Blackhawks prospect Frank Nazar turning heads with elite skating, awareness

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 they all sang along to “Chelsea Dagger” before the Hawks’ seventh overall pick –“Our family is pretty loud and proud,” father Frank Nazar Jr. explained –they weren’t aware they had an audience.

And when they erupted with emotion when son Frank Nazar III’s name was called for the Hawks’ 13th overall pick, their heartwarming reaction and celebration 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, 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 has already made an impact on the Hawks.

He was the clear star of the prospect development camp-concluding scrimmage Friday, dominating while centering a line with Landon Slaggert and sixth-round pick Dominic James.

“We had some good chemistry,” Nazar III said. “There were some plays we could’ve buried a little more. … We only had one but we could’ve easily scored four.”

His 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 –make his soft hands, good stick skills and elite skating doubly effective.

Nazar III immediately rivals Lukas Reichel as the best forward prospect in the Hawks’ system.

“He can absolutely fly,” Hawks scouting director Mike Doneghey said. “He makes quick plays under pressure. And he’s not afraid todrive themiddle of the ice on the rush. [He can] bring people with him and 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 Mt. Clemens, Michigan, Nazar III will likely be a homegrown freshman star at the University of Michigan next season.

Future pro success seems almost inevitable, and Nazar III 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 hype is growing still feels unbelievable for Nazar Jr., though.

Neither he nor his wife, Gina, played sports; none of their three older daughters do, either. 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.”

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