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Vincent Hinostroza at home with Blackhawks

Forward Vincent Hinostrozsays he learned lot from older players prospect camp. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Forward Vincent Hinostroza says he learned a lot from the older players at prospect camp. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 17, 2012 6:50AM



Vincent Hinostroza is sitting on a stadium chair and staring straight ahead.

It’s Day 2 of the 2012 NHL draft at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, and the Bartlett native is waiting to hear his name.

His father, Rick, can see his son has “tunnel vision” and has moved four seats down to give him space. Hinostroza has talked to several teams before the draft, and his nerves act up inside his wiry frame when each is on the clock for its pick.

But it’s the Blackhawks — the team he has rooted for all his life, the team he watched win the Stanley Cup from his couch while recovering from knee surgery — who send his heartbeat racing every time it’s their turn at the podium.

It’s the sixth round and 168 names already have been called. Whatever. The Hawks are up. His heart is pounding.

He hears the name of his USHL team. His dad’s friends start to get up. Rick tells them to sit back down; it could be someone else on the team. The next thing Rick knows, his son is embracing him and headed down the stairs. He’s a Hawk.

“It got pretty nerve-racking when I was about to be drafted,” Hinostroza said. “I finally heard my name. Couldn’t believe it. I just stood up, hugged my dad and felt great walking down to the stage. I always wanted it to be the Hawks, but getting drafted by anyone would’ve been awesome. I’m just very fortunate and happy it was the Hawks.”

It was a moment years in the making.

“Before he turned 16 and was available for the futures draft for the USHL, which would take him away from home, he always used to tell my wife to kind of prepare her, ‘Mom, this is my last Christmas here. This is my last Thanksgiving here. Next year I won’t be here,’ ’’ Rick said. “For every holiday, he would sit down and tell her, ‘I won’t be here next year.’ He’s always had this on his mind.”

No fear

Tenacious, smart and quick are three adjectives Gino Cavallini, a former NHL player and the hockey director of the Chicago Mission, reels off when asked to describe Hinostroza, who came up with the youth team before being drafted by the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks in 2010.

“He brings a lot of energy,” Cavallini said. “We’ll see in the next few years, but he’s just a high-end skilled player who can play at both ends of the ice. To get anywhere in today’s game, you have to have a lot of the qualities he already has.”

What Hinostroza also has in abundance, Waterloo coach P.K. O’Handley says, is the ability to take his game to the next level when challenged.

“There was a game when I got on him, and he went out and scored a hat trick, including a game-winner,” O’Handley said. “After that, he kind of looked at me with a smile and a look like, ‘Hey, I’m here to play.’ He never shortchanges his coach or his teammates. I never had to worry about him being ready to go.”

At 5-9, 158 pounds, Hinostroza, a forward, lacks the “NHL-ready’’ body tossed around in scouting reports. But at 18, and with another year in the USHL before moving on to play for Notre Dame, there’s time for him to develop.

Regardless, O’Handley doesn’t see Hinostroza’s size as a deterrent.

“There’s no fear in his game,’’ O’Handley said. ‘‘There’s no might or maybe in how he plays. He gives you everything he has all the time. He’s going to make a case at some point in his career to make it.”

Dedicated fan favorite

Wherever Hinostroza has played, kids have flocked to him.

“My grandson thinks he hung the moon,” O’Handley said. “He’s just got an infectious enthusiasm for everything he does. And that passion he has outside the rink, he brings to the rink. There’s no off switch with him. The Blackhawks got a good kid there.”

The way Hinostroza sees it, it’s a privilege to get the chance to become the type of player he looked up to as a kid and also take the time to play shinny hockey with a kid who’s developing a passion for the sport.

“I’ve always had the love for the game,” Hinostroza said. “Waking up every morning and being able to play hockey, it’s really an honor. I love what I do, so I’m just going to keep doing it.”

He’s looking forward to applying what he learned at prospect camp to the USHL.

“I learned a lot from the older guys this week,’’ Hinostroza said, ‘‘seeing how hard they do drills and keep moving their feet all the time. There are good players at every level, but when you come here, everyone’s so fast and quick. I’m going to take what I learned here back to Waterloo and keep getting better.”



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