Wraps

Well Pilgrim, Not Until You Eat The Peanuts Outta My…-FFUD’s Player Reviews: Vinnie Smalls Or The Secret Weapon?

I haven’t made much of a secret about what I think Vinnie Hinostroza is and what he could be. There’s more here than we’ve seen, and I fear there’s more than even the team thinks. Let’s tease it out here.

Vinnie Hinostroza

50 games, 7 goals, 18 assists, 25 points, 10 PIM, +5

53.7 CF%, -1.53 CF% rel, 53.7 xGF%, +5.39 xGF% rel

Yeah, so on the surface, 25 points in 50 games is certainly a decent contribution. Even you can do the math to see that works out to 41 points over 82 games, which you’d take from a bottom-sixer in a goddamn heartbeat. And maybe that’s all he is. And that’s ok. You need contributing third and fourth liners to be good, and Vinnie can give you that.

Except…

There was a point this season, when Hinostroza was getting to run with Schmaltz and Kane or on the top six in general, that he was top-20 in the league in terms of attempts he took and chances he got himself. Vinnie Hinostroza was one of the best individual chance creators in the league. His problem is that he didn’t bury enough of them, as his 8.1 SH% and only seven goals kind of make clear. And that might be it for him, because he wasn’t a big goal-scorer at Notre Dame and his best year in the AHL saw 18 goals in 66 games.

Still, looking at his WOWYs, when Hinostroza skated with Saad and Toews they ran up a 60+ CF%, and a 57% scoring-chance percentage. That’s the best mark any winger managed with those two. He and Schmaltz ran a 52% mark in both as well.

This doesn’t mean that Vinnie Hinostroza should be on Toews’s line all next year and never moved. What I think it does say is that he’s a winger you can play anywhere in the lineup and get something from him. He can certainly get you out of a game or five in the top six. And there might be more there. His speed alone causes problems. He can get in on a forecheck, not by hitting people or being all that strong on the wall, but by simply making d-men play faster than they want to. He causes turnovers. He opens space by just zipping around. This is how things work in the NHL now.

Again, like other players, how the Hawks view Hinostroza going forward will say a lot about how they’re going to build this team going forward.

Outlook: I’m not going to claim that Hinostroza can be Jake Guenztel. The Hawks don’t have a Crosby to make him one anyway. But he’s got tools to be on the top six and if you have the rest of it set, he can be a real weapon. It depends what the Hawks want to be.

I’m afraid they see how small he is and think he can only be a penalty-killing gnat on the fourth line who they just let loose for 10-12 minutes per game. And keeping him on the bottom six is fine, especially if you have four wingers that are clearly better which the Hawks probably should. It would be even more pleasing if he’s on a third line on a team that’s decided it’s just going to pack as much speed as possible into the lineup and play as if their balls are being lightly singed for 60 minutes. Not as a checking forward, but just as a third line that’s trying to skate by you until you puke. This is what the Hawks should be doing, it’s what more and more teams are going to do, and Hinostroza is a piece that can do that.

I’d be a touch surprised if Vinnie Smalls ever got to 20 goals. He’d need to improve his shooting markedly, but that’s been done before. What he doesn’t have to improve is getting into the right spots, because he already does. The fear is that he can get buried in his own zone, which we saw at times with him and Schmaltz when they played together. But as the league gets smaller and faster, and it will, that’s less and less of a problem. And with his speed the other way he certainly keeps d-men from pinching too low.

There’s more here. I hope the Hawks and Vinnie see it.

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