Vinnie Hinostroza’s odds of making it to the NHL were never high. Standing at only 5’9” and 173 pounds, he was picked in the sixth round by Chicago in the 2012 NHL draft and didn’t see his first taste of NHL action until the 2015-16 season, where he played only seven games and didn’t record a point. Despite having to fight against the odds, he finally seems to have found a permanent spot in the NHL following a strong performance last season. After being called up in early December, he played his first game of the 2017-18 season on December 8 and didn’t look back. He finished the season with 25 points in 50 games, a better point-per-game rate than Brandon Saad (0.43 PPG), despite the fact he was only the seventh-most used forward on the team after his call-up. He was especially impressive in January, with 10 points in 12 games. Hinostroza’s speed is a key part of his game and it showed last season.
The diminutive winger’s per-20 numbers were very impressive in terms of his ability to generate off the rush and handle the puck. His controlled entries were nearly on par with superstar Artemi Panarin (6.31), while his rush chances were comparable to teammates Saad and Jonathan Toews (both had 1.02). Despite having a clear need for more scoring after finishing 21st in the NHL in goals for, Chicago opted to trade Hinostroza to the Arizona Coyotes in a multi-player deal so that the Coyotes would agree to take on the remainder of Marian Hossa’s contract.
After the trade, Arizona GM John Chayka didn’t hesitate to praise his new acquisition. “He plays at a super high pace, one of the highest paces in the league,” Chayka said. “He’s skilled, he’s smart and he reads the play extremely well. He gets out in open ice and he makes a lot of things happen.” Chayka’s analytical background is well known, so he likely knows that, despite those bottom six minutes, Hinostroza would have led all Arizona skaters in per-20 scoring chances, scoring chance generating plays, and possession driving plays at even-strength in addition to the three categories in the graphic above.
What to Expect This Season?
After finishing next to last in goals for, the Coyotes need all the scoring they can get. This is great news for Hinostroza, who might finally be able to earn a top-six role. He has already surprised head coach Rick Tocchet, who said he was faster than he thought. If he continues to impress his coach, he could find his way on the wing of either Derek Stepan or Alex Galchenyuk, who are currently the top two projected centers on the roster. With what would arguably be the most skilled regular linemates of his career, Hinostroza could improve on his 0.5 PPG pace and establish himself as a 50-point player, if not better. Not bad for a former 6th round pick.