Photo Credit: Rena Laverty
Scouting Report written by Paul Zuk
The USNTDP is boasting yet another class of first round talent, and Michigan born forward Frank Nazar is viewed by many to be one of the first selected at this summer’s Entry Draft. Nazar was born in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, and played his minor hockey in the Detroit area, primarily suiting up for Honeybaked’s youth program.
In 2019-20, Nazar had his breakout minor hockey season, where he racked up an astounding 49 goals and 78 assists for 127 points in 55 games. Even more shocking, however, his point total ranked third on the team, following forwards Max Namestnikov, and his U18 teammate Cole Spicer. This season put him on the radar of the NDTP, and before long, Nazar was headed to Plymouth.
The 2020-21 season was Nazar’s first with the NTDP, and he saw ice time for both the U17 and U18 teams. He amassed 50 goals and 44 assists for 94 points in 78 games across all competitions, which led all NTDP players in his age group. So far in 2021-22, Nazar is continuing his incredible start for the NDTP, as he’s been scoring at over a point-per-game pace, with 42 points in 39 games played as of January 5, 2022.
For the 2022-23 season, Nazar is committed to the University of Michigan, where he will add to an incredibly deep pool of talent on display in Ann Arbor. Nazar will join one of the more notable College Hockey recruiting class assembled in quite some time, as 2022 NHL Draft eligible Rutger McGroarty, 2023 Draft eligible Adam Fantilli, and his brother Luca Fantilli will suit up for an already loaded Wolverines team. Head Coach Mel Pearson will have an embarrassment of riches to deploy over the next few seasons, and Nazar will be right near the top of that list.
D.O.B – January 14, 2004
Nationality – American
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –174 lbs
Position – Center/Right Wing
Handedness – Right
Nazar’s Style of Play
Frank Nazar is the type of high-energy player with a “never quit” attitude that nearly every NHL team will absolutely fall in love with when watching his games. Nazar is a quality mix of speed and skill that elevates the play of his teammates whenever he’s on the ice.
Nazar is very creative with the puck on his stick, regardless of which zone the play is in. Defensively, he’s able to elude opponents by chipping the puck into open ice and working around the attacker to retrieve it. Alternatively, he’s quite good at utilizing bank passes to himself to keep the puck out of danger when under pressure. Offensively, Nazar can seemingly make something out of nothing with the puck on his stick. It’s not uncommon for him to have the puck with a man on him and dole out an accurate pass to a teammate cross-ice for a shot on goal.
Nazar’s ability to read and react to the play at such a high level is a trait that every team loves to see in highly rated prospects. Quite often, Nazar can disrupt an opponent’s zone exit by cutting off the passing lanes, which speaks to how well he positions himself on the ice. Nazar’s then able to retrieve the puck and flip the script, by dishing the puck off to a teammate breaking into the offensive zone, or by carrying the puck into the offensive zone and holding for his teammates to set up.
Let’s break down Nazar’s game into smaller portions:
Widely mentioned as arguably his most impressive trait, Nazar’s skating ability is among the best in the entire 2022 Draft class. He’s able to combine a set of exceptionally quick feet, above average edgework, and great overall pace to beat even the best defenders in the USHL/NCAA on a consistent basis.
While Nazar possesses the skill and ability to beat defenders out wide, he loves to target the middle lane of the ice when entering the offensive zone. This allows him to draw more attention to himself, which opens up the other lanes for his linemates to exploit. Nazar’s core strength and impressive balance on his skates also makes him difficult to muscle off the puck, both along the boards and in the more high-danger areas.
Perhaps one of the more notable features of Nazar’s talented skating ability is when he’s wheeling around the offensive zone looking for an avenue to distribute the puck. If he isn’t thrilled with any of the presented options, he puts his edgework to the test by walking the blueline with equally impressive amounts of control and pace. After a short time, Nazar’s able to find and deliver a quality pass to a teammate, as his efficiency wearing down defenders proved successful.
Nazar’s skating prowess is the catalyst for the most impressive aspects of his game. It gives him the ability to frustrate opponents in all areas of the ice, while at the same time making it very difficult to defend against without leaving gaps in coverage.
There isn’t much to not like about Nazar’s offensive game. To be vague, he can do it all with an above average level of success. To be more in-depth, Nazar is a player opponents must keep a very close eye on in all zones of the ice, but especially so in the offensive zone. He’s such an effective and dangerous distributor of the puck and thrives at picking out the high-risk/-high scoring chance passes, of which he can execute with a high level of success.
His deceptiveness when passing the puck in the offensive zone is such a beautiful thing to watch. Nazar can deliver a tape-to-tape pass in a dangerous location for a teammate, all while not moving his eyes off net. As the defender can’t read the play quick enough, it usually ends up in a high-danger scoring chance for the U18’s.
One of his most dangerous offensive traits would be his wrist shot and release. Nazar can pick corners from anywhere inside the blueline, especially when he’s hanging in the high slot on the powerplay. His quick release can catch even the more talented goalies off-guard, and the puck often ends up in the back of the net.
Alternatively, Nazar does possess a unique ability to throw goalies’ minds into a blender by altering the speed of his shot release. As mentioned above, he can absolutely rip the puck home, but he also has the talent and skill to slow it down and have the goalie make the first move, allowing for the goalie to over-commit to the shot and giving Nazar more space to put the puck.
In transition, Nazar can cut on a dime and turn up ice with pace almost instantaneously when the NTDP takes possession of the puck. His ability to read the play and adapt in a timely manner speaks to his high hockey IQ. Nazar’s versatility in transition also adds to the defender’s struggle to cover him, as he’s equally effective and dangerous whether he’s driving play busting into the offensive zone, or simply being a passenger and setting himself up in a dangerous position for a chance on goal.
At first glance, Nazar’s point total and offensive production may give the average viewer an indication he is solely an offensive-minded forward. That’s certainly not the case here, as Nazar is a very reliable and talented defender. Whether he lines up as a center or a winger, he knows his role in the defensive zone and can execute it to near perfection almost every shift.
Nazar’s positioning in the defensive zone is another attribute of his game which is above-average compared to the rest of the 2022 class. He is able to cover the slot area of the defensive zone when playing center, while also remaining low enough in the zone to help his defensemen out down low when needed. Alternatively, when Nazar is playing on the wing, he is usually found patrolling the half-wall or covering the opposing defenders on the point.
As previously mentioned, Nazar’s “never quit” attitude comes into play often when backchecking. Quite frequently, he can sneak up behind the puck carrier and strip them of the puck with relative ease. His ability to cause turnovers when the opposing team is in transition is quite a desirable trait, especially when it leads to odd man rushes for the NTDP as their opponent is still trying to recover.
Nazar is also an effective penalty killer, as he’s able to use his quick feet and relentlessness to pressure attackers into rushing their decisions. With this trait, Nazar can help break up any semblance of a powerplay set-up for the opponent. Although his PK time/game has decreased from last season with the U17’s, NTDP U18 Head Coach Adam Nightingale has clearly entrusted him with an important PK role this season, as he’s averaging just under a minute of PK ice time/game.
Throughout its existence, the NDTP is known for churning out very well-rounded prospects, regardless of the position they play. Nazar is no exception. There’s plenty of aspects to love when you watch his game. However, as he’s still working to develop fully as a player, there are a couple of things he may look to strengthen or fine tune to reach his full potential.
Nazar may look to put some more mass onto his frame as he transitions into the next level. At times during NCAA play this season, he’s been bullied a little bit by the older, more physically advanced players. If Nazar is looking to continue his impressive draft season as he transitions to the University of Michigan in the fall, he’ll want that added size and strength to go along with his talented skillset. It wouldn’t come as much of a shock to see him add a little bit of weight and muscle onto his frame in the coming months.
Lastly, while Nazar is an exceptional skater, there are times where he could generate even more offense for himself and his linemates if he had just a touch more explosiveness in his first stride or two. It’s more of a minor thing, but he may look to improve the power in his first couple of strides in the upcoming seasons.
Simply put, Nazar is the style of player you would love to have on your team but would be a huge thorn in your side to play against. He can beat you offensively using his very talented skating ability and incredible playmaking skills, and he can beat you defensively by using his impressive hand-eye coordination and relentless effort to disrupt any sort of offense your team looks to create.
Nazar’s game has steadily improved over the past few seasons as he’s developed through the ranks of the NDTP. However, in 2021-22, he’s shot up several scout’s draft lists, even challenging teammate Logan Cooley in some rankings to be the first NDTP off the board at the 2022 Draft. It’s obviously far too early to tell at this point, but as both players are enjoying amazing seasons as we reach the midpoint of the season, it’s only going to get more and more interesting. At this moment, look for Frank Nazar to come off the board anywhere from pick 7-15.
January 15, 2021
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Paul Zuk. If you would like to follow Paul on Twitter, his handle is @paulzuk_81.
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