Frank Nazar out indefinitely with lower body injury

Going into his first year with the Michigan hockey team, Frank Nazar III was to be a key contributor. A forward who amassed 70 points in 56 games last season with the United States National Team’s development program, he seemed destined for a top-six role.

But the wounds had another idea.

A lower-body injury Nazar sustained in the offseason requires surgery, and he could be out of training until February — the last month of the regular season. As he fights to rejoin the formation, he also approaches another battle.

“We want to make sure his mental health is good,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said Tuesday. “It’s a big, big piece.”

Injuries have a physical impact on players, but the mental strain they cause has a similar effect. Naurato compared him to someone leaving home for college or being away from family – an essential part of Nazar’s life is temporarily inaccessible. Instead of lacing up his skates and donning pads for practice, Nazar is stuck at home. When his team goes on a road trip, he will not be able to accompany them.

These changes add an extra sting to any injured player, but they’re especially significant considering Nazar has never played in a game for the Wolverines. Not only is he unable to play, but at the same time he is trying to find his place in the team.

Out of training for the foreseeable future, Nazar can still help his team in new ways. Michigan plans for Nazar to dedicate his time to studying filmmaking once he has sufficiently recovered from his possible surgery.

“(We have Nazar) keep watching his teammates, watching NHL clubs, maybe watching some of his old clips from last year,” Naurato said. “You just have to see what he’s done well and start wrapping his brain around that as he starts training his physical body, mentally he has to be good.”

Nazar can’t work on the ice with his injury, but Wolverines are hoping he can stay involved behind the scenes. In addition to his time in the cinema, Naurato told The Athletic’s Scott Powers that Nazar will help Michigan’s statistics department during games, and Naurato explained the reasoning.

“Honestly (we’re) just trying to be there for him,” Naurato said. “And make sure he’s good as we go through and keep him involved.”

While Nazar certainly wants to be back on the ice, his time in the video and stat rooms could shape his game in the meantime. Both allow him to explore the decision-making behind the game at high levels – from positioning and playing to how he approaches a transition.

Considering the way scouts outlining his game, honing his ability to draw in defenders and create an attack through his positioning and speed, Nazar should have no problem gleaning new insights from this work.

While scouting reports tend to boost player abilities, spending time in the video room could also improve the math behind Nazar’s game. But more importantly, it allows him to be alongside his team during a difficult recovery. No player wants to deal with a long-term injury, but being close to his teammates should ease the anxiety.

For most of the season, Michigan will be without Nazar’s cerebral game and fast skating. It’s an irreplaceable loss, and even though he hasn’t played a game yet, it will impact the roster most of the season. But right now Wolverines aren’t focused on that loss.

They are more worried about keeping Nazar involved.

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