The 2022 draft class is full of high-end talent. A lot of that talent this year hails from the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) team. There’s Logan Cooley, one of the top forwards in the class. There’s also Seamus Casey, making a case as the best defenseman in the entire 2022 draft. But there’s one name that has been right up there with both of those aforementioned names, who deserves a little bit more recognition; Frank Nazar.
Frank Nazar One of Many USNTDP Stand-outs
Nazar, born on January 14th, 2004, in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, is an 18-year-old forward for the USNTDP. Standing at 5’10” and 174 pounds, Nazar has already committed to the University of Michigan for the 2022-23 season. The draft-eligible forward made an impact in his first USNTDP season, in the 2020-21 season with the U-17 squad. He scored 28 goals and 27 assists for 55 points in 45 games with them. That earned a call-up to the U18 team, scoring two goals and three points in two U18 games. This season, playing with the U18 squad, Nazar has recorded 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points in 35 games. That includes the 13 USHL games he has played, where he has scored 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points.
With the performances over the last two seasons, Nazar has been consistently ranked inside the top-20 prospects in the class. He has been ranked sixth by Smaht Scouting, eighth by Dobber Prospects, ninth by FC Hockey, 10th by Elite Prospects and SportsNet, 11th by Draft Prospects Hockey, 13th by Craig Button, 14th by Bob McKenzie, 15th by The Puck Authority, 16th by Recruit Scouting, and 18th by McKeen’s hockey. Currently, this writer has him ranked ninth on my draft board.
Frank Nazar Scouting Report
Nazar has produced at a solid level since joining the USNTDP squad. He’s also well-known as a solid defensive forward. So what does Nazar bring to the table exactly? What sort of potential does this possible top-ten selection have?
Nazar Is a Really Strong Skater
Seeing as he is just 5’10” and below 180 pounds, it’s almost expected that he makes up for his relative lack of size with high-end skating ability. Which he does. Nazar may not have break-away speed, or that extra gear to really blow past defenders consistently, but he does have excellent acceleration. If a defender is flat-footed or hesitates for even a split second, Nazar can and will take advantage.
Part of the reason for his strong skating ability is his near-sound technical stride. He displays a nice, long stride, in which he has excellent ankle flexion. Additionally, he keeps his knees over his toes, with his chest parallel to his shins, showing a strong knee bend. The only issue is his edge work, which is more of a consistency issue than anything else. There are moments where Nazar will elect to take a long, wide turn, losing speed, as opposed to tight turns or stops.
When it comes to his offensive abilities, his skating plays a big role. Off the rush, Nazar will skate almost exclusively through the slot. In doing so, while the opposition is defending against his teammates carrying the puck into the offensive zone, he presents a danger right in the middle as either a screen for a potential shot off the rush or as a passing option in front of the opposing goalie. When possession is established and the NTDP is working the puck around the offensive zone, Nazar can be found holding his position either as a net-front presence or parked in the mid-slot, right between the hash marks. While he can be effective from the perimeter, it simply is not his style. He makes a home in the high-danger areas for himself and his teammates.
Despite loving making a home for himself in the slot, he still makes his presence felt as a playmaker when given space on the outside or off the rush before establishing that positioning. In three tracked games, Nazar attempted 59 passes in the offensive zone, completing 77.97% of them. Of those 59 passes, 17 were directed at high-danger (28.81%), of which he completed 58.82% of them, an impressive rate. His success attacking the high-danger areas with his passing ability is due to how quickly he can process the game and how fast he can exploit the opposition. His vision is extremely high-end and his passes are accurate and consistently have the right amount of touch to make receiving his passes fairly easy for his teammates.
Frank Nazar’s Shooting Ability
Nazar may be more of a playmaker than he is a goal-scorer, but that does not mean he isn’t skilled in this area. Firing 19 shots across those three games, he hit the net on 52.63% of those shots. Of the 19 shots, 10 of them came from high-danger (52.63%). However, there were times when he passed off a really good scoring opportunity to try and set up a teammate. While it isn’t something negative, he should work on getting more shots off when given the opportunity rather than over-analyzing a situation and trying that extra, sometimes unnecessary, pass.
When it comes to his shot, however, Nazar possesses a lightning-quick release and strong accuracy. He can pick the top corners from just about anywhere on the ice, and he has a knack for getting shots off despite being at an odd angle or draped with pressure. However, Nazar could still use work on his overall power, specifically from distance. He does a nice job generating power off his back foot and from his upper body, but he could look to work on his shooting mechanics a little bit more. Nazar doesn’t push the momentum from his back leg into his upper body very consistently, meaning when he gets a shot off, he does not always lean into the shot with his upper body, at least not consistently.
If he can work on and improve his shooting mechanics, he already has the foundation of a solid shot at the next level. Not to mention, his stickhandling and ability to finish in tight to the net sits among the best in the 2022 class, if not at the top!
What Do These Numbers Tell Us About Frank Nazar?
These numbers suggest that Nazar is a dual-threat offensive player, operating out of the high-danger areas. That means that, when he has the puck, he attacks the high-danger areas with it, whether it’s hitting a teammate in a dangerous area with a pass, or getting a shot off in that area himself. To further cement that thought, of the six forwards this writer has tracked for two or more games, Nazar ranks second in high-danger pass rate (28.81%), behind only Conor Geekie, with an absurd 40% rate. But, unlike Geekie, he has a high completion percentage when it comes to his high-danger passes, besting the WHL star 58.82% to 57.14%, a small margin, but still a telling stat.
Frank Nazar’s Transitional Abilities
Nazar has all the skills to be a really strong transitional player. He has the skating, stickhandling and IQ to be a big-time impact in the neutral zone. Nazar has shown exactly that. Being involved directly in 23 zone exit attempts across those three games, he successfully exited the zone with possession on 60.87% of them. That ranks third among the six forwards with at least 10 zone exit attempts, behind Danila Yurov (65%) and Geekie (62.5%). He carried the puck out with possession 39.13% of the time, while the average among the 12 tracked forwards is at 33%.
Meanwhile, he was involved directly in 37 zone entry attempts in those three tracked games. He completed a zone entry with possession on 72.97% of those attempts. That ranked fourth among all tracked forwards, behind only Yurov (90.91%), Juraj Slafkovsky (73.33%), and Matthew Savoie (76%). When it comes to skating the puck into the offensive zone himself, Nazar did that on 56.76% of his zone entry attempts, while the average is 47%. It’s no secret that Nazar is a special talent, and it shows in his transitional abilities.
Defensive Zone Play
Nazar, moving forward, is going to be more recognizable for his offensive abilities. His maturity in the defensive zone will absolutely not go unnoticed moving forward. However, it makes Nazar one of the “safer” prospects. Because he is so far ahead with his defensive reliability at his age, he’s more safely projectable to the NHL. One of his best traits defensively is his phenomenal stick checking ability. Back when Anton Lundell was a draft prospect, this writer broke down his game and how it compares to the NHL’s best two-way forwards. One of the main takeaways was their quick sticks and abilities to intercept passes and pick-pocket opponents. Nazar has that, and he can be a difference-maker in the defensive zone.
His quick processing in the offensive zone that allows him to be an effective playmaker translates to the defensive end. He supports the defence down low, and he will defend the slot expertly. His acceleration, which was touched on earlier, allows him to win short-area races to pucks. His smart and quick stick checking allows him to still make a play even when he loses those races. He is quick to cheat up the ice for an offensive chance. Also, moving forward his lack of size might hold him back. However, these aren’t things that should hold him back enough to limit his impact noticeably.
What Is Frank Nazar’s Potential?
Nazar is one of this writer’s favourite prospects in the 2022 NHL draft class. His skating and defensive abilities really stand out. His work ethic is another trait that gets praised by experts when it comes to breaking down Nazar. That said, his offensive ability is something that packs a lot of upsides itself. Paired with his transitional abilities and strong reliability in the defensive zone, he could be a future number one center or winger for whichever NHL franchise calls his name on draft day. He has top PK and PP upside, with an ability to play in any and all situations. However, if his offensive abilities have trouble translating to the NCAA or NHL levels, his smarts, skating and two-way game still give him a relatively safe floor to be a solid third line forward in the future.
That being said, Nazar could safely be projected as a future middle-six forward, leaning more towards second line potential. While that may not be the most intriguing selection in the top-10, as mentioned earlier, if things go well in his development, he could be a really good number one center. He’s well worth a top-10 selection. And he should continue to get attention as a top-10 potential pick as we near draft day.