He started turning heads while playing midget hockey with the Chicago Mission and then joined the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL. From there he played two seasons at the University of Notre Dame, before he decided to turn pro after the 2014-15 season.
“I feel like I had two great years at Notre Dame,” Hinostroza said. “Myself and the Hawks staff felt like it was a good time for me to leave and get within their system. My ultimate goal is to play in the NHL, so I want to strive for that. And this is the next step.”
He started that progression with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League last spring. He appeared in five games with Rockford and recorded two assists, at the same time he was making occasional trips back to South Bend to finish his semester at Notre Dame.
“That was a busy schedule,” Hinostroza said.
His schedule is now more defined. He’s expected to start the season in Rockford and the 5-foot-9, 175-pound center said he’d like to work on his defensive game during his rookie season.
“I want to become a better player in all three zones,” he said. “I think that’s something about my game that can improve. And I want to prove that I can improve, which I’ve started to do since last season.”
Hinostroza said he’s also stronger than he was in college. Over the summer he committed to the weight room, which he said will help his energetic approach to the game.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger and stuff, I feel like that will help my game,” he said. “When I have the puck I’m at my best. And if I’m stronger it’s harder to knock me off the puck, so that’s what I’ve got to keep doing.”
While none of those players are expected to make Chicago’s opening night roster, the Blackhawks now have a handful of players that could fill the “next man up” role in Rockford and should make some noise in the AHL.
“It’ll be a good team in Rockford and Chicago,” Hinostroza said. “You can see that by the type of players we have here. While I’d love to be in Chicago, if I’m in Rockford I know I’ll be playing with a great team and we should be able to win a lot of games.”
Follow Sean Shapiro on Twitter via @SeanShapiro