Blackhawks sign top prospect Frank Nazar, who will join team immediately

Nazar, the 2022 first-round pick whose sophomore season at Michigan just ended Thursday, is expected to play in the Hawks’ final three games of the season, starting with the home finale Sunday against the Hurricanes.

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Frank Nazar passes the puck.

Frank Nazar signed with the Blackhawks on Saturday.

Michigan Photography

One of the biggest pieces of the Blackhawks’ future has arrived.

Top prospect Frank Nazar signed his three-year entry-level contract Saturday, two days after finishing his sophomore season at Michigan.

The 20-year-old Nazar — the 13th overall pick in the 2022 draft — will join the Hawks for the final three games of the season, starting with the home finale Sunday against the Hurricanes, to get his first taste of NHL action.

This season represents one of the three years on his contract, meaning it will expire in 2026 — at the same time as the deals of fellow future core members Connor Bedard and Kevin Korchinski.

On one hand, that might be tricky for general manager Kyle Davidson to navigate in terms of maintaining salary-cap flexibility. On the other, Nazar will have one fewer season of NHL production entering negotiations for his second contract, which might make it more affordable. In the meantime, his entry-level contract will carry a cheap $950,000 cap hit.

After missing most of his freshman season while recovering from hip surgery, Nazar bounced back with a solid sophomore season, notching 41 points in 41 games before the Wolverines were eliminated in the NCAA Frozen Four on Thursday.

It wasn’t perfect in every regard, but it got him back on track developmentally and reaffirmed his potential to become a versatile top-six forward for the Hawks. Among other things, the Hawks’ development staff worked with him on using his elite skating ability and elite explosiveness to transition from offense to defense as quickly and readily as he transitions from defense to offense.

‘‘He’s always very good with his self-awareness and self-assessment,’’ assistant GM Mark Eaton said in March. ‘‘[He] realizes when he wasn’t at his best and asks questions to learn about how he can improve going forward.’’

Nazar was particularly impressive in the world junior championships in December and January in Sweden, with eight points (all assists) in seven games for the gold-medal-winning U.S. team.

‘‘[He] seemed to take his game to another level,’’ Davidson said in March. ‘‘Just [his] confidence with the puck, carrying it, making plays — it all really stepped up a level once he got back from Sweden. It was good to see. He played well the first half, but [he] took it to another level in the second half.’’

The Hawks originally drafted Nazar with one of two picks they acquired from the Canadiens for Kirby Dach, so they already have invested a lot in him.

‘‘Frank is just an absolute pistol,’’ Davidson said on draft day of 2022. ‘‘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.’’

There’s a strong possibility that Bedard, Nazar and Oliver Moore — who is expected to return to Minnesota for his sophomore year next season — could anchor the Hawks’ lineup as the first-, second- and third-line centers one day, but one or two of them also might wind up moving to wing and playing alongside each other.

Such big questions won’t be answered soon and certainly not during Nazar’s stint with the Hawks this week. The brief acclimation, however, will give the Hawks and Nazar an opportunity to see how he stacks up against NHL competition at the moment.

That should help the front office know where to pencil him in on the depth chart next season and nudge Nazar toward the most important areas of focus for his offseason training.

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