CHICAGO — Frank Nazar was taking it all in during the Chicago Blackhawks development camp last month.
“First time wearing a visor today,” he said with a laugh July 11. “So something to get used to.”
Moving away from the full cage he wore with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program the past two seasons is just one change for the 18-year-old center prospect, selected by the Blackhawks with the No. 13 pick of the 2022 NHL Draft.
Next will be adjusting to NCAA hockey with the University of Michigan in the fall.
“I think it’s going to be great,” Nazar said. “I know a lot of people there, I skated with them so far this summer, knowing the coaches real well. Growing up, playing with [Michigan assistant coach Brandon] Naurato and skating with him and Matt Larke [NTDP development coach] who helps out too. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it.”
Video: Blackhawks select forward Frank Nazar 13th overall
Nazar was third on the NTDP Under-18 team with 70 points (28 goals, 42 assists) in 56 games last season.
Adam Nightingale, who coached Nazar for two seasons at the NTDP, said Nazar has already made good strides.
“He’s a real explosive skater,” said Nightingale, now coach of the Michigan State University men’s hockey team. “That’s the one thing that really stands out.
“Where he really grew his game is his impact, when he doesn’t have the puck, with his speed. That’s sometimes a challenge. It’s one thing to be fast when you have the puck, but how do you use speed to impact the game without the puck? He’s competitive, and you combine those two together, he’s obviously a really high-end prospect.”
Nazar (5-foot-9, 175 pounds) said he’ll also be ready for a more physical game as he plays against the next level of competition.
“When I’m on the ice, it’s not something like, ‘Oh, man, I’m going to get hit if I go here.'” he said. “I just want to make the best play and do the best thing I can do at that moment on the ice to try to create either a scoring chance or something like that.
“And obviously moving forward, I’m going to work on building my body and just getting used to it. As I mature, not only as a player but a person, that’s going to factor into itself.”
Those who have worked with Nazar said if he keeps building on what he does best, he’ll go far.
“If he can keep that going and keep filling the net, all the chances he creates with his speed are special,” Naurato said. “Then probably the next step for him, I think he’s only played two years at center at the [NTDP] and obviously shown he’s done a great job with that, but just keep developing away from the puck defensively, and away from the puck offensively to keep getting touches where he can use his biggest strengths.”