Buffalo Sabres Player 2021-22 Season Report Card: Vinnie Hinostroza

Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams had one of the toughest jobs in the 2021 offseason. He was tasked with turning a fumbling franchise around with almost nothing besides prospects. At that time he needed to fill a few holes in his team’s forward group and one of those was with journeyman Vinnie Hinostroza. He had just come off of a short stint in Chicago and Florida that didn’t yield much in terms of production, so he signed with the Sabres for $1.05 million for one year in order to get some key ice time and get his game back up to speed.

As far as value players go, Hinostroza would be high up on that list for the Sabres. He played roles across the board all season, and when healthy was a very consistent worker and scorer. While Adams may have brought him in to be a minor contributor based on the salary and term, he far exceeded expectations and deserves recognition for what he brought to the table during the 2021-22 season.

Season Expectations for Hinostroza

Throughout his career, Hinostroza has been a middle-six forward with some good speed and scoring upside. He had his best season while with the Arizona Coyotes when he scored 16 goals and 39 points in 72 games, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy or on an NHL roster for long enough to continue developing. At the prime age of 28, there is still time for him to improve and grow as a player, but after coming off a rough season between the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks in 2020-2021 he took the best shot he had available, which was in Buffalo.

Vinnie Hinostroza Buffalo Sabres
Vinnie Hinostroza, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Expectations were low going into the season, but when training camp came around he impressed Sabres head coach Don Granato. Using the combination of speed and skill he possesses, he found himself on the presumed top line at the time alongside Casey Mittelstadt. He was given every chance to succeed with his role in the top-six, but things floundered and the Sabres worked desperately to find a combination that worked well with him.

Injuries & Bad Timing Did Not Keep Hinostroza Down

There were multiple times that Hinostroza was struck with the injury bug, but each time he returned to the fold, he came back with even more heart. With his style of play, he found himself regulated to a middle-six role and saw regular time with Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt, and even Zemgus Girgensons. The player that he had the most notable chemistry with was Cozens, as they seemed to feed off one another as the season progressed towards the end.

Related: Buffalo Sabres Player Report Card: Dylan Cozens

While Hinostroza only managed to appear in a total of 62 games for the Sabres, he still managed to put up a respectable 13 goals and 25 points. Many of his goals were a result of his combination of determination and speed. His shot was deceptively fast and if a full season was played, he could have eclipsed the 20-goal mark. Many of his goals were fun to watch, but his best performance all season was during the Heritage Classic when he netted two goals and an assist to help embarrass the Toronto Maple Leafs late in the season.

This was undoubtedly his best outing, and the excitement that he exhibited was infectious to his younger linemates, Cozens and Peyton Krebs. Those three continued to show chemistry as the season came to a close, giving Adams an interesting choice as this offseason approaches.

Final Grades for Hinostroza

Lower popularity players aren’t held to as high of a standard as the “star” players on any roster, but Hinostroza had a season worth noting and remembering. He made big plays, finished key scoring chances, played hard on every shift, and was used in every situation possible by his head coach. By any standard, his production and impact on the team combine to earn him some very respectable final grades.

  • Scoring: B+
  • Playmaking: B
  • Leadership: C+
  • Defense: B
  • Teamwork: A+

Hinostroza may have been a great energy and scoring type player, but he wouldn’t be someone looked to as one of the “leaders”. While his effort was infectious throughout the season, he was never really the one to rally the team in tight spots or give them a locker room boost. He was a great teammate, and that is perfectly alright. Not every player needs to be a leader, and he played his role perfectly.

Hinostroza’s Future in Buffalo

The Sabres’ roster is looking more and more crowded as they head into the 2022-23 season. Key prospects like Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka will earn NHL spots. Alexander Kisakov was signed recently and could also try to make a case for a spot with the big club. Other key forwards like Krebs and Mittelstadt will vie for increased roles next season and unless Adams moves Victor Olofsson, the Sabres forward group will be young and hungry.

Jack Quinn Buffalo Sabres
Jack Quinn, Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Ben Green/NHLI via Getty Images)

While Hinostroza has the drive and attitude that would help the team succeed, being relegated to an extra forward or fourth-line role may not be what he has in mind for the future. Retaining his services for at least one more season should be a priority for the Sabres GM, but depending on how the forward sees the situation, he may move on to another team trying to fill a scoring role. Should he remain with Buffalo next season, he could have a similar scoring impact and would be a great insurance policy to have if Quinn or Peterka struggle to produce regularly and need to be sent back to the minors. If Adams decides to walk away from him this offseason, he needs to find a reliable replacement considering the impact Hinostroza had on the scoring front.

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