Joining Hawks 'means a lot' to Hinostroza
Vincent Hinostroza did something Friday night at the United Center that he'd done while growing up a fan of the Blackhawks in Bartlett.
He watched his favorite team play the Columbus Blue Jackets, soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of an NHL game. Unlike other fans, however, Hinostroza wore a suit and watched with the knowledge that his lifelong dream of playing for the Hawks was one step closer to reality.
Hinostroza, 20, signed a three-year, entry-level contract March 21, forgoing his final two seasons of eligibility at Notre Dame, to begin his professional career within the Blackhawks' organizational structure.
"It means a lot to me," he said, while meeting with reporters during the second intermission. "Ever since I was about 4 years old, I not only wanted to be part of an NHL organization, but the Blackhawks, (after) growing up in Chicago.
"It sounds like a dream come true signing with the Blackhawks, so I'm really excited."
Based on Hinostroza's point-a-game production at almost every previous step in his development path, the Hawks have just as much to be excited about. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound forward, whom they chose in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL draft, makes up for his lack of size with speed, skill and playmaking ability.
Hinostroza led Notre Dame in scoring with 44 points (11 goals) in 42 games this season as a sophomore. He finished third on the Fighting Irish as a freshman with 32 points (8 goals) in 34 games and missed a chunk of games with a knee injury.
This year, without any injury hindrance, Hinostroza was named a Hockey East first-team player. The season didn't start out great, but he recorded 29 points in the final 20 games.
"I had high expectations for myself after my freshman year," said Hinostroza, who packed on 20 pounds over the past two years. "I think at first I held myself too high and didn't really just go out there and play, and then the second half I started doing that and my game really began to pick up."
He likely will begin his pro career in the American Hockey League by finishing the season with the Rockford IceHogs, who also have defenseman Stephen Johns, a teammate at Notre Dame last year.
Hinostroza is the second Blackhawks prospect from Bartlett, joining current IceHogs forward Ryan Hartman. The Hawks also have backup goalie Scott Darling, who's from Lemont, and have signed other local products in recent years, including brothers Alex and Terry Broadhurst from Orland Park.
"I didn't really think about (signing) during the season," said Hinostroza, who played three seasons of junior for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League before his time in South Bend.
"I tried to focus on the season and then figure it out. I just wanted to talk to the Blackhawks' staff after (the season) and see what they thought, and they thought it was time for me to come out. So, I agreed."