As the final moments tick down on the San Jose Sharks‘ 2021-22 season, attention will now turn towards the NHL Draft. After all, the Sharks have missed the playoffs for the third season in a row — a franchise-record streak — and will likely pick 10th or 11th-overall, pending an unlikely lottery win.
At the draft, teams have the opportunity to add young talent for the cost of a draft pick. These assets are highly valuable and used to select special players that NHL teams hope to develop into the future core of their team. With such a high pick, their second-highest pick since 2016, the Sharks must swing for the fences.
Here’s the first of many targets for the Sharks at the upcoming draft.
Frank Nazar’s Profile
Frank Nazar is a 5-foot-10 forward who can play both center and right wing. His size and speed may liken him more to the typical mold of a winger, but he’s shown adeptness down the middle as well. The United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) alumni would need a couple of years of development after his selection and is already set to join the University of Michigan next year.
As Patrick Brown put it in a recent THW NHL Draft profile: “There’s little doubt Nazar is a bonafide scorer, and his speed and superb skill will likely translate quite well to the NHL level. There’s every reason to believe he’ll handle the transition to college — and ultimately the NHL — with little issue.”
His skating sets up most of his success. “Nazar is a great skater with high-end speed and elusiveness. He has quick, agile feet that allow him to jump around checks and weave through traffic with the puck on his stick. He is a weapon in transition, driving offense with controlled zone entries and facilitating scoring chances,” says Nick Richard of Dobber Prospects.
In addition to speed and agility, Nazar is able to create separation and fire a great wrist shot. This has afforded him 15 goals in the United States Hockey League (USHL), playing as the second-line center behind likely top-five pick Logan Cooley.
Nazar is an incredibly solid player in nearly every facet of the game. His skating allows him to close down shot lanes and pester opponents on the forecheck. The youngster put up 35 points in 24 USHL games, and in his 53 total games with the USNTDP, he was fifth in goals with 25 and third in points with 65.
The only hesitation with the future Wolverine would be his lacking high upside. While his size would be the main concern as of now, he does not have a defining feature that makes him an elite talent at the next level. He has a great baseline given his skating, but projecting him as a true top-line player is unrealistic at this time.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
After a few years of development, the expectation would be for an NHL team to eventually slot him in as a second-line center with responsibilities on both special teams units.
Nazar Fits with the Sharks
The Sharks’ center depth is thin for the future. That’s even with Thomas Bordeleau’s brief NHL stint being a massive positive for San Jose as they conclude the season. Outside of him, Tristen Robins is the only other notable center prospect for the Sharks. He has been stellar for the Saskatoon Blades the last couple of seasons and earned the captaincy this year. He is not guaranteed to be a center at the professional level, however.
William Eklund, the team’s top prospect, did play more center this season at both his club team in Sweden and at the brief World Junior Championships. Most scouts still see him as a winger in order to maximize his speed, skill, and vision though.
If selected by San Jose, Nazar would be the highest-drafted Sharks center since Logan Couture in 2007. Speaking of the captain, Nazar would be key in taking over in the top-six as Couture declines in the waning years of his career.
And, if Nazar does not slot in at center, he would join an emerging group of young wingers the Sharks hope will bolster their offense in short order. Atop that group would be Eklund, followed by 2020 Draft picks such as Brandon Coe, Daniil Gushchin, and Ozzy Wiesblatt, all of whom are emphatically the best forwards on their respective junior teams.
More developed wingers, who lack the high upside of those prospects, would include Jonathan Dahlen, Noah Gregor, Scott Reedy, Sasha Chmelevski, and John Leonard. In at least one facet of the game, all these wingers have the potential to be consistent NHLers. And, the Sharks will have Timo Meier for years to come.
Building a Dynamic Forward Core
The main issue with the Sharks prospect pool — for forwards at least — would be that there is no clear first-line center of the future. The team remains hopeful Eklund could be that guy, but many, including myself, remain hesitant on that. The lacking center prospects are probably a reason the Sharks decided to sign Tomas Hertl to his massive eight-year extension.
Unfortunately, Nazar does not fully eliminate that void. A tandem with him and Bordeleau, supported by elite wingers, could be passable in the future as they take over from Hertl and Couture, but far from a top duo in the league.
By selecting Nazar, the Sharks could be taking the best available center when on the clock at the 2022 NHL Draft. They would be selecting a player with success at every level of junior hockey to this point in his career. He could also be the most certain NHLer remaining at 10th or 11th-overall. But, the Sharks could be leaving some potential on the board with him as well.
What do you think of the Sharks potentially selecting Nazar at the draft? Let me know in the comments below!
Josh is a young writer from the Bay Area, who now studies journalism at San Diego State University. In addition to covering the Sharks and Gulls for THW, Josh is a crossover scout at FCHockey and covers his school’s hockey team at TheDailyAztec. When not obsessing over hockey, Josh loves blasting music with friends, theatre, and playing with his dog. Follow Josh on Twitter for his latest takes on the Sharks, Gulls, and NHL Draft!