Chicago Blackhawks call up Bartlett native Vinnie Hinostroza

Updated 12/9/2017 11:30 AM
  • Left wing Vinnie Hinostroza is returning to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bartlett native was recalled from Rockford, where he collected 22 points in 23 games for the IceHogs in AHL play this season.

    Left wing Vinnie Hinostroza is returning to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bartlett native was recalled from Rockford, where he collected 22 points in 23 games for the IceHogs in AHL play this season. Associated Press/file

When a team is muddling along, sometimes the most popular player is one who isn't even on the roster.

In the Blackhawks' case, that's certainly been true of Bartlett native Vinnie Hinostroza, with fans on social media begging for the speedy winger to be recalled from Rockford.

Well, the fans got their wish Friday after Tanner Kero cleared waivers and was assigned to the IceHogs. Hinostroza was immediately inserted into the lineup and centered the third line with Patrick Sharp and Richard Panik as his wingers during the Hawks' 3-2 overtime win over Buffalo at the United Center.

Hinostroza nearly scored on his first shift and he had three other good opportunities during the game as he flew around the ice, playing with the purpose and passion of a player who wants desperately to stick in the NHL.

"Certainly gives us some speed, some energy, some enthusiasm," coach Joel Quenneville said before the game. "I'm sure his appetite of getting back here is going to be in the right place."

Hinostroza, who spoke about 30 minutes after Quenneville, was excited to be back and said he definitely has something to prove.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I feel like I'm in a really good place mentally and physically. So I'm going to come in with the same mindset I came into camp (with) -- that I belong here, I'm a confident player and keep growing here."

Hinostroza probably deserved to be on the Hawks all season, but he was squeezed out by free-agent signings Patrick Sharp, Tommy Wingels, Lance Bouma, as well as 19-year-old phenom Alex DeBrincat and John Hayden. To get Hinostroza consistent playing time, Quenneville will likely have to sit Sharp, Ryan Hartman, Richard Panik or perhaps Hayden. Hartman was the odd man out Friday.

"He's … one of the few guys that can really create on his own just with his speed and his whole skill set," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously we're probably looking for a little bit of a spark and I'm sure he's excited to come up too. It'll be good to get him back in the lineup."

Asking Hinostroza, who scored 6 goals in 47 games with the Hawks last season, to be the savior for a team that's treading water at 12-11-5 is equal parts unrealistic and crazy. He's a speedy forward who might provide a short-term boost, but the Hawks need their big-name players to start bringing it on a nightly basis.

Hinostroza (9 goals, 13 assists in 23 games with Rockford) admitted he was disappointed when he was sent to Rockford after camp. He kept a good attitude, though, thanks in part to a few mental-health books he read over the summer.

"(The demotion) drove me to work harder in the weight room and on the ice," Hinostroza said. "If you go to the rink when you get sent down … and you're a bum and don't work hard, then nothing good's going to come out of it. You're not going to come back up.

"I just wanted to get back here."

Kero, meanwhile, heads back to Rockford where he can get consistent playing time. The 25-year-old center appeared in just eight games for the Hawks this season.

"He needs to play," Quenneville said. "I think there's more to his game. We used him as a reliable guy defensively. Offensively, there's some skills there. …

"We're happy we have him because we think he's a useful player in a lot of ways."

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