We’ve scanned hundreds of draft profiles. We’ve watched prospects both live and on tape. We’ve seen the various rankings that have been published throughout the industry. It is now time for our annual “Meet the Steal of the NHL Draft” for 2022.
In case you are new to this piece, first off welcome. Second off, let’s take a moment to fill you in on what this is. The Steal of the Draft is a prospect that the consensus has ranked in a certain spot that I believe will vastly outperform that ranking. Two examples of this would be someone ranked outside the top-20 that will be one of the 10 best players in this draft class. A second example would be someone drafted outside the first round but perform at a first-round level.
This year, our steal is ranked in a variety of places depending which outlet you read. He is ranked outside the top-20 on Central Scouting’s Final Rankings. He is also ranked outside the top-20 according to TSN’s Craig Button and ranked outside the top-10 according to Bob McKenzie, which is significant given that it’s a scout’s poll.
But on the other end, several outlets have our steal in their top-10. Dobber Prospects has him fourth while Elite Prospects has him fifth. So I am clearly not alone in thinking our steal is one of the 10 best players available in this draft. The question I have to ask myself is what am I missing here?
In watching his game tape and reading several reviews, I keep coming to one conclusion. There’s really only one reason this player is ranked low by some outlets. He is undersized by NHL standards. Because everything else he does is good to elite from my sight.
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Our steal is one of the better skaters in this draft. He uses his speed to create his offense. He’s also one of the most fearless players I’ve watched this season. And you would be hard pressed to find many that work harder than him.
Then to top it off, our steal plays a premium position, center ice. He played on the top-six and averaged a point per game as an underage player. He’s exactly the kind of player you want on your team, someone that’s going to go to war. He’s also grown as he’s up to 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds. He’s not done getting stronger either.
His upside is that of a top-six center in the NHL. With some ranking him in the 20s, that is a steal all day. Who is our steal? Meet University of Michigan commit Frank Nazar.
Frank Nazar – Steal of the Draft
Nazar is one of the most exciting players in this draft. As mentioned above, it starts with his skating. He can win races to pucks. He can get back in a hurry if needed. In terms of what he can do on the ice, very few can match him.
Where Nazar really started to sell me was his improvement in the offensive zone. He started to show a more creative side to his game. I came into the year thinking he was more of a straight line player who would use his speed to make everything happen. But now he has demonstrated an ability to make plays with that speed while making good passes.
Nazar already had the ability to finish especially when he was in close quarters. He has some of the best hands in this draft. Whether it was to unleash his shot or to put the puck in a better position, Nazar’s creativity and hockey sense jumped out at me the more I’ve watched him. Watch his chemistry with teammate Isaac Howard below.
Nazar is no slouch defensively either. His effort and fearlessness helped him to break up plays. He could then start transition from that. Even if he wasn’t on the scoresheet, I usually noticed him doing something. That’s the “it” factor that helps me separate good from potentially great.
In the end, Nazar checks off all the boxes. He plays the style of game that is a perfect fit for today’s NHL. He can skate. He can score. He can make plays. I believe he’ll be able to drive his own line in the NHL. I’m not concerned about the size. He has plenty of time to put on the muscle needed.
Nazar could very well go in the top-10 if a team sees everything he brings to the table. But given his rank in the teens and 20s on some lists, he meets our definition of steal.
Nazar also admitted at the Combine that he feels like he’s being underrated by some. Add chip on his shoulder to his profile. He’s out to prove his doubters wrong.
It’s for all these reasons that Nazar is our 2022 NHL Steal of the Draft.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.