Martin Przygodzki Signs In Slovakia’s Top League

Another Polish player is on their way to the Tipos Extraliga. National team forward Martin Przygodzki has signed with HK Dukla Michalovce. Recently Covid-19 and injuries have strongly impacted the club, and they were looking for reinforcements. Martin Przygodzki, who holds both Polish and Slovakia citizenship was a perfect fit. The right-winger will be the third Pole to play in Slovakia’s top league this year; Kamil Walega plays with HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas, and Damian Tyczynski started the year with HK Spisska Nova Ves.

Przygodzki was born in Trencin, Slovakia. He improved on his craft in the HK Dukla Trencin junior system. For the 2012 season, he made the jump to Poland and signed with GKS Tychy. Since that initial signing, he has played his entire career in Poland besides two games for Gladiators Trencin in the EUHL. During his time in the PHL, he led the league in goals for the 2016 season, along with taking two silver and two bronze medals. He played around the league appearing for GKS Tychy, Naprzod Janow, HC GKS Katowice, Polonia Bytom, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, Orlik Opole, Unia Oswiecim, and most recently Zaglebie Sosnowiec. This year he recorded seven goals and nine assists in 26 games for Sosnowiec. The import forward gained Polish citizenship and started making national team appearances in 2019. He represented Poland at both rounds at of Olympic qualification.

One of his coaches during the Olympic qualifiers was Tomek Valtonen, who is now in his second season leading HK Dukla Michalovce. HK Dukla Michalovce currently sits third in the Tipos Extraliga with a 17-12-2-2 record. The team has experienced a rapid rise since earning promotion to the top league during the 2019 season. Last year the club made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Tipos Extraliga. Among the teams roster is former PHL defensemen Patrik Luža (Oswiecim, 20-21) and Taylor Doherty (Krakow, 21).

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

2021 Top 30 Women’s U20 Players. #30-21

We are finally beginning the women’s list for the 2021 season. I debated a lot about if I should make a list this year. For women’s hockey during the 2020-2021 season, there was a 12 game PLHK season, along with maybe five playoff games. A few top players also have the EWHL season and national team games. At most, you have around a 35 game season if a player played in every single one of those games, which for U20 players was not the case. We are working with a highly limited number of games, especially ones on film, to rank players on. While I never like to judge players on A single international events, IIHF events give us five games with footage where young players had a chance to play. It can represent one-third or more of a competitive season for a U18 player.  

I wanted to make a list this year, as every single time Poland’s women team faces a new roadblock, they still find a way to grow. We had some great years and break-out seasons in the PLHK, along with a few players taking large career jumps. I will say take these rankings with more than a grain of salt. I am heavily relying on stats, limited footage, and a few outside opinions. I never intend for my rankings to be material for scouting, but more like a who to watch list for fans.

Players had to be under 20 on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. Ninety-five players were considered for the list and reviewed, and fifty players received a ranking. Players 50-31 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 30 players receive a report.

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

30 – Amelia Bula (RW), 17, Naprzod Janow, (Not Ranked)

Bula has continued her steady offensive production increase reaching a new career-high in goals with nine in 15 games. Bula’s five goals in PLHK B found her tied for 12th among all skaters in the league. In total, she added three assists for a new career-high in points with 12. The goal-scoring right-winger would have undoubtedly made her first appearance on Poland’s U18 squad. She was named to the initial tournament but will be aged out for next year if the tournament is not rescheduled. 

Bula goal vs Latvia U18

29 – Alicja Kopciara (F), 19,  Unia Oswiecim, (24, -5)

Kopciara takes another fall in the rankings. As the forward gets closer and closer to graduating from the list, their production has not increased as you would like to see from a veteran of the PLHK at this point. With just two goals in PLHK A, it was the lowest total of her career. She did add three goals and two assists in five PLHK playoff games. A player that can hang with the best of them in Poland, but may not be a national team level forward yet. 

Alicja Kopciara Goal vs Cracovia

28 –  Karolina Rostalska (D), 20, UKH Biale Jastrzebie (25, -3)

Rostalska takes a slight fall on the list again. After a breakout year in 2019 with 11 points, her production has decreased in both years since, and not something you want to see from a player gaining more experience. In total, she had two goals and three assists in 15 games. Of course, they’re also a defensewoman, so I don’t want to judge them on production, but it was also what happened to get them ranked so highly previously. Has above average height for the PLHK and uses her long reach for easy takeaways at times.

Rostalska Goal vs Podhale

27 – Adriana Solecka (RW), 19, Atomowki Tychy (30, +3

I feel for the players on Tychy in 2021, as there was not much to work with at times. In total, the team only scored 14 goals. A fifth of those goals involved Solecka, who finished with a goal and two assists in 12 games. Not a great year, but she kept pace with the previous production while her team went from 19 goals to 14. Her three points this year were third on Tychy. Again another player where stats don’t tell their whole story. 

Solecka goal vs Oswiecim

26 – Anna Zaborska (F), 19, Unia Oswiecim, (Not Ranked)

Zaborska has steadily earned more and more in Oswiecim, and she is now becoming a more reliable option on the offensive side. During the 2021 season, Zaborska set a new career-high with four points (3G-1A-4PTS) in 12 games. She would also add another goal and two assists in five PLHK playoff games. The Krakow native is primed to earn a lot more chances for the 2022 season. 

Zaborska Goal vs Cracovia

25 – Olga Jaskulska (F), 16, Stoczniowiec Gdansk, (28, +3) 

Jaskulska switched over to the Gdansk organization full time in 2021 after appearing for UKS Wikingowie Elbląg and Gdansk in 2020. In total, she posted two assists in seven games, which is slightly below her production in 2021. She also played ten games with the men’s Stoczniowiec Gdansk u18 team scoring one goal. Most likely will be a U18 appointment soon, possibly next season. 

24 – Patrycja Wójcik (D), 16, Polonia Bytom, (Not Ranked) 

Wójcik is someone I was hoping to see at the U18s. I have heard a lot of great things, with one person telling me they were a guaranteed national team defender soon. That seemed to be proving true this year after rejoining Polonia Bytom after a season in Janow. Playing for the best team in Poland’s women division in a solid defensive role is a good sign for one’s future. While we don’t judge players on anything that happened after June 30, getting chances on Metropolis Katowice is a good sign for how the national team sees her. She played 11 games in Polonia Bytom, with 25 games in the juniors. 

Wójcik shot and assist vs Latvia

23 – Zuzanna Rduch (F), 18, UKH Biale Jastrzebie (Not Ranked) 

Rduch has continued to establish herself as one of the best offensive options on Jastzrebie. This year she posted another career-high in points with 32 (21G-11A-32PTS) in 15 games across the PLHK B and C. Her 32 points ere the second-most points among all B league players and tied for second in goals.

Rduch Goal vs Podhale

Jasztrzebie was one of the few teams I was able to watch a lot of film on this year, even if only random highlights. In those highlights, though Rduch and Szymik were an amazing duo. Rduch likely would have had a shot at making the U18 squad last year, but unfortunately had already aged out for this year.

Rduch Rush down the ice vs. Cracovia

22 – Alicja Mota (F), 17, Polonia Bytom, (23, +1

This is where having to rely on statistics hurts a lot. Mota is a young talented forward on a powerhouse team in Polonia Bytom. Offensive chances may be few and far between, and she did get a few opportunities on the second line but was mostly relegated to the third or bottom line. The Ruda Slaska native saw her production drop from five points in 14 games to two in 11. Mota has a lot of talent and would have continued to work her way up the U18 squad roster. She likely missed two U18 IIHF tournaments due to covid. In some games to end the year with the U18 squad, she recorded two goals and an assist versus Latvia.

Mota goal vs Latvia

21 – Matylda Stępień (F), 13, PTH Kozice Poznan, (Not Ranked) 

Every year a player on the list makes me feel old. That title goes to Matylda Stępień, who was born in 2008. At just 12-years-old, they were able to post 23 points (15G-8A-23PTS) in 15 games. This was their rookie senior season as well. The Warszawa native also played for the Warszawa men’s junior team recording three goals and three assists in seven games. I hope they are on a path similar to that of Magdalena Łąpieś.

Stępień Goal vs Podhale

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5 Pitches for Polish Hockey In 2022

New year, new me, and new Polish hockey. I am in year eight of covering Polish hockey, which is a wild timeline. Polish Puck is a project that started in high school for me, and with each passing year, something in Polish hockey never ceases to amaze me. We are entering a new year with 2020 long in the review mirror. We had a somewhat return to normal at some points in 2021. 2022 unfortunately, started with the cancellation of the IIHF January events, which included the women’s U18 squad playing their first IIHF games in two years. So not the most fabulous start to 2022. 

Polish hockey will always have its up and down, but here are my ideas to add a few more ups. These pitches are not what I think will happen, are 100% possible, or even want to some degree. They are what I believe is in the best interest of Polish hockey. One of my pitches from back in 2020 was for the PHL to have one game a week broadcasted on Twitch for free. We now have hockey Thursday streamed on Youtube for free. So why not try to pitch more into existence. 

  1. Bring in an Import U20 Coach 

I always feel bad calling for import coaches. All the Polish coaches I have talked to, have always been extremely fair to me in interviews and answering questions. But we have to face facts. The junior system has looked extremely poor under the last two Polish coaches. From 2013 to 2018, Russian Andrei Parfenov, Swedish Torbjörn Johansson, and Canadian David Leger all had stints running the U20 national team. The worst finish during that time was a bronze. Otherwise, Poland took 4 silvers, with one gold, and another sixth-place finish in the next division up. Poland’s junior coaching situation is poor, and the best U20 players need a coach that can help them get to the next level not maintain the status quo.

  1. Make the MHL U20 Only 

The following two pitches are kind of going to go together. The goal will be to make the MHL a more strict U20 league. Of course, that will cause some problems for teams at the lower end like Łódź, who don’t have a strong enough U20 program. So we put in one specific rule to help teams like that. Organizations that do not have a PHL club can play up to five players over 20-years-old in a game. U20 teams that are part of an organization with a PHL club will be restricted to three skaters and ZERO goalies aged 20 to 25.  It is not perfect, but I don’t want to kill off any small clubs. Our U20 league will consist of two divisions.

NorthSouth
Gdańsk U20Cracovia Krakow U20
Janow U20Jastrzebie U20
Łódź U20Oswiecim U20
Opole U20Podhale U20
Polonia Bytom U20PZHL Katowice U18
Ponzan U20Sanok U20
SMS Torun U20Sosnowiec U20
Sokoly Torun U20Tychy U20

The goal for groups was to try and get the PHL affiliated U20 teams to stick together, as the teams that may be dipping into older players to stay competitive will now be more often facing each other. This will also help with scheduling for the second part of the pitch. 

  1. Create a Hybrid second league 

Now with the MHL becoming more of a U20 league. We will have a second senior league that will play their games on the same day as the U20 or PHL clubs. So before or after the U20 or PHL club plays, there will be a second league game at the same arena. This parallel schedule will hopefully cut down on the cost of the second league, along with making it easier to fill rosters for the games.  The league will also only be playing 16 to 20 games, so for 8-10 select U20 and PHL games, just a handful of extra players will need to travel with the away team. 

These games will be filled with any player of any age. There is no promotion to the PHL, and this league is fully here for players over 20 to continue playing hockey at a competitive level. Polish goalies, PHL healthy scratches, and players needing a tune-up before returning from injury will be the players that get the most time in this league. Teams will be those not currently in the PHL or PHL clubs with enough players for a second squad. PHL clubs that won’t have a second league team can loan players, i.e., the current relationship between Katowice and Janow. My goal would be to have at least six teams, but I want eight. 

IndependentSecond Team for PHL squads
LKH ŁódźUKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec II
KS Naprzod JanowTorun II
Polonia BytomJKH GKS Jastrzebie II
GdańskUnia Oswiecim II

Sosnowiec, Oswiecim, and Jastzrebie have enough talent or have faired well enough in the MHL this year, and in my opinion, could support a second-team player-wise. While between KH Torun, SMS Torun, and Sokoly Torun, there should be enough players for this experiment. Bytom, Janow, and Łódź all have rosters built for this league and can grab loans from PHL clubs that will not play in the second league. Gdańsk will be the dream in this one and part of the next pitch. On a side note, I would also take a returning KTH Krynica. 

  1. Find a way to get back into Gdańsk

Hockey fans from Gdańsk deserve so much better than how they have been treated. Gdańsk has shown to be a great hockey market, and losing it is devastating for hockey in the country for a few reasons. First, it is a great hockey market. Second, it helps build the sport in the Northern part of Poland, where Torun is currently alone. The third is it was the second-largest market in the PHL in terms of population. The current number two in the PHL, Katowice, has 190,000 fewer inhabitants than Gdańsk. Given the PHL’s need to grow their tv numbers, losing a team in Poland’s sixth-largest city is not great. I don’t know what needs to be done to return PKH Gdańsk to the hockey map. I will say the PZHL needs to put its foot down on Marek Kostecki’s involvement with hockey in the country and reject any team submitted by him or his ownership. 

  1. Try to bring back players 

This last one will need to be coordinated by the PZHL and PHL. The goal will be to help the national team get a quick boost in talent and depth by bringing back Polish players who chose a different country. Adam Kiedewicz, Kamil Sadlocha, and Wojtek Stachowiak all had chances to make a higher-ranked national team but came up short. Could the PHL possibly bring them back? I’m not sure of the exact eligibility, but imagine it would take two years in the PHL at most. For Sadlocha, his NCAA stats are not that far off from what other NCAA imports had come into the PHL with. Kiedewicz has not found his footing at the DEL2 yet and was loaned to the Oberliga. While Stachowiak has yet to find his scoring touch in the DEL, he has a point per game average in the DEL2. Would it be impossible to add them? Probably not, but it would mostly take a good offer from a PHL club.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

Zbigniew Wróbel to take charge of Women’s National Team

It has been a busy time in Polish hockey, with the women’s side of the sport facing a lot of upheaval. First, the U18 squad saw their first chance to play in two years taken away as the IIHF canceled all tournaments set for January. Then just a few days ago, it was announced that long-time Polish national team coach, Ivan Bednar, would be leaving. Bednar had been part of the quick development of women’s hockey in Poland. It was quite a shock to see him leave mid-season at the time, especially just days after the U18 squad saw their tournament canceled. In the end, his contract had expired at the end of December, according to Marta Zawadzka in the PZHL’s release.

With the Slovakian head coach’s contract up, the national team decided to go in a different direction naming Zbigniew Wróbel the new head coach. The 53-year-old former PHL forward retired from hockey in 2006. Since then he has coached around Jastrzebie hockey. Winning quite a few medals in the PLHK with Białe Jastrzębie. Then later became the top junior coach for JKS GKS Jastrzębie. Given the great amount of talent that developed during his time in the organization, there is no question that he appears to be a great coach for helping create stars.

The Women’s national team will be featuring quite a few young players that are taking very quick stepsin their careers. Ida Talanda, Julia Lapinska, Julia Zielinska, Magdalena Lapies, and Wiktoria Sikorska all represented Poland at the final round of Olympic qualification while being 18 or younger. The next time we will see the women’s senior team at the IIHF level is during the Division 1B World Championships from April 8th to the 14th, which will be hosted in Poland! No doubt that Zbigniew Wróbel will be looking to earn a medal during his first shot as a national team head coach.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. Stats and Notes

The Men’s top 50 list has officially concluded for the year. It is now time to look at just some random notes for the list, like what the team had the most players or which player had the highest rise. It was a fun and challenging list thanks to the pandemic. For some players, large judgment calls had to be made given the limited amount of games for some teams. The goal this year was as well to give more credit to goaltenders, but it is hard to rank them in Poland given the sparse opportunities available for them. We don’t see many goalies in the PHL under the age of U23, not a lot of players abroad, and to top it off the MHL is not an easy place to watch or ever find statistical trends.

All Articles

Players 50-41Players 15-11Player #3
Players 40-31Players 10-8Player #2
Players 30-21Players 7-6Player #1
Players 20-16Players 5-4

Top 80 Rankings

Biggest Risers

  1. Jakub Bukowski +36
  2. Michal Nawrocki +33
  3. Filip Plonka +28
  4. Krystian Mocarski +27
  5. Kacper Gruzla +26

Biggest Drops

  1. Patryk Pelaczyk -16
  2. Lukasz Kaminski -16
  3. Igor Augustyniak -15
  4. Marcin Plachetka -13
  5. Sebastian Brynkus -11

Highest List Debuts

  1. Adrian Gromadzki (26)
  2. Aleks Menc (37)
  3. Krzyzstof Macias (39)
  4. Dawid Wróblewski (46)
  5. Michał Kusak (49)

Breakdown By Position

Breakdown by Team

Poland or Abroad

Notes

  • This is the first time Jastrzębie has not led the rankings in players
  • Czechia (9) was the only country that had 4 or more ranked Polish players
  • This was the least amount of players playing in Germany to be ranked.
  • This was the most amount of goalies to appear on the list with 7.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #1

We have now reached the final spot in the rankings! The last piece at the end of a long series. For the first time since I started my rankings, Alan Łyszczarczyk is not the player featured in the final article. Instead, this time a new player takes the crown. The new number one player had a slower rise to the top. While he did spend a year in the German junior system, he mostly played his entire junior career in Poland and broke through to the PHL. The number one player is a home-grown Polish talent that developed in Poland! 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking. Players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a report.

Players 50-41Players 15-11Player #3
Players 40-31Players 10-8Player #2
Players 30-21Players 7-6
Players 20-16Players 5-4

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

1 – Paweł Zygmunt (F), 22, HC Litvinov, (2, +1

The new number one U23 player is Paweł Zygmunt! The big Polish right-wing was a force in the PHL before receiving a tryout with HC Litvinov in 2020. It was crazy to see at the time, and the thought of a young Pole getting chances from the PHL was a weirdly foreign concept. Only Aron Chmielewski sprung to the mind of a player to jump to a league of such magnitude from the PHL. Many people compared the two players a lot, and it was expected that Zygmunt would follow the career path that Chmielewski took in Czechia. Chmielewski mostly had to pay his dues in the Chance Liga, not becoming a top league regular until his fourth year of play. 

In Zygmunt’s rookie year, we saw what Chmielewski had played through, although to a smaller scale. This makes sense; Aron played for one of the best clubs in Czechia with HC Ocelari Trinec, while HC Litvinov is not as prestigious of a club in recent years. Still, Zygmunt played nine games in the Chance Liga and 20 games in the Tipsport Extraliga. Playing his rookie year abroad, mainly in Czechia’s top league, and not looking out of place. It was hard to imagine what 2021 would be like for the winger as he did suffer an injury playing for team Poland at the Olympic Qualifiers that would end his 2020 season prematurely. 

Zygmunt became a full-time player in the Tipsport Extraliga in 2021 at just 21 years of age. An incredible feat for a Polish player. In 55 total games, the Krynica native recorded six goals and four assists for ten points. This was tied for 22nd among all U23 skaters in points, while ninth among players in their 21 age season. He also added three more goals during the Generali Česká Cup. This was an excellent stat-line for Zygmunt, who may never be a top scorer in the Extraliga, but is securing his spot as big body bottom-six forward. In fact, of his 40 production matches, 90% of his matches reached the mid-tier leagues of Europe, playing hundreds of games. The only few matches to not surpass hundreds of games in mid-tier European leagues all had long careers in the Chance Liga.

Zygmunt goal vs Trinec

On top of earning his dues in the Extraliga, Zygmunt has quickly become regarded as one of the national team’s top forwards. He showed that at the Three Seas Cup posting four goals and an assist in five games. Zygmunt was a great player in the PHL with a lot of potential, but whenever you see him play on the national team squad since his time in Czechia, he is a entirely different beast. He plays with confidence and poise on the ice, and his development has progressed exponentially. Zygmunt is easily one of the best wingers that Poland has at its disposal. While he didn’t post any points at the final round of Olympic Qualification, he was one of Poland’s most defensively ready-forwards. 

Zygmunt is finishing up his contract with HC Litvinov after signing a one-year extension in July. While he has been a solid bottom-six forward for the team, he is an import. In 2022, I hope to see him continuing to earn more ice time and chances to increase his development. Even back when he attended Czechia camps as a Polish junior, HC Litvinov was invested in his development. He appears to be long-term for Litvinov and Czechia hockey. 

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #2

And then there were two. Both of these players have hung around in my top five for a while. This year, an opening for the top spot emerged with the usual number one aging out and Jakub Lewandowski having his season canceled. That left two players outside of Poland competing with the best in the PHL. It was hard to pick as quite a few players in the PHL had great years. In the end, the achievement of these two players made them the clear top two to me. While the difference between them raises the question, what is better to score a lot in a lower-tier league or score a little in a higher-tier league? The national team performances helped be the deciding factor, but that question remains, especially for the 2022 rankings. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking. Players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a report.

Players 50-41Players 15-11Player #3
Players 40-31Players 10-8
Players 30-21Players 7-6
Players 20-16Players 5-4

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

2 –  Damian Tyczyński (C), 22, HK Spisska Nova Ves (5, +3

The one word I would use to describe the career of Tyczyński is relentless. The young Polish forward has an infamous quote about the NHL and higher European chances he was not afforded due to being a Pole.

 “Of course. It is my dream. But there is one problem – I am a Pole, and they do not want the Poles. When they learn that I am from Poland, they lose interest.” 

That interview line has stuck in my head for a long time as we constantly await the next Pole to impact hockey significantly? What if they’re just not getting the chance they deserve because another country has more credibility in the hockey world. Poles are not the only ones that face this problem either. 

It gives young Poles more reason to potentially give up the sport they love if the PHL does not fulfill their desires. We have recently seen a substantial shift in young Poles getting opportunities abroad in a big part due to a great group of young players and Poland gaining a strong hockey agency led by a former national team forward, Krzysztof Zapała. The change in Poland reminded me of another quote this time about Tyczyński by former national team player Damian Slabon.

Damian Tyczyński has the skill to play, a good chance to play in the national team for many years. I wish him to play abroad. Please God.” 

This is where the word relentless comes into play for the native of Krynica. For years, the young center showed himself to be one of the best players in Slovakia’s top junior leagues. No professional team ever wanted to give the Pole a shot despite all the success and points. So what did he do? With a fire under him, he returned to Poland, posting 35 points in 40 PHL games for PZHL U23 and Zaglebie Sosnowiec. He proved he was ready to be a professional player. This PHL performance finally got him the professional shot in Slovakia that had eluded him. He posted five points in five games in Slovakia’s second league with HK Spisska Nova Ves. 

For the 2021 season, he would return to HK Spisska Nova Ves, this time for the entire year in the senior league. Over the year, he would post 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points in 49 games. His 45 points were the 10th most in the second level of Slovak hockey and the most by a U23 player with a 10 point gap for second place. It was the 13th best season in the history of the Slovak second league for points by a 20-year-old player. A true breakout season for the young Pole. He was especially clutch in the playoffs helping HK Spisska Nova Ves earn promotion to the Tipos Extraliga with 15 points (6G-9A-15PTS) in 15 playoff games. 

Tyczyński Goal vs. HK Martin

Even in a season of such promise and poise, the center had ups and downs. He missed four games early in the year due to an ankle injury. While after going through a rough streak of only one assist in nine matches, he worked with a psychologist, who helped him rediscover his confidence and game. We love to see a player reaching out for help and being open about it in his interview with hokej.net. 

The 2022 season is a big one for Tyczyński, as the 21-year-old will be moving to the Tipos Extraliga with HK Spisska Nova Ves. The promotion giving him a chance to show his skills in a much stronger league. In terms of production matches, 60% of matches went on to have careers in the mid-tier of European hockey. Which bolds well for Tyczyński’s future! I wouldn’t bet against him hitting higher and higher achievements, as he is relentless.

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2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #3

Now down to the final three. These are three players that will be very special for Polish hockey. What they have accomplished is already unique and rare for Polish players. Every time we see a Polish team get relegated, or the men’s team suffers a cruel loss that leaves us devastated. Remembering players like these, are why I have so much hope in Polish hockey. Unfortunately, with our player coming in at number three, there is not much to talk about with their season. They already had a 99% chance to be in the top five, but what he did in the offseason set it in stone. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking. Players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a report.

Players 50-41Players 15-11
Players 40-31Players 10-8
Players 30-21Players 7-6
Players 20-16Players 5-4

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

3 – Jakub Lewandowski, 20, HC Vitkovice U20, (2, -1

Jakub Lewandowski has done everything perfectly to succeed outside of Poland. He has the size, skills, and success in strong junior leagues. That made it no surprise when he was listed as a potential late NHL draft pick, along with moving over to the United State’s top junior league, the United States Hockey League. For the 2021 season, with covid causing havoc, Lewandowski returned to Czechia to play junior hockey. After five games, Lewandowski’s season would end due to Czechia canceling the U20 season. Lewandowski did record five points (1G-4A-5PTS) in his five games. 

During the offseason, Lewandowski made a big career move. He announced an NCAA commitment to Bemidji State University. He will be only the third Polish player to play in the NCAA and the first since Filip Starzyński in 2018. Bemidji State University has been playing at the top level of college hockey since 1999. Tom Serratore has coached the Beavers from Northern Minnesota since they made the NCAA jump. It was also the former home of NHL players Brad Hunt (Canucks) and Zach Whitecloud (Golden Knights).

It was hard to rank players that had a situation like Lewandowski. If Lewanowskoski had just played the whole year, he would no doubt be the Polish player of the year. But losing a year of development is a big thing for young players, there is also not much to judge a player on for the season. Lewandowski is no doubt a special player and, based on his freshman year in the NCAA, is easily on pace to surpass past Polish players that appeared in the NCAA. For the age 20 season, his point per game average is slightly above Mike Cichy’s 20-year-old season.

Player #2

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2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #5-4

Now down to the top 5. The top 5 are the most consistent part of the rankings. Since I started the top 50, the top five have been dominated by five players. This year the usual number one aged out of the rankings. By the mid-way point of the season, I still had no clue which player would take the top spot. So many players made such great strides that it became hard to rank the top five. In the end, after a lot of debate, two players had to be left outside the final three, and weirdly enough, they’re teammates. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking. Players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a report.

Players 50-41Players 15-11
Players 40-31Players 10-8
Players 30-21Players 7-6
Players 20-16

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

5 – Kamil Wałęga (F), 21, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (6, +1) 

Kamil Wałęga has continued to skyrocket up the rankings and was a candidate for even the top spot at times during the season. In both zones, Wałęga has continued to progress into even more of a complete player. It was a banner year in the JKH GKS Jastrzebie as the team took home the PHL championship. 

This year, he had a production decline as Jastzrebie added more depth to their forward lineup. Forwards like Kasperlík, Hovorka, Phillips, Rac, Sawicki, and Urbanowicz created a solid veteran group. Add in plenty of great young players like Jarosz, Pas, Soltys, and Wałęga and it created a crowded forward group. In total, Wałęga managed 19 points (8G-11A-19PTS) in 45 games. His point total was tied for sixth among all U23 skaters. 

The decline is pretty significant in production, with him going from a .65 point per game average to .42 points per game. While it is not great to see from a player, he did maintain his goal total but saw the assist total drop. We can assess his decrease in part due to power-play opportunities, as last year Wałęga recorded nine powerplay points to just three powerplay points in 2021. Wałęga also made his senior men’s international team debut with four games, including scoring one goal at the three seas cup. 

In terms of production matches, it is a nice mix of solid PHL forwards but no players have become great players outside of Poland. Wałęga has signed in Slovakia’s top league, the Tipsport Liga, for the 2022 season. While the ranking was based entirely on the 2021 season, Wałęga has been off to a great start in Slovakia. The future is certainly looking bright for Wałęga, especially with him being a key contributor to Poland at international events in 2022. 

4 – Dominik Paś (F), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzębie, (4, +0) 

Dominik Paś has long been one of the best young two-way forwards in the country, and that status was upheld in 2021. The Jastrzebie native came off a 2020 season that contained a career-high in PHL points along with plenty of national team success. Pas was affected by the same reasons that we talked about in regards to previous JKH GKS Jastrzebie players. A stacked lineup saw some young players lose some opportunities. 

Paś did experience a slight production decline, but it was not as bad compared to other young Jastrzębie forwards. In 2020, he posted a point per game average of .75, while in 2021, it went down to .65 points per game. He posted 24 points (7G-17A-24PTS) in 35 games in the regular season. He broke out during the playoffs. With a new playoff career-high of eight points in 14 games, tied for third on the team. It was crucial for his team, as plenty of the veterans dropped in production by a substantial amount. 

It was not just in the PHL that Paś found success. The 5’10 forward recorded four assists in five games with the national team, and this included three assists during the threes seas tournament. Pas was also an essential part of the national team that upset Kazakstan in the qualifying round during 2020 qualifiers and would be on the team that fought with Olympic hopes and possibilities in 2021. 

On top of his national team opportunities in the 2022 season, he tried his hand aboard like other young Jastrzębie forward Jan Soltys and Kamil Wałęga. He would join the Hockey Progress Management agency and try for chances in the Chance Liga and Tipsport Liga. Pas would earn a spot on AZ Havirov but returned to Poland and Jastrzębie for the second half of the 2022 season.

Player #3

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2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #7-6

We are now at the lucky seven. The last ranking featured a few players that had run into some unfortunate career developments or had a season cut short due to covid. That is not the case with our following two players. Both in Poland or abroad, these players went into a senior league and crushed it. These are the kinds of players that make me so excited for Poland’s future, especially when a lot of things seem bleak for hockey in the country. What is so great about it is well is both players have such different paths and still became fantastic players. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking. Players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a report.

Players 50-41Players 15-11
Players 40-31Players 10-8
Players 30-21
Players 20-16

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

7 – Patryk Krężołek (F), 23, KH GKS Katowice, (11, +4) 

Krężołek ends his tenure on the list with a fantastic season. The Krynica native has established himself as one of the best goal scorers in the PHL. Even though he suffered a late injury to miss the end of the season and playoffs, Krężołek posted a new career-high of 18 goals in 36 games, .5 goals per game average. Over the past two years, his 38 goals are the eighth-most by any player in Poland. The players above him all having had success outside Poland. His 38 goals during that span are also 11 more than the next U23 player. 

Krężołek is a pure goal scorer with great offensive instincts and is extremely smart and dangerous in front of an opponent’s goal. He proved that it wasn’t just a lucky case of the right time and place in 2020 by increasing his goal count in 2021. It wasn’t just in the goal-scoring department either, as the 6’1 forward recorded 15 assists for a new career-high in helpers. It was also a new career-high in points with 33, finishing first among Polish U23 players. Unfortunately, the year would end on a low point as Krężołek would injure his collarbone and it required surgery. 

Krężołek Goal vs Sosnowiec

Krężołek was also able to earn more chances with the national team as he played in two games during a Euro Ice Hockey Challenge tournament. He was also named to the three seas roster but could not play. For the 2021 season, the talented forward has already re-upped with GKS Katowice. He should continue to be a crucial part of Katowice and a growing presence on the Polish national team.

6 – Jakub Prokurat (F), 20, Krefelder EV 1981 U23, (14, +8) 

The most significant way in my book to show you’re a legit top prospect is to move to a senior league before you turn 20 and rank up strong production. That is precisely what Jakub Prokurat did in 2021. The 19-year-old forward has played in Germany since 2019. After proving himself in Germany’s top U20 league, he earned a spot on Krefelder EV 1981 U23. As the name suggests, they are a U23 team that plays in Germany’s third league, the Oberliga. The Oberliga is a common place for Polish players and PHL free-agent additions, and the league regularly transition wells to the PHL in terms of production. 

Prokurat showed he was good enough to play there with a great year, posting 23 points (3G-20A-PTS) in 41 games. His 20 assists were the second-most by a U20 in the Oberliga, while his 23 points were the fifth most. His season is unique, and there are only 12 production matches for him. The good news is that 100% of them went on to play in a league comparable to the PHL, and 25% played at least 50 games in a mid-level European league. While it may not suggest that Prokurat is going to be playing for a top European club, it looks he is guaranteed to be a solid professional with a great chance of doing that in a league stronger than the PHL. 

Speaking of the PHL, that is where the product of the Torun junior system will be heading next season as the Warszawa native had a successful tryout with Katowice. Playing for a lower-standing Oberliga team is probably not as good as playing for a top PHL team. GKS Katowice head coach Jacek Płachta is coming off coaching Obelriga squad Crocodiles Hamburg to three straight top-five finishes. It is an excellent chance for Prokurat to develop his skills and patch up the rest of his game. He has surpassed the junior ranks and is already a pro-ready player.

Players #5-4

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