The Chicago Blackhawks have lacked multiple things on the roster for the past few years. It’s abundantly clear now that the team is rebuilding, but it was also clear through the lack of results the team saw, even before they announced the team was heading in a new direction and completed trades to make that even more clear.
One of the things the Blackhawks needed most was speed. While Phil Kurashev has it, he has lacked consistent ice time and now lacks a contract. Brandon Hagel has it, but he’s gone to Tampa Bay and those two may be really the only two skaters on recent Blackhawks’ rosters with such speed.
That makes the selection of Frank Nazar at No. 13 overall on Thursday that much better. Nazar is known for his speed — he’s arguably the best skater in his draft class. While Nazar is a bit undersized at 5-foot-10, 181 pounds, the Blackhawks’ best player for the past three seasons has been the similarly undersized Patrick Kane (5-10, 177).
If the biggest drawback for Nazar is his size, then he should fit very comfortably in an NHL where that matters less and less. Nazar has been excellent offensively in the minors, putting up 35 points (15 G, 20 A) in 24 USHL games in 2021-22 with the U.S. National Team and 70 points (28 G, 42 A) in 56 games in the U.S. National Team Development Program.
Nazar will also be attending the University of Michigan for the 2022-23 season, which has developed such players as 2021 first overall pick Owen Power and second overall pick Matty Beniers while also playing a role in the development of players like Cam York, Josh Norris and Quinn Hughes. If there’s a good place for Nazar to develop (away from the Blackhawks), it’s at Michigan. He could also play in the delayed World Juniors after receiving an invite to Team USA’s training camp earlier this week.
Nazar can work on his defensive ability, but it’s not bad by any means. He’s just not as exceptional, compared to his draft class, in his own end as compared to the offensive zone. It’s in that offensive zone where Nazar really shines, according to draft experts.
#Blackhawks select Frank Nazar 13th overall. I ranked him 10th overall.— Patrick Bacon (@TopDownHockey) July 8, 2022
Nazar put up two straight strong years in the USHL and USDP. His size makes him a bit more of a risk to make the show, but he brings solid upside to the table Chicago. pic.twitter.com/LKr1HebPi0
Elite Prospects had Nazar ranked fifth overall in their draft guide, giving him first-place marks in terms of transition forwards and giving him the highest ceiling in the draft class. Nazar also has the second-best problem-solving skills, vision and straight-line skating, according to Elite Prospects.
“Frank Nazar III is the force multiplier in the 2022 NHL Draft. It’s as if his team has a numbers advantage almost every time he steps on the ice,” Elite Prospects wrote. “Nazar’s neutral zone play and puck handling skills are what especially make him seem like that “force multiplier.”
Here are more glowing words on Nazar from Elite Prospects:
“A lot of the time, though, Nazar makes subtle, almost imperceptible plays at every corner of the ice to create advantages for his linemates – little things like dragging defenders toward him on entries to create half-ice 2-on-1s or driving the net off-the-puck to give his linemate more runway. The more attention you pay to Nazar, the more you appreciate his offensive genius.”
At 5-10, Nazar may have problems translating to the NHL as a center, but his skills shouldn’t have the same problems. Even if Nazar becomes a wing, the Blackhawks have experience with a wing who can drive his own line in Kane.
But Nazar, who compares his game to that of Brayden Point, is about the same size as Point, who faced similar size questions before making his NHL debut. Those size questions are no longer relevant for Point after two Stanley Cups and 368 points in the NHL.
“You can also count on Nazar to consistently create shooting opportunities for himself with his off-puck intelligence,” Elite Prospects wrote. “He’s a master of the give-and-go, timing contact against defenders to create space, hiding in defender’s blindspots — you name it.”
Speaking of ways that Nazar creates space, here’s a clip from last week’s prospects camp:
Notice how Nazar gets inside the coach's reach to initiate contact before cutting back. https://t.co/kTtvpW8uWq— Jack Han (@JhanHky) July 11, 2022
The draft guide also named Nazar as one of the “most effortless” skaters in his draft class with “nearly perfect” mechanical form. Nazar is a swing-for-the-fences type prospect, but he’s one of the prospects with the most ability to go yard. If Nazar is able to fulfill his potential, he could be a first-round steal for the Blackhawks.
Anyway, take a deeper look at what Elite Prospects thinks of Frankie:
And some of his stats.
Here are some more highlights:
This is a guy not many people have a negative word to say about. In fact, most seem to believe he has the highest offensive ceiling in this draft. That talent was noticeable at last week’s prospects camp, where Nazar was a standout.
Iso on No. 13 overall pick Frank Nazar pic.twitter.com/sxIuLp4Vds— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 15, 2022
Although it also turns out Nazar might be a nerd.
Frank Nazar may be the truth, a forward who can create plays and a top-six contributor to the Blackhawks in the long term.
Chicago, Just when I thought you couldn't get any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) July 8, 2022
Frank Nazar is legit.
No pressure, kid.
Finally, do I like Nazar just because the number 13 is the Taylor Swift number? No, of course not. Does that play a part?