Blackhawks prospect Frank Nazar turning heads — and amazing his family — with elite skating, awareness
Nazar dominated the scrimmage that concluded Hawks development camp Friday. The 13th overall pick already rivals Lukas Reichel as the best forward prospect in the Hawks’ system.
For the first hour of the NHL Draft, the Nazar family had no idea they were sitting right in front of the Blackhawks’ executive suite at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
So when the family sang along to “Chelsea Dagger” before the Hawks’ seventh overall pick — “Our family is pretty loud and proud,” dad Frank Nazar Jr. explained — it wasn’t aware it had an audience.
And when the family members erupted after Frank Nazar III was taken with the 13th overall pick by the Hawks, their heartwarming reaction was not only captured on TV but also by the leaders of their new franchise.
“When we got up to the suite afterward, they were all laughing, like, ‘When you guys started singing that, we wanted so badly just to tell you, ‘Don’t worry; 13 is coming around, and we’re going to get you,’ ’’ Frank Nazar Jr. said. “They said, ‘We knew we picked the right one.’ It ended up being perfect. You couldn’t ask for a better night.”
It has barely been a week since that night, yet Frank Nazar III already has made an impact.
He was the clear star of the concluding scrimmage of the prospect-development camp Friday, dominating while centering a line with Landon Slaggert and sixth-round pick Dominic James.
“We had some good chemistry,” Nazar said. “There were some plays we could’ve buried a little more. . . . We only had one, but we could’ve easily scored four.”
Nazar’s ability to dictate any given play is remarkable. His awareness of where the puck, his teammates and his opponents are all going — thanks to his head being up at all times — makes his soft hands, good stick skills and elite skating doubly effective.
Nazar immediately rivals Lukas Reichel as the best forward prospect in the Hawks’ system.
“He can absolutely fly,” scouting director Mike Doneghey said. “He makes quick plays under pressure. And he’s not afraid to drive the middle of the ice on the rush. [He can] bring people with him, then bounce the puck out left or right.”
Added general manager Kyle Davidson: “Frank is just an absolute pistol. He competes like nobody else. He skates like nobody else. He’s just full speed all the time and all-out effort. He’s the kind of forward that will drag people into the fight with him. He’s a character guy and a culture guy, and add that to some pretty good offensive dynamics, we’re pretty happy with what we came away with.”
A native of the Detroit suburb of Mount Clemens, Michigan, Nazar likely will be a homegrown freshman star at the University of Michigan next season.
Future pro success seems almost inevitable, and Nazar is navigating this fast track with the right combination of confidence — such as comparing himself to Lightning star Brayden Point — and humility.
“Seeing the jerseys [this week] and realizing this is the NHL and I’m almost there, it set in like, ‘Wow, this is what I’ve always been looking forward to,’ ’’ he said.
The rate at which the hype is growing still feels unbelievable for Nazar Jr., though.
Neither he nor his wife, Gina, played sports; none of their three older daughters does. Before this, their closest connection to hockey was owning a parking garage across the street from the Red Wings’ old Joe Louis Arena.
“[We] had a lot of fun with that, with the parades and the people,” Nazar Jr. said. “But back then, [thinking] what would come in the future never even crossed my mind.
“We never really thought NHL until this year. We were always thinking, ‘Get some free college.’ . . . It’s still hard to explain. It was that surreal. People talk about life-changing things, and you hear people’s stories. But things like this, it’s just weird.”