Sabres’ Hinostroza Impressed During The Preseason

This offseason, Vinnie Hinostroza chose to sign with the Buffalo Sabres, knowing an excellent opportunity to play high in the lineup. After earning his way through a strong preseason, which saw him produce two goals and two assists for four points in five games, he is now on the team’s first line to start the regular season.

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According to Lance Lysowski, he projects to play next to Casey Mittelstadt and Jeff Skinner, with who he was partnered within yesterday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings. The trio produced a 52.63 Corsi For percentage (CF%) at 5v5, and Hinostroza was tasked with defending the lead late in the third period. As play-by-play commentator Dan Dunleavy pointed out, he was a “hound dog” in the defensive zone and was rewarded by scoring an empty-net goal.

Let’s reflect on Hinostroza’s career and the expectations of the Sabres winger heading into the 2021-22 season.

Hinostroza Is A Two-Way Winger That Can Play Up And Down The Lineup:

Before signing in Buffalo, he had played for three teams before in his career, consisting of two stints with the Chicago Blackhawks sandwiched between runs with Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers. In his first stint with Chicago, the 27-year-old from Illinois had an up-and-down career, splitting time in the NHL and with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League (AHL) between 2014 to 2018.

Vinnie Hinostroza Arizona Coyotes
Vinnie Hinostroza with the Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He was traded to the Coyotes in the 2018 offseason and had his breakout season in 2018-19 when given an extended opportunity. He scored 16 goals and 39 points in 72 games, but his underlying stats showed that he was constables getting out-chanced when the opposition was on the ice. According to Natural Stat Trick, He only had an expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of 36.52 at 5v5. He had poor underlying numbers because his line was going up against the top competition, and he didn’t have a great supporting cast.

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After struggling with the Coyotes in the following season, he decided to sign with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. He failed to produce a point in his first nine games with the team, and he was traded back to the Blackhawks for his second stint. After getting a chance to play with a struggling team, he scored 12 points in 17 games and proved that he could play strongly at the NHL level.

What Are His Expectations In Buffalo?

After signing as a free agent in the offseason, Hinostroza will play an entire season in a similar situation as he did with the Blackhawks. He is going to get opportunities to play in the top-6 and produce. It’s fair to say that if he can build upon his success last season, he could have a career year for the team.

Another player who redeemed his career was Mittelstadt, who scored 17 points in the final 22 games of the 2020-21 season. He was among the many players that thrived playing under head coach Don Granato, and he has now earned the spot as the team’s first-line center. Pairing these players together makes sense as Hinostroza can go into the corners to retrieve the puck, and Mittelstadt can set him up. 

Casey Mittelstadt Buffalo Sabres
Casey Mittelstadt, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On top of that, Skinner is looking to live up to his contract and contribute to this team. It’s unlikely that he scores 40 goals again in his career, but he will produce more than the 14 points he did last season. These are three players that are looking to take their game to the next level.

For Hinostroza, it is possible that he produces 50 points if given the opportunity and finds chemistry on that first line. It’s been a strong start for the winger, so let’s see if he can continue to build off that.

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