Blackhawks prospect Frank Nazar’s late-season comeback to culminate in Frozen Four

Nazar made his collegiate debut for Michigan less than two months ago — after recovering from hip surgery — but he’ll play on college hockey’s biggest stage Thursday. So will Hawks prospects Drew Commesso and Ryan Greene with Boston University.

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Frank Nazar III passes the puck.

Frank Nazar will make his 13th appearance of the season for Michigan on Thursday in the Frozen Four.

Michigan Photography

The last two months have been a whirlwind for Blackhawks forward prospect Frank Nazar, a freshman at Michigan.

It wasn’t that long ago that Nazar, having missed the majority of the season recovering from hip surgery, was making his college debut Feb. 10 against Michigan State.

‘‘That day was crazy for me,’’ Nazar told the Sun-Times. ‘‘It didn’t feel too real at the moment. It took me a period or two to figure out, ‘All right, I’m playing hockey again.’ I didn’t have an eventful game, but in the second or third [period] I started to realize I could make some plays and do a little more than I was thinking.”

Come Thursday, however, Nazar will be playing in the NCAA Frozen Four — the hockey equivalent of the Final Four — in Tampa, Florida.

He’s one of three Hawks prospects set to participate. Boston University goalie Drew Commesso and forward Ryan Greene are also Tampa-bound and will face Minnesota in the first national semifinal.

The second semifinal, which matches Michigan against Quinnipiac, will be only Nazar’s 13th game of the season. But he might gain another dozen games’ worth of experience from that one.

‘‘Honestly, the big games, the pressure games, those are by far my favorite,’’ Nazar said. ‘‘Those are the games you see who steps up and who gets it done.

‘‘I’m not going to change much. I’m just going to keep my legs moving and keep the high pace, high engine, and try to turn over pucks and maybe put a few in the net. Hopefully other guys are going to do the same thing, and we’ll be able to get two wins.’’

The fact Nazar even returned in the first half of February came as a surprise to him and the Hawks. All parties initially thought he would miss the entire season, save for perhaps a few games at the end.

So for him to end up logging 13 or 14 appearances this season is an added bonus on his adjusted career trajectory, given that it’s likely that he will return to Michigan for his sophomore year.

Nazar doesn’t feel 100% healthy yet and probably won’t until summer, which means he hasn’t been able to make the kind of impact he otherwise might have. But his production (seven points in 12 games) is respectable, and Hawks assistant general manager Mark Eaton has been pleased.

‘‘It has been a gradual improvement,’’ Eaton said. ‘‘He’s starting to get his legs under him, and that should bode well for him entering the offseason.’’

Eaton said he expects Nazar’s offseason training will rebuild his core lower-body strength, which should restore ‘‘that full pop that he’s used to.’’

In the meantime, Nazar said he thinks the adversity he has experienced this year has benefitted him in other ways.

‘‘Everybody’s saying [the surgery was] a bad thing or a negative,’’ Nazar said. ‘‘But if this is what I needed for my future, this is what [I had] to do. And the mental part of my game has gotten better, and that’s an aspect I might not have been able to work on an extremely great amount if I [had] played the whole year.’’

Nazar has been used primarily as Michigan’s third-line center, including in the Wolverines’ dramatic overtime victory against Penn State last weekend in the regional final, and he should retain that spot in the Frozen Four.

‘‘The experience of playing meaningful games at the end of the season is something these young players will be able to draw from when they’re playing meaningful games in the NHL,’’ Eaton said.

‘‘The more you’re in those situations, the more comfortable you become. It just becomes an expectation from one year to another. And that’s exactly the mentality we want for all our prospects.’’

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