Blackhawks outlook update: Frank Nazar likely to return to Michigan next season


When the Blackhawks drafted Frank Nazar 13th overall last summer, the most likely timeline was for him to turn pro after a year at the University of Michigan.

But a hip injury that required surgery in October changed that timeline.

Nazar finally returned to skating a few weeks ago and has progressed to the next phase of rehab, but has yet to compete this season.

Michigan manager Brandon Naulaht told his local radio show Tuesday he was “optimistic” about Nazar making his debut before the end of the season, but that would depend on how deep the Wolverines fought in the postseason. Maybe. Their regular season finale is scheduled for February 25th.

But from the Hawks’ perspective, Nazar’s long-term health and stability are far more important than a few packed games this spring.

“We just want to make sure he’s 100 percent back,” said Mark Eaton, the Hawks’ assistant general manager who oversees player development. “If he [healthy] Being able to play is an added bonus. But our main concern is making sure your hips are in good shape and ready for a great summer. “

Either way, the Hawks are leaning toward sending Nazar back to Michigan in 2023-24 and delaying the rookie’s pro season to 2024-25.

“Whether or not he plays in Michigan this year, it’s going to be difficult for him to go to the pro level,” Eaton said. could benefit from.”

Despite this, the Hawks remain excited about his potential. He was great at development camp last summer, with his relentless energy and work ethic adding an extra dimension to his attacking skills.

“can not see [this year] As a setback,” said Eaton. “This was something that had to be dealt with at some point. Better now than in three, four, five years. It’s unfortunate that some players have to go through it. , it’s part of growing up and learning how to handle and recover from injuries.

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Speaking of a longer timeline, defenseman Sam Lindzel, who was the 25th pick last summer, is on the long-term path the Hawks expected when they selected him.

Lindzel is one of the USHL’s top defensemen this season, scoring 22 goals in 31 games for Waterloo. He will be a freshman in Minnesota next year.

“I never want to say that a player is above a certain level, but with Sam’s skating ability he can do a lot…maybe he doesn’t necessarily do well at the next level. I don’t think so,’ said Eaton.[We’re] Just give him the freedom to go out and play, push himself and see what he can do, but keep it in the back of his mind. “

Third-round pick forward Gavin Hayes has scored 45 points in 46 games for Flint in the OHL.

Gaining strength and weight are Hayes’ priorities. He’s listed at 6-2, 178 pounds. The Hawks have tried to help by recommending several supplements, but it has been difficult during the season.

“I’ve been trying [add] A few pounds here and there, but when you play a game, you can lose it all,” Hayes said. “It’s certainly challenging. I don’t want to eat terrible food and bulk up like that, but I want to eat clean and stay lean.

The offseason is going to be important.

“He has an aggressive way of getting involved,” Eaton said. “[He’s a] very smart player. Adding some power and strength to him should help speed up the first few steps to being able to play at the pace expected of him at the next level.”


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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