Second City Hockey’s 2022-23 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2022. The rankings are determined by a composite score from all four SCH writers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.
There’s a reason that the consensus No. 1 prospect for the Chicago Blackhawks, at least among us here at Second City Hockey, is a 5-9 center who was selected in the middle of the first round of a draft that has been described as “not that deep.”
Frank Nazar III, said 5-9 center, is a remarkable talent, one Elite Prospects went so far as to call an “offensive genius” in his draft profile, adding that Nazar has the best offensive potential of any prospect in his draft class.
Nazar, was a steal at the No. 13 overall pick and is one of the prospects who faced a quiet fall from where he should have likely been picked. LBR and I have previously discussed why, if Nazar and Kevin Korchinski’s picks were flipped, it’s a smarter draft for a rookie outing by Kyle Davidson.
If Nazar remains at this spot atop the Blackhawks prospect rankings, he’ll remain there based on the fact that the player whose game he compares himself to, Brayden Point, has already shown that shorter centers can not only thrive in the NHL — they can become players to build a franchise around.
The Blackhawks need a few things in order for the team to get back to, not just playoff success, but actual Cup contention. One of those is a true, first-pairing defenseman who can be played in most situations. Another is a first-line center who can drive play against stiff competition. It’s what Jonathan Toews did for years. That may be — and should be — the hope for Nazar.
Nazar’s game is one of quiet complexity, as he’s one of the best drivers of offense in his draft class, as well as one of the faster skaters. Nazar’s production is not eye-popping. Instead, Nazar is like a great painting, as Elite Prospects said: the more you pay attention to him, the more you appreciate his game.
Nazar is likely a couple years from making an NHL impact, and unlike the Blackhawks’ last number-one center prospect, hopefully, Chicago doesn’t rush his development. Let him get some time in the NCAA with one of the best programs at that level in Michigan and prove what he can do there before bringing him anywhere near the Blackhawks.
It would also help not to stain Nazar, or really any prospect not actually currently NHL ready, with the stink of the next few seasons as the Blackhawks attempt to tank. When the team is ready to be successful again, expect Nazar to play a major role.
Nazar is already a good-looking player, with NHL level skating and offensive instincts, as well as on-ice intellect. What he needs to work on can be honed in the NCAA, including transition and defense. But Nazar is a hell of a player already, and that’s what puts him first on this list.
Nazar will head to the NCAA for his freshman season with the Michigan Wolverines and attempt to contribute as the team looks for another Frozen Four bid. Nazar will get the chance to play with fellow NHL prospects like Luke Hughes, Rutger McGroarty and Adam Fantilli, while also potentially having a chance to earn first-line minutes (this Michigan team is not as stacked as years prior).