Even after growing up in Chicago and playing for his hometown Blackhawks for parts of three seasons, it didn’t take long for forward Vinnie Hinostroza to know he was going somewhere that felt like it’s own kind of home.
Hinostroza was working out when he got the phone call from his agent that he was bound for Arizona along with defenseman Jordan Oesterle in a trade that sent forwards Marcus Kruger, MacKenzie Entwistle, Jordan Maletta and defenseman Andrew Campbell to the Blackhawks.
Hinostroza hung up with his agent and turned to his workout partner with an ear-to-ear smile. That person was Coyotes winger Christian Fischer, who grew up just minutes down the road from Hinostroza.
“He was legit the happiest guy in the world,” Fischer said.
Hinostroza needed only to look at his phone to know that the transition would be a positive one.
In the coming days, Hinostroza’s received messages from other current Coyotes such as childhood friend Christian Dvorak and former Blackhawks teammates Niklas Hjalmarsson and Richard Panik.
It was fitting that Fischer was in the room when Hinostroza got the news. Hinostroza has been a longtime friend of the Fischer family, especially Christian and his older brother, Michael. Their fathers even coach a travel baseball team together in Bartlett, Ill.
“I grew up swimming in their pool and hanging out there,” Hinostroza said of the Fischer brothers.
In addition to playing with Hjalmarsson and Panik in Chicago, Hinostroza also played with Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta for a short time with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford, Ill.
Hinostroza also spent three years with the Chicago Mission organization, a youth hockey club serving players from ages 10-18. The Coyotes have three other alums of the program in their organization: Fischer, Dvorak and defenseman Robbie Russo, the latter of whom was also teammates with Hinostroza at Notre Dame.
“It’s weird having these four guys walking around training camp and six years ago we were at the Mission,” Fischer said. “It’s funny because we would always talk about in summer skates, being on a line together and saying we’ve got to team up somewhere and play together. It worked out well. Vinnie’s been a lifelong friend.”
There have been plenty of familiar faces for Hinostroza in Arizona.
“When I got that call,” Hinostroza said, “I wasn’t expecting (the trade) but I was talking to Fischer, Dvorak and Panik throughout the year and they had nothing but good things to say about here. It was kind of a relief, actually, because growing up in Chicago and then playing there is a lot of pressure.
“I was happy to come down here with a younger group and try to make a name for myself. I’m really excited to be here and to be on the ice down here.”
Hinostroza played at a point-per-game pace at Notre Dame but was unable to find the same level of production with his hometown Blackhawks, registering just 39 points in 106 career NHL games.
A big reason the Coyotes went out to acquire Hinostroza was the team felt as though he was vastly undervalued, and his talents were not being properly utilized, a sentiment with which Fischer agrees.
“Underrated like you couldn’t believe,” Fischer said of Hinostroza. “I would watch Chicago games whenever they’re on during our off days. I don’t want to speak for him, but I feel like he didn’t play as much as he wanted. Even in summer skates, if you ask some of the guys they’ll tell you he’s one of the fastest guys out there.
“I think you’ll see it throughout the season. He’s going to be a big surprise for people watching our team.”
Coyotes President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka went out this offseason and acquired speedy wings such as Hinostroza and Michael Grabner to go along with potential No. 2 center Alex Galchenyuk.
During the Coyotes’ first organized practice of training camp Friday at Gila River Arena, Hinostroza skated on a line with Grabner and center Dylan Strome. At some point during camp, there’s a chance he could see some time with Dvorak, who is currently day-to-day with a lower-body injury and did not skate on Thursday.
Regardless, Hinostroza said he’s excited for a fresh start with the Coyotes, a transition facilitated by a number of familiar people that make Arizona feel like home.
“Pretty much all of them reached out and said they were excited to have me down there,” Hinostroza said. “I think more guys than texted me in Chicago when I got traded. It’s a nice feeling coming into a locker room where you’re wanted.”