When you look at the 2022 NHL Draft class for the Chicago Blackhawks, seemingly every one of them took a positive step this past season. The one that didn't was Frank Nazar, but that's because he barely played.
Nazar missed a majority of his freshman campaign at Michigan with a lower-body injury that he prefers not to disclose, and it limited him to only 13 games. And when he did return, there was no feeling-out process. Michigan was playing meaningful games and Nazar needed to do his best to catch up quickly.
"It’s a little bit different coming in until later in the season," said Nazar, who was drafted by Chicago with the No. 13 overall pick in 2022. "I got in with the team and we’re playing playoff hockey, so not really too much of the growth aspect at the end of the season. ... It was pretty hard coming back and just fitting right in but I think I was able to do pretty well when I was able to come back for the playoffs."
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Nazar's injury is actually one of the reasons why the Blackhawks felt shifting to off-ice only for development camp would be more beneficial long-term for their prospects. He played a combined 80 games for the U.S. National Development Team Program during his draft-eligible season and then another six for Team USA at the Under-18 World Junior Championship. That's a lot of wear and tear on the body, and Nazar admittedly felt it.
"Definitely," Nazar said. "I battled through some injuries at camp. It definitely helps this year knowing I could come in way healthier and feeling good."
Nazar said he learned a lot about himself during the recovery process, especially the mental fortitude it took to overcome the adversity.
"It definitely had a big aspect of learning growth," Nazar said. "Being able to figure out how to use my brain, keep my head in the game and get better. Just know I’ll figure things out, I think that’s definitely a step forward I took."
With the summer in full swing, Nazar said he's feeling "really good now" and can't wait to show what he can do in his second year at Michigan. Heck, he's looking forward to being healthy at training camp with the Blackhawks.
Nazar doesn't have any concrete personal goals for himself next season, for that reason. He just wants to be healthy and feel like himself again.
"Get bigger, faster, stronger and just more confident on the ice and be able to play my game and get a full season in, hopefully," Nazar said. "That’d be nice for me, just to get the games and the puck touches. That’s super big."