Finnish Veteran Markus Korkiakoski Signs With JKH GKS Jastrzebie

JKH GKS Jastrzebie has finally got aboard the Finnish craze that has taken the rest of the PHL by storm. The team signed veteran Finnish forward Markus Korkiakoski to a one-year agreement. He is the first Fin to play for the club since 2020.

The 30-year-old forward spent last season in the Chance Liga with HC Poruba 2011, a club familiar to most Polish fans. He had been playing in the second level of Czechia since 2019 and earned two cups of coffee at the top level. Before going abroad, he had spent seven years in the second league of Finland, the Metsis. The Yli-Ii native played in 221 Metsis games, recording 129 points (49G-80A-129PTS). His production was much stronger in the Chance Liga, with 198 points (81G-117A-198PTS) in 204 games.

Jastrzebie will hope the center can continue to be a strong playmaker in Poland. After losing eight of its top ten scorers, the club has a strong need for production. While he is the only Fin on the team, he is one of eight imports. While plenty of unannounced signings are still to come, many of whom will be Polish, it is still a bit shocking to see many imports in the club. They had a golden age of young homegrown PHL talent in 2010s but haven’t been able to sustain it in the 2020s.

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Nik Zupančič Named Head Coach of Unia Oswiecim

Unia Oswiecim has finally named their head coach, and it is a familiar face. The team has brought back Slovenian coach Nik Zupančič. The 53-year-old signed a two-year deal with an option for a third season.

Zupančič had a lengthy playing career that started in 1985 and lasted until 2010, including 18 years in his home country’s top league. The long-time player represented Yugoslavia at three World Championships and ten world championships for Slovenia. After his playing career ended, he would jump right into coaching. He served as the assistant coach for Slovenia from 2011 to 2015. He would take over as head coach for the national team in 2016 and lead the team until 2018. After coaching VEU Feldkirch in the Alps Hockey League for one season in 2019, he would move to Poland.

Zupančič served as the head coach for Unia Oswiecim for a year and a half. He brought in plenty of Slovenian imports in his first year and laid out his new system. It quickly transformed the club into a very skilled program. In his first season, the team finished second in the PHL and would be awarded a silver medal after the playoffs were canceled. The club had finished eighth place the previous PHL season. The considerable jump gave fans of the blue and white a lot of hope. While the team was still in the top five of the PHL next season, they did not start as strong. Midway through the 2021 season, Zupančič would step down as head coach due to family reasons, but it would also come shortly after he served a suspension after a disagreement with a ref.

I personally am excited to see the Zupančič brand of hockey back in Poland.

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Robert Kalaber Signs Two Year Extension. Remains Head Coach of Poland.

Robert Kalaber is staying put as the leader of the Polish national team. Today, PZHL President Mirosław Minkina announced that Kalaber had signed a two-year extension to remain the head coach of Poland’s Men’s senior team. Kalaber helped Poland earn gold and promotion at the Division 1 Group B World Championships in May.

The 52-year-old started his coaching career in his native Slovakia. There he served as an assistant and head coach of HK Dukla Trencin. He moved over to Poland in 2015, taking over JKH GKS Jastrzebie. He has coached in Jastzrebie since that season, taking the club to a PHL Championship in 2021. In 2018, he started serving as Bulgaria’s head national team coach. Kalaber took over the Polish national team job for the 2020 season. Some highlights include beating Belarus during the final round of Olympic Qualification in 2022, winning the Baltic Challenge Cup, winning the Three Seats Tournament, and helping Poland win gold and promotion at the 2022 Division 1 Group B World Championships.

The Men’s senior team will be back in Division 1 Group A for the first time since 2018. From April 29th to May 5th, in Nottingham, Poland will take on Great Britain, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, and South Korea. Poland will look to prove they still belong in Division 1, where they finished with a bronze medal in 2015 and 2016.

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Latvian Eduards Hugo Jansons Joins JKH GKS Jastrzebie

While most teams in Poland pursue Finnish imports, and Cracovia picks up Czechs, JKH GKS Jastrzebie continues to have a heavy Latvian influence. The team inked Latvian defender Eduards Hugo Jansons to a one-year deal. The Riga native is the fourth Latvian under contact for the 2023 season.

Eduards Hugo Jansons has bounced around Eastern Europe and Russia in his short career. The defensemen bounced around professional teams in his home country during his junior days, playing for three clubs in the top level of Latvia before turning 20. Starting in 2018, he would begin playing in Russia’s second league, the VHL. In five years with four clubs, he posted 12 goals and 27 assists in 167 games. He received a KHL call-up during the 2020 season and appeared in two games with Dinamo Riga. He started last season with Dizel Penza in the VHL before moving to the Chance Liga with AZ Havířov and then ending the year in the second league of Slovakia with Vlci Zilina. Jansons represented Latvia at the IIHF U18s, World Juniors, and the senior team at plenty of non-IIHF events.

JKH GKS Jastrzebie now has four Latvians under contract, along with Lithuanian forward Mark Kaleinikovas, who spent most of his career in Latvia. The Latvian preference is not surprising after five of the team’s six leading scorers came from the Latvian league. Only two players that finished top ten in points on the team are returning for 2023. The club has to be hoping a few of these players could reproduce the success of their countrymen.

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Elias Elomaa Returns To KH Torun After Year in Mestis

A familiar face is back in Torun after a year back in Finland’s second league, the Mestis. Elias Elomaa has signed a one-year deal for the 2023 season. Elomaa played the final half of the 2021 season in the PHL with Torun.

The 25-year-old forward spent last season in the Metsis with Peliitat. During the 2022 season, he posted 10 goals and 21 assists in 59 games. This was a career-high in goals, assists, and points for his Metsis career. He played in Finland’s second league from 2019 to 2021 with KOOVEE and Jokipojat. For his Metsis career, the Tampere native has scored 24 goals and assisted on 44 in 170 games. Between his Metsis seasons, he had a short stint in Poland, recording 10 points (5G-5A-5PTS) in 16 games.

It is always good to see an import that wants to return to Poland. For Torun, the Finnish influence continues. He is the fourth Finnish player to join the team for the 2023 season and is among the 10 to play in the northernmost club over the last three years. The club will be relying on the Finnish forward to produce as he did in 2021, as the team lost all eight of their leading scorers. If his career year in Finland is anything to go off, it seems he has continued to grow!

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Swedish Defenseman Alexander Younan Joins GKS Tychy

GKS Tychy is getting close to finishing a busy offseason and has added their eighth defensemen to the roster in Swede Alexander Younan. Younan signed a one-year agreement with the club, and he is the fifth import to join the former back-to-back champions this offseason.

Younan was a highly regarded defensive prospect in Sweden during his junior time. He represented the Swedish U18 team at the IIHF U18 World Championships and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. The 6’1 defenseman played in the HV71 junior system before his final junior season with Frolunda in 2016. In 2017, he turned professional, signing with Rögle BK. He would spend the first year of the deal in the HockeyAllsvenskan but would reach the SHL in 2018. In his lone season with the top Rögle BK team, he would play in 46 games, recording seven points (3G-4A-7PTS). Starting the following season, the Jönköping native played for Västerås IK in the Allsvenskan for three seasons. The 25-year-old spent last year with Orli Znojmo in the ICE Hockey League. For his Allsvenskan career, he has played in 228 games and posted 19 goals, 37 assists, and only 40 penalty minutes.

A player with his resume is rare to see in the PHL, and he will be only the 27th player to have played in the SHL to appear in the PHL. For Tychy, Younan is likely the most significant defensive addition of the offseason in what has been a busy one for the club. Only two defensemen regularly in the 2022 lineup are returning for 2023. Tychy also added national team denders Bartosz Ciura and Oskar Jaśkiewicz, and Slovakia import Emil Bagin.

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Tomasz Skokan Signs in England

Polish defender Tomasz Skokan is heading back abroad after signing with Streatham IHC. The London-based club plays in the third level of British hockey. The defender had played parts of the past five years in the PHL.

Skokan showed well in the junior levels to start his career. He stood out in Slovakia and the lower levels of the United States junior system. The now 23-year-old defender was also an offensive leader from the blue line on a few Polish IIHF U18 and U20 squads. He started his professional career in the second half of the 2018 season, signing with GKS Katowice. After a strong follow-up season in 2019, he would miss the entire 2020 season due to injury. He would have a disappointing season with Sanok in 2021 before mainly playing in the MHL with Oswiecim during the 2022 season. In total, over six years, he has played in 120 PHL games recording 13 points (4G-9A-13PTS)

“Streatham always has a huge ambitions and they play for the highest goals, I think this will be a great place to restart my career and we will help each other. I am happy to be part of this organization and I am happy to be here!” Skokan told the club’s website in his signing announcement. It will be an excellent chance for Skokan to play a lot and potentially get his career back on track. Streatham is also one of the best clubs in the NIHL 1. They have won back-to-back South Conference Championships while winning a London Cup in 2022.

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Cracovia Krakow Adds Czech Defender Daniel Krejčí

While the rest of Poland has begun to heavily favor Finnish imports, Cracovia continues to load up on Czechs. The team has added veteran Czech defensemen Daniel Krejčí on a one-year deal. The 30-year-old represented Czechia at the 2012 World Juniors.

Daniel Krejčí developed in his hometown’s HC Slavia Praha’s junior program. He worked his way up to being one of the best young defensemen in Czechia, leading to him representing his country at the U18s and World Juniors. While his professional career might not have lived up to what his junior success indicated. He has played in over 100 games in Czechia’s top league and another 100 in Slovakia’s top league. Most of his career has been spent in the second level of Czech hockey, the Chance Liga, where he has 111 points (27G-84A-11PTS) in 276 games.

Cracovia has had an extremely busy offseason, and it will only continue. They have been, without a doubt, the biggest spenders in free agency. They will be representing Poland in the Champions Hockey League after winning the Continental Cup in 2022. The team lost their leading scorer Yevgeni Bodrov and starting goalie Denis Perevozchikov due to the team committing to not signing Russian players. Krejčí is the first new defenseman of the offseason for Cracovia.

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Marcin Kolusz To Stay With GKS Katowice

Dark clouds have darkened over Podhale Nowy Targ, as it was announced today that Marcin Kolusz would be staying with GKS Katowice on a one-year deal. Kolusz had initially signed an extension with Podhale Nowy Targ before being loaned to GKS Katowice for the end of the 2022 season. It is still unknown whether Podhale will have a PHL team for 2023; with Kolusz out, they have a single contracted player.

Marcin Kolusz is a certified Polish hockey legend. He was the last Polish player drafted to the National Hockey League after the Minnesota Wild selected him in the fifth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He experienced a massive career rejuvenation after switching from a forward to a defenseman. This gave him a chance in Finland’s top league, the Liiga, and at Slovakia’s top level. He has spent most of his career in the PHL, playing 648 games. In his close to 700 games, he has posted 528 points (187G-341A-528PTS). 2023 will be his 18th season in the PHL.

For GKS Katowice getting Kolusz to return is a significant win. The team has seen quite a few top players leave for other PHL clubs or stronger leagues. GKS Katowice is set to defend its championship and represent Poland in the Champions Hockey League. With the arms races in the PHL heating up, Kolusz gives them strong puck-moving defensemen that many PHL teams lack.

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Patryk Noworyta Returns to Unia Oswiecim for 22nd PHL Season

Patryk Noworyta is not ready to hang up the skates yet and will return for his 22nd PHL season. He re-signed with Unia Oswiecim on a one-year deal. It will be his 11th season with the blue and white, tying his 11 years with Cracovia Krakow.

With a career of over 700 PHL games, he has scored 47 goals and assisted on 141. His 22nd season will put him in a particular group with only 10 other plays. The PHL record is 27 seasons, held by Jaroslaw Rozanski. In his 20-plus seasons, he has won nine PHL champions, two behind the record 11 held by Edward Koczab and Jaroslaw Klys. Noworyta has split his entire career between Cracovia and Oswiecim, bouncing between the two clubs. He has played with Unia Oswiecim since 2020, where he has been able to play on a defensive pairing with his young brother Milosz Noworyta.

It has been a somewhat awkward offseason for Oswiecim, with some major highs and some big lows. The team is still searching for a new head coach and reportedly couldn’t agree to terms on finances with their top choice. The team has made headlines recently after being in talks with Andrei Deniskin, who was suspended 13 games last year in Ukraine after a racist gesture towards a black player Jalen Smereck.

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