Fans will probably want to get familiar with Vincent Hinostroza before next season. The diminutive forward, who comes in No. 7 on our Top 25 Under 25 list, enters this year's training camp in strong position to earn a significant role from Day 1. While he doesn't have the highest upside of the players on these rankings, Hinostroza has NHL-caliber skills and should be ready to contribute soon. Maybe even in a few weeks.
Position: Center/Right wing
Birth date: April 3, 1994
Acquired via: Sixth round pick (No. 169 overall) in 2012 NHL Draft
Most recent stop: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Size: 5'9, 173 pounds
Contract: ELC ($717.5K cap hit, expires in 2018)
The development of Hinostroza has been a slow burn, but now at age 22, it looks like he's closing in on his potential as an NHL player. Lots of scouts really like Hinostroza's game, including his stellar passing skills, and he's coming off a very solid year where he led Rockford in scoring with 51 points and represented Team USA at the World Championships.
Like many Chicago prospects, the biggest slam against Hinostroza is size. He's listed at just 5'9 and 173 pounds, which makes him sound more like a normal human than someone built to take on massive athletes at high speeds. However, Hinostroza tends to play bigger than his frame, rarely shying away from the physical parts of the game. ESPN's Corey Pronman recently called Hinostroza "a gifted playmaker who can make plays at a pro pace and is not intimidated by bigger players."
And he's got fans inside the Blackhawks' organization, too. Maybe most importantly, at least for Hinostroza's chances of playing soon, he's been earning the praise of Joel Quenneville. After the team's prospect camp in July, Q sounded like he was already starting to tinker in his head about how to use Hinostroza:
"I thought Vinnie really jumped out this week," Quenneville said. "I thought he had a real good week. Speed, when you watch the playoffs this past year, you see that one thing that really sticks out in a game. The one thing that really is noticeable is speed, and I think Vinnie gives us that."
If the Hawks want to get younger and faster this season, they'll have options. Guys like Hinostroza and Tyler Motte, who came in just before him on the T25U25, bring above-average skating to the table, even if they're not especially big.
Those physical limitations put a cap on Hinostroza's upside as a two-way player, but they don't detract from his skating and passing ability. While the Hawks have lots of guys who could fit nicely into bottom-six roles in the future, Hinostroza's playmaking at least gives him a small sliver of possibility of jumping into the top six. More likely, he's a good third-liner who can take advantage of easier assignments to rack up points, but if you're looking for a prospect who might be able to take a top six role soon, Hinostroza may be the best bet of the bunch.
What's next in 2016-17
Hinostroza will be in training camp hopefully carving out his role on the Blackhawks for the upcoming season. He's older than fellow prospects like Motte, Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman, so there's a little more pressure on him to get going and make the NHL leap sooner than later. Luckily, the indications all summer have been positive for Hinostroza, and he seems to be entering camp as a relative leader in the competition for one of the Hawks' many open spots. If he falls short from Day 1 and returns to Rockford, I would still expect Hinostroza to get an extended opportunity in Chicago at some point during the 2016-17 season.
Second City Hockey's Top 25 Under 25 rankings
No. 7: Vincent Hinostroza
No. 8: Tyler Motte
No. 9: John Hayden
No. 10: Mark McNeill
No. 11: Fredrik Olofsson
No. 12: Chad Krys
No. 13: Erik Gustafsson
No. 14: Luke Johnson
No. 15: Tanner Kero
No. 16: Artur Kayumov
No. 17: Carl Dahlstrom
No. 18: Dennis Gilbert
No. 19: Luc Snuggerud
No. 20: Robin Norell
No. 21: Robin Press
No. 22: Dylan Sikura
No. 23: Graham Knott
No. 24: Anthony Louis
No. 25: Roy Radke
Honorable mentions: Radovan Bondra, Joni Tuulola, Mathias From, John Dahlstrom, Lucas Carlsson