When Vinnie Hinostroza visited Arizona last week, it was a chance for the forward to meet new Arizona Coyotes teammates, speak with the staff and get a better feel of what awaits him.
“A really young and up-and-coming team,” Hinostroza said of the Coyotes. “They play a really fast game, a north-and-south game, and I think that’ll fit my game well and I’ll be able to be myself and create out there.”
Young, up-and-coming and fast could also describe Hinostroza, who’s looking to firmly establish himself in the NHL. The 24-year-old had 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 50 games last season with the Chicago Blackhawks, with whom he signed a two-year contract on June 15. Hinostroza was expected to be big part of the Blackhawks’ plans until he was traded with defenseman Jordan Oesterle and forward Marian Hossa, to Arizona on July 12. Hossa, 39, is not expected to play again because of a skin disorder.
Coyotes general manager John Chayka said Hinostroza was the focal point of the trade. He considers Hinostroza, “one of the top, undervalued players in the League,” who will compliment a speedy forward group that includes Michael Grabner, 30, Brendan Perlini, 22, and Clayton Keller, 20.
“He plays at a super-high pace, one of the highest paces in the League,” Chayka said of Hinostroza on July 12. “He’s skilled, he’s smart and he reads the play extremely well. Now with him and Grabner and with our current group of guys like Perlini and Keller, we think that we’re one of the fastest winger groups in the League. And not only fast, but we have a group that likes to have the puck and be on the puck, and that’s relentless. And that’s how [coach Rick] Tocchet wants to play.”
Hinostroza bounced around the Blackhawks lineup last season. Coach Joel Quenneville changes line combinations and defense pairs when things aren’t going well, and there wasn’t much that went right for the Blackhawks, who finished last in the Central Division (33-39-10). As frustrating as it was for Hinostroza, he used it to get stronger, especially mentally.
“I started off in Rockford (American Hockey League) and stayed hard on the mental game,” he said. “I knew I was an NHL player, and that’s what got me back in the NHL. I didn’t pout; I just kept playing my game, and when I came up I stayed in the same mindset, kept playing my game and it worked out for me. I’m just looking to improve on my skills and be more consistent.”
Acquiring Hinostroza was one of several moves made this offseason by the Coyotes, who hope to build on their solid run over the final 30 games of last season (17-10-3). They acquired forward Alex Galchenyukfrom the Montreal Canadiens for forward Max Domi on June 15 and signed Grabner to a three-year contract as an unrestricted free agent July 1, the same day they signed defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson (eight years) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (two years) to contract extensions.
Hinostroza said the optimism was evident on his trip to Arizona.
“From everyone I’ve talked to, everyone’s in a good mood and looking forward to next year,” he said. “I know they had a really good end of the year, so I think everyone in the summer is just working hard, looking forward to next season.”
Hinostroza, a Chicago native, is familiar with some of the former Blackhawks in Arizona, which include Hjalmarsson, forward Richard Panik and goaltender Antti Raanta. He’s also known Coyotes forwards Christian Dvorak (Palos Township, Illinois) and Christian Fischer (Wayne, Illinois) since childhood. The three will train together over the next few weeks.
After being unable to find a consistent role with the Blackhawks, Hinostroza will get another opportunity with the Coyotes.
“I took a big step last year, but I’m definitely not satisfied,” Hinostroza said. “I want to keep taking steps. I have so many more goals to achieve and I think every year I’m going to keep taking a step. So I look forward to just working hard to do that.”