Vincent Hinostroza was having a career year. Through 36 games with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks, the Bartlett native and Chicago’s sixth-round draft pick from 2012 had already set personal bests in goals (23), assists (31) and plus/minus (+24), and his team is currently in second place in the conference standings.
He was also nearing a couple of Waterloo career scoring records, needing three more goals and five more points to reach the top 10 in each category. (He already ranks ninth all-time with 69 assists.) His offensive production has catapulted him past notable franchise alumni such as Tampa Bay prospect J.T. Brown and Nashville forward Craig Smith, and he’s one point away from Sharks star Joe Pavelski’s mark of 121 points.
With the way Hinostroza was playing, it would have taken him, at most, two more games to catch Pavelski, but gaining any more ground in the record books will have to wait—six weeks, approximately, after he broke his arm in a game against Green Bay on Feb. 2. He’ll likely be back in action for the final stretch of the regular season, and the Black Hawks could enjoy another deep run in the playoffs, where they lost last year in the championship series to the Green Bay Gamblers (including 2011 Chicago draft pick and fellow Chicago-area native Alex Broadhurst).
Hinostroza recently took the time to tell chicagoblackhawks.com about life in the USHL, getting drafted by his hometown team and his plans for the future.
You’re from Bartlett, Ill., but you play in Iowa, a few hours away, and your games take you all over the Midwest. Does your family ever get to see you play?
My immediate family—mom and dad—they come to almost all the home games. My sister comes whenever she can, because she’s a college student. Also, my grandma and a lot of my aunts and uncles and cousins all come to the games, so it’s pretty nice to have them here.
You’ve been living and training away from home for the last three years. Was it a really big adjustment for you when you were just starting out in the league?
It was really hard when I was 16 years old; it actually might have been harder for my mom. It’s something that you need to do if you want to move on to the next level. I came here a boy, and I think I’ve matured a lot; I’m a man now.
How has the overall experience—from traveling every weekend to living with a billet family—affected your development on and off the ice?
You’re not living on your own, because you have support from the billets, but it’s not your real family. You learn to fend for yourself. We don’t really have a lot of friends in school here, so we have a really tight bond with the hockey team. It’s like having 23 brothers, which is a cool thing.
Also, it’s just all about hockey. We’re all here to get to the next level, so we train really hard and practice every day. I feel like I’ve developed a lot over the past three years.
What’s the USHL atmosphere like, in terms of fan support and the level of competition?
It’s very competitive. Those guys battle out there every game. It’s a hard, fast-paced game. The atmosphere is amazing; we get about 4,000 fans here in Waterloo every night. It’s crazy, it’s loud. They love us.
Let’s go back to the NHL Entry Draft last summer. What was it like to hear that you’d been drafted by your hometown team? Were you aware that it was a possibility, or did it take you by surprise?
I’d talked to them a little bit, but going into draft day, you have no idea. You’re always thinking the worst, like, oh, I’m not going to get drafted... A lot of things are running through your head. To hear my name called was one of the greatest feelings of my life, being from Chicago and growing up around the team. It was a dream to say, I could play for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Are there any Blackhawks players you wanted to emulate when you were younger?
When I was younger, I liked Tony Amonte a lot, for some reason. These past few years, I’ve really enjoyed watching Toews and Kane.
After getting drafted, you attended Prospect Camp in Chicago over the summer. What was that experience like?
That was a great opportunity and a great experience to go there and see how fast hockey is at the next level and how great the Chicago Blackhawks organization is. Seeing their facilities was pretty cool.
You’ve committed to Notre Dame for next season. What aspects of that program make it a good fit for you? Were you always planning to go the NCAA route?
Since I was little, my parents have always preached that you’re going to college no matter what. Notre Dame is about an hour and a half from my house, so that’s definitely a big part of it. The hockey team has been growing over the past few years and getting better. They just got a new facility, a brand new rink, last year, and a state of the art workout facility, new locker rooms. I feel like that can help me get better and hopefully play at the next level.
You just passed Craig Smith, and you’re one point behind Joe Pavelski on the Waterloo all-time points list. Both of them were selected in the fourth round or later; you were drafted in the sixth round. Do you think getting picked later gives you a bit of a push to work even harder to make it to the pro level?
It makes you want to work harder, because those first few rounds are guys who are probably going to play [in the NHL]. But I don’t really look at it as, ok, I got drafted late so I’m not going to play. I look at it as, I got drafted, it’s just the first step, and now I have to keep working hard and getting better every day.
Injury aside, you could still become one of the team’s top 10 point-getters of all time by the end of the season. What would it mean to end your USHL career with your name in the Waterloo record books?
It would be a great feeling. I didn’t even really know that, so it’s something that I’ll now shoot for. It’s now a goal of mine.