You know Blackhawks fans are looking for something to get excited about when recalling a 23-year-old from the AHL is considered a big deal, but that’s where we’re at with the return of Vinnie Hinostroza. He’s expected to make his season debut Friday after a morning promotion, and hopefully that’ll lead to a win against the struggling Sabres.
There are a few reasons to be excited about this. For one, Hinostroza can really skate, and that speed will be a welcomed element to the Hawks’ lineup. For another, he’s recorded nearly a point per game in Rockford, where he’s been one of the IceHogs’ best players.
Those are both positive indicators for Hinostroza’s future, and they’ve earned him another shot in the NHL, where he recorded 14 points in 49 games as a rookie last season.
But even for this writer, who recently wrote that Hinostroza is too good for the AHL, it’s important to note that expectations should be tempered. This is not going to be the move that single-handedly turns around Chicago’s season.
That’s not to say Hinostroza won’t help. He’s looked better than ever in Rockford and has that one clear standout skill that drives most productive NHL players. Considering how underwhelming players like Patrick Sharp and Richard Panik have been for much of the season, it’s not hard to envision him making an impact.
This isn’t the move that’s going to cure what ails the Blackhawks, though. A porous team defense that allows the second-most 5-on-5 shots on goal in the league won’t be fixed by an undersized forward best known for using his speed on the rush. A dreadful power play won’t be fixed by someone who will hardly play on it.
And Hinostroza, for all that he’s shown, is still a 23-year-old tweener just trying to establish himself in the NHL. He’s more than three years older than Alex DeBrincat, who has nearly twice as many career goals in half of the games. He’s pushing the definition of prospect at this point, which is why his domination of the AHL is only so impressive. He’s absolutely earned another shot, but that doesn’t mean he’ll blow us all away with it.
So while we’re all excited to see whether Hinostroza has become meaningfully better than a season ago, let’s try not to go overboard here. This move may help a little bit, but probably not more than that.