Julia Zielińska To Be The First Polish Woman to Play NCAA D1 Hockey

While Poland has seen a few big moves today as the PHL transfer window closes, the most significant move out of Poland today was a history-making college commitment. Julia Zielińska has made her NCAA commitment to Bemidji State University for Fall 2024. She will be the first Polish woman to play NCAA division 1 hockey when she suits up for the Beavers during the 2024-2025 season. The defenseman has already made history for Poland, being the first to appear in Finland’s top league, the Naisten Liiga, and now she will make more history in North America. This is another massive step for Polish hockey!

The 18-year-old defenseman has been moving up the ranks and lineup in Finland for Kiekko-Espoo since 2020. She previously started her career in the Naprzod Janow system before moving to Slovakia with Popradske Lisky. This current season has been her most successful in Finland. In a career-high 26 Naisten Liiga games, she has 15 points (3G-12A-15PTS). This ranks 19th among all defensemen and the fifth most for U20 defensemen. She has also quickly become a staple of the Polish national team. In 2022, she represented Poland at the Olympic Qualifiers and Senior World Championships.

The Bemidji State Beavers have played in the NCAA’s division 1 since the 1999 season. They play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and sit last in the conference for the 2023 season. A strong two-way defenseman like Zielińska should be a huge help. They have been coached by Jim Scanlan since 2015, who previously assistant coached the Men’s teams at the University of North Dakota and Western Michigan University. Polish top prospect Jakub Lewandowski plays for Bemidji State’s men’s team. This obviously means that Bemidji State is Poland’s favorite college hockey team.

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5 Thoughts: 2023 Women’s Division 1 Group B U18s. Second Silver.

For the second time this hockey season, we saw Poland’s women’s U18 team compete at an IIHF event. This was a much different group from the one we saw in September. The U18 squad lost some stars and legends of the program, like Anna Kot, Alicja Mota, and Julia Zielinska. That team we saw in September took home silver and felt like they were inches from gold. For Poland to replicate or improve on their success, they would need more jumps by the new core or some amazing debuts. Would they get either in this five-team tournament?

Poland started off the tournament with a match against familiar foe South Korea. Poland immediately proved why they should be a tournament favorite with a 6-0 victory, including two goals from Stepien. This was the first sign of the new offensive leaders stepping up in big ways. In their second game, Poland got their biggest test with Denmark. After a rough second period, Poland would fall in this one 3-1. The tournament’s story was Danish goalie Caroline Bjergstad, who stopped 90 shots of the 93 she faced. This included a 36-save game against Poland. With Poland likely eliminated from the tournament, it could have been easy for them to give up. Instead, they kept their foot on the gas and would win their final games against Spain and Chinese Taipei, both 4-0. This would give Poland a second straight silver medal, but this time with 10 more goals scored and five fewer allowed.

3 Shutouts

Nadia Ratajczyk had a solid showing at the last tournament, but there was room for improvement. There is not much more to improve on when you post three shutouts in four games! It was a great performance for the young goalie. Now in the three shutouts, she only faced 36 shots, including only seven vs. South Korea. Still, often times we see goalies let in a soft one during low-shot-faced games in IIHF tournaments, but Ratajczyk stayed sharp the whole time. It was a great tournament for Poland’s top goaltending prospect, who finished with a .949 SV%.

Nadia Ratajczyk saves vs Chinese Taipei

Finally Finishing

In the previous tournament, Poland had many chances but could not finish. They finished with a shooting percentage below four percent. It was the biggest reason Poland missed out on gold, and lost a rough game vs Chinese Taipei in 2022. This year Poland came out strong and buried their opponents below them, with final scores of 6-0 and 4-0 twice. This game gave them an 8.25 shooting percentage on 177 shots. This was good for second in the tournament, but there is still some work to do. When it mattered most, Poland only scored one goal on 37 shots versus Denmark.

14-year-old Stars

A sign that work has already started was a pair of 14 years olds who came up big for Poland. Anna Sencerz and Matylda Stępień both stepped up and helped deliver strong performances to boost Poland’s offense. Matylda Stępień is someone I was hoping would provide that spark, as she scored over 40 points last year for Ponzan in the PLHK. In 2023, she is playing in the top women’s league in Czechia for HC Falcons Sokol Karviná. In the tournament, she scored three goals on 19 shots. Her three goals were tied for the lead on team Poland and third in the tournament. Sencerz has been a rapidly developing forward for Gdansk. In this tournament, she scored one goal and assisted on another. Her two points were tied for fifth on the team. Both young players helped make this Polish offense the strongest in the tournament.

Matylda Stępień Goal vs. Spain

The Captain and Brzezińska Bombs

The true leaders of that strong offense were Maja Brzezinska and Justyna Zyla. Brzezinska tied for the lead in points and goals on Poland with three goals and one helper. The talented forward from Gdansk also fired off a team-leading 27 shots on goal. This was the highest amount of shots on goals by any individual in the tournament. Brzezinska already represents Poland at the senior level in the IIHF as well. She showed in this tournament that she has already outgrown the U18 level, and I think she may outgrow playing in Poland soon. While the captain has already outgrown Poland and is playing in Sweden. Justyna Żyła, the captain, also had a really great tournament. She tied Brzezinska for the lead in points with two goals and two assists for four points. Both are really going to be a large part of the core of Poland’s next generation.

What’s Next Now?

After back-to-back silver medals, the obvious goal for next year will be gold. Poland will not have too many departures, but they will be key players. Starting goalie Nadia Ratajczyk will have aged out after two runs as the starter. Captain Justyna Żyła, Maja Brzezińska, Julia Skręt, and Natalia Nosal will also all not be able to return. Still, that means you return so much of your roster that it paints a bright picture for next year. Finding out who will be the next goalie to take on the starter role will be the biggest thing for Poland to answer. The offense could be the best we have ever seen from the red and white.

Quick Thoughts

  • Poland’s 15 goals scored were the second most in team history, impressive with only four games
  • 3 goals is the least amount of goals allowed in the tournament by Poland, still impressive but also only with four games.
  • Natalia Nosal has now had two strong tournaments showing poise in each zone. She recorded one goal and two assists in four games in this tournament. I really like to see development on defense.
  • Patrycja Wójcik has a lot of potential as a stay-at-home defenseman and her development continues to grow solidly.
  • Magdalena Lapies is really going to be a special forward for Poland. There was so much talent at this tournament to talk about.

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2022 Top 50 Women’s U20 Players. #50-31

We reviewed over 100 players and are now ranking them. The growth of women’s hockey in Poland has exploded, and in the end, we gave ten players grades that suggest they can play in a stronger league outside of Poland and make an impact. The depth is steadily improving, but still, there remains a more significant gap between the majority of the list and the top. The PLHK playing score totals have been removed from the PZHL’s site. All stats used are from Elite Prospects. We have also massively overhauled how we scored players for their rankings. This change will lead to quite a few drastic rating drops for players outside their U18 career. 

Players had to be under the age of 20 and at least 13 years old on September 12th, 2022. 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. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 113 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Fifty players received a ranking.

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)

50 – Aleksandra Jachym (D), 18,  Polonia Bytom (42, -8

We begin our list with the young stay-at-home defender from Polonia Bytom, Aleksandra Jachym. In nine games this season, she posted one assist. In her final U18 season, Jachym has yet to carve out a more steady and permanent role in the lineup of the defending champions. 

49 – Katarzyna Radomska (G), 19, UKH Biale Jastrzebie (32, -17)

Radomska started ten games for a rough Jastzebie team. When matched up with more even opponents, Radomska held her own. But most of the time, she was under siege in net. A move to Tychy for this year will hopefully be a better year and allow her to continue growing.  

Radomska saves vs. Tychy. PLHK

48 – Magdalena Głąbica (D), 19, UKH Biale Jastrzebie (NR) 

Głąbica continues to serve a substantial role on the Jastrzebie defense. She recorded one goal and one assist in 16 games this past season and the first points of her PLHK career. She doesn’t project to be a top defenseman but should continue to be a steady presence on lower lines. 

Głąbica assist vs. Podhale Nowy Targ. PLHK

47 – Alicja Gacek (D), 15, Podhale Nowy Targ (NR)

Gacek breaks into the rankings after her second season in the PLHK at 14 years old. She recorded 1 goal and 1 assist in 17 games for Podhale Nowy Targ, and that one goal tied her for fourth among scoring for U16 defensemen. 

Gacek goal vs. Poznan. PLHK

46 – Magdalena Olszewska (F), 17, Cracovia Krakow (NR)

Olszewska had a solid year for Cracovia. After a two-point performance in 2021, she recorded 12 points (5G-7A-12PTS) in 16 games. On a Cracovia team desperate for offense, this led the team in points. She is the key to their offense, and that ice time should bold well for her development. 

Olszewska Goal vs. Podhale. PLHK

45 – Julia Nawart (D), 18, Naprzod Janow (38, -7)

Nawart continues to work her way up the Janow lineup and put up a new career high in points with three assists in 12 games. I had her on the shortlist of defensemen for the Polish U18 squad, but I was not shocked she was not on the team. 

44 – Julia Zyguła (D), 16, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

Zyguła had her senior debut season for 2022 and did well playing about half the year. The 15-year-old recorded two points (1G-1A-2PTS) in nine games. You should keep an eye on her for future U18 squads. 

43 – Amelia Firek (D), 16, KS Cracovia 1906, (NR) 

Firek continues to move up the PHLK ladder. After spending the previous year mainly with Podhale, she carved out a role with Cracovia this season. In 11 games, she recorded two goals. For the 2023 season, she is moving over to the reigning champions Polonia Bytom. 

Amelia Firek Goal vs. Podhale. PLHK

42 – Nikola Wencel (D), 16, Naprzod Janow (NR)

Wencel got her first taste of senior hockey last year and followed that up with another solid season. She would post two goals and two assists in 15 games for Janow, and her two goals were tied for fifth among U18 defenders. 

 Nikola Wencel Goal vs. Tychy. PLHK

41 – Milena Piasecka (D), 15, PTH Kozice Poznan, (NR) 

Piasecka will be one to watch going forward; she has shown great potential in her young career. In her PLHK season, she recorded one assist in ten games as a 14-year-old. She is moving over to Polonia Bytom, which should continue to massively boost her development in a vital area of need for Poland. 

40 – Lena Kabelis-Szostakowska (F), 14, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

As a thirteen-year-old, Kabelis-Szostakowska scored four goals in 14 games for Janow. Playing almost an entire season at her age is rare; seeing someone score during it is even more impressive—one to watch for sure in the next few years. 

39 – Paulina Schnabel (G), 16, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

Schanabel continues to play more and more games in net for Janow. She had some solid games this year, and the future looks potentially bright for her. I expect her to start getting some U18 reps, but she may be behind fellow U18 Janow goalie Alicja Kobiela.

Paulina Schnabel save vs. Tychy. PLHK

38 – Emilia Nosal (D), 16, Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR) 

Nosal got her first taste of PLHK action this year, and she played in 13 games with Podhale and recorded one assist during the playoffs. She also made the Polish U18 squad for the September 2022 tournament, and I would expect her to make the 2023 team.

37 – Sandra Piotrowska (F), 16, Unia Oswiecim, (46, +9

After two pointless PLHK seasons, Piotrowska stepped up big this year for Oswiecim. In 20 games, she recorded two goals and six assists. The Oswiecim forward’s point total put her top ten on the team in regular season scoring. In the next two years, she will be one to watch for the U18 squad.

36 – Aleksandra Langner (D), 17, Unia Oswiecim, (43, +7)

Langner showed more of her offensive side in the 2022 season. After going pointless in her previous PLHK contests, she posted seven points in 22 games. A big part of her offense came in the post-season with one goal and three assists in six games. 

35 – Katarzyna Secemska (D), 18, Polonia Bytom, (34, -1)

Secemska moved from Janow to the Polish women’s hockey powerhouse, Polonia Bytom. She saw a slight offensive decline in the lineup spot drop but still posted eight points in 19 games, scoring one goal and assisting on three during three playoff games. She was on the initial U18 squad last season but did not play with the team in September. 

34 – Laura Bulas (D), 17, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

Bulas has earned a more prominent role on Janow and primarily served on the top defensive pairing. She played in 13 games and recorded five assists. This year was a new career high in points for the young defensemen. 

33 – Alicja Kopciara (F), 20, Unia Oswiecim (29, -4)

Kopciara has become a key offensive piece for Unia Oswiecim, and her best year to date with 20 points in 19 games. This included 15 goals and five assists, and her 15 goals were 21st among all skaters in the PHLK. Kopciara looks to be a strong top-six forward for Oswiecim now and in the future. 

Alicja Kopciara Goal vs. Tychy. PLHK

32 – Lena Hachuła (F), 16, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

After showing limited offense in her few PLHK seasons, Hachuła exploded this year with four goals and four assists in just 13 games. Her .62 point per game average led all U18 players on Janow. 

31 – Jadwiga Jankowska (F), 15, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

Jankowska doubled her production this past season with seven points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 16 games. The 15-year-old also made her IIHF debut as she represented Poland at the Division 1 Group B U18s. Given her young age, she is probably in the same area as many young forwards who made the September team in that they will be staples of the team for the next few seasons. 

Jadwiga Jankowska secondary assist vs. Iceland. International Exhibition

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At Least It Had a Happy Ending? 2022 Men’s U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships 5 Thoughts

Poland lucked into being back in the Division 1 Group B U20 World Championships. By lucked in, I mean that Belarus and Russia invaded Ukraine and were thus suspended from IIHF competition. This meant instead of being relegated to Division 2, Poland was once again at the bottom of Division 1. So now, with a second chance at life, could Poland correct their mistakes and return to the top of the division for a chance at promotion?

Poland started off the tournament with Estonia. The same team that embarrassed Poland last year in overtime in a game they 100% should have won. Estonia came in with a better roster and once again took Poland to overtime. This time though, Poland would prevail victoriously and win 4-3. The next contest was against Ukraine, who Poland had just played in two pre-tournament exhibition games. While in the exhibition games, Poland appeared to be the better team, in IIHF action Ukraine dominated Poland and won 5-2. Poland’s third test with promotion on the line came against Japan. I hate to say it because this is a squad of teenagers, but this game was the worst performance I have ever seen from any Polish IIHF squad at any level, and the score would reflect that with a 7-3 loss. Poland would then lose a deflating game against Italy, taking them out of the race for third place. Italy allowed the most goals in the tournament going into the game, and Poland only found the back of the net once and lost 2-1. Poland needed a win on the tournament’s final day to avoid relegation for a second straight year. They would get more than just a win as they put their foot to the pedal and never took it off, beating South Korea 11-2. Compared to last year, Poland looked better against the teams below them but somehow worse against the teams considered better. It took two teams getting promoted for Poland to stay in Division 1, which is far from ideal.

No Structure + No Displcine = Awful Hockey

Last year I was shocked by the lack of discipline and structure in the U20 squad. I don’t know how it was even worse this year. Poland was doing things that would be not accepted at the U14 level, let alone the U20 level. There are serious issues when it comes to junior coaching in Poland. Polish defenders looked lost on the ice and had no idea how to recover when the slightest things would go wrong. Players would just collide with each other like little kids. It was so frustrating to watch. Let alone the lack of any defensive awareness was Poland just being stupid and letting their emotions get the best of them. Poland took 29 penalties in the tournament, tied for the second most. A lot of these came at crucial times as well. The worst part was with poor defensive play; Poland couldn’t recover from their mistakes and finished with the second worst penalty kill by penalty killing percentage and was tied for first in goals allowed shorthanded. Poland desperately needs to fix these issues. As if this continues, it is a bad sign for the future of the national team and PHL.

Who is Next in Net?

Given everything said in the last part, it should not be surprising that Polish goalies didn’t have the greatest tournament. Mikołaj Szczepkowski was the team’s primary starter, and I believe he had a better tournament than his stats say. He recorded a .883 save percentage in 3.66 games and faced the third most shots in the tournament. There were quite a few goals were there was nothing he could do, as the Polish defense left an opposing forward wide-open. Szymon Klimowski saw limited action in the tournament, starting one game and finishing the game against South Korea. He struggled at times when in, especially with a rough early start versus Ukraine. These were not performances that sparked much hope about the position’s future in Poland.

The Leader

It should be no surprise that Poland’s offensive leader in the tournament was Krzysztof Macias. The Nowy Targ native finished with seven goals and three assists for ten points. His ten points tied for first, with Japan’s Kotaro Murase, for the lead in the tournament. He led all players in goals by two with his seven. He also easily led Poland in the shot department with 25, eight more than the next Polish skater. All of this combined to earn him the best player of team Poland honors as selected by the coaches. While it was impressive, it also came in mainly two games. Against South Korea, Macias scored four goals and assisted on three; he also had a two-goal performance against Estonia. Macias only managed a lone goal against Italy and was held pointless versus Japan and Ukraine. The 18-year-old will still be eligible for Poland next season, and I hope to see his scoring against Estonia and Korea versus Poland’s top opponents.

Klutch Kusak

Patryk Kusak was a forward I did not expect much of in this tournament. He was penciled in on the third line coming in and had not been having the best club season in the top Czech junior level. Kusak blew past my expectations and was one of Poland’s most impactful and hardest-working forwards. He managed the third most points on the team with five (3G-2A-5PTS). This included two goals and one assist against Japan. That three-point performance earned him player of the game honors for Poland. He had a really solid showing for Poland at the tournament, no matter the opponent’s strength.

What is Next?

Poland was tied for the third oldest team at the tournament. 13 players will not be eligible for next year’s squad. They had one of the oldest squads and still came up short. Poland went from four straight silver medals and battling with the likes of France, Norway, and Slovenia for the promotion to fighting to stay in Division 1 against Estonia and South Korea. For Poland to stay in Division 1, they had to beat a team with only two regulation wins in the previous year’s Division 2 tournament. The last three team’s performances are more than concerning for Poland, which paints a grim future for the national team. While there have been some significant forward prospects, goaltending and defense have looked bare. Poland can either get a new coach to coach up the talent, or they need to revamp the junior system to bring up the talent level as a whole.

Quick Hits

  • Defensemen Kacper Macias served as captain and was Poland’s best defender in the tournament and second-leading scorer. He recorded an impressive seven assists at the tournament. Five of the assists came in the match against South Korea, where he earned player of the game honors.
  • The Super Macias Brothers, Kacper and Krzysztof Macias, were first and second on team Poland in scoring. The elder brother often assisting on his younger brother’s goals
  • Kurnicki would be my pick for Poland’s second-best defender. He stood out on quite a few penalty kill shifts, where he was not afraid to put his body on the line.
  • Adrian Gromadzki had a solid tournament and is another player that will be a key player next year.

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Polish Men’s U20: Preview, Roster Breakdown, and Predictions

The 2023 IIHF international season will kick off for Poland as they host the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships in Bytom. Poland will be competing in their group for the ninth straight season. They are only competing in Group B for a ninth straight year as Belarus and Russia were suspended from IIHF play for the 2023 season. Their suspensions resulted in Poland staying in the group despite being relegated last year. So what happened last year, and can this team avoid the same pitfall?

2022 was a tournament ground for sounding alarms that Polish junior hockey might be in deep trouble. Poland lost all five games they played, including blowout defeats to France and Japan, while also getting embarrassed late and beaten in overtime by Estonia. Both Poland’s offense and goaltending were non-existent in the tournament. Poland also showed an incredibly undisciplined brand of hockey that saw them average a period per game shorthanded. The performance left me calling for jobs and significant lineup changes. Player wise we will see a lot of changes this year, but the staff remains the same.

The Staff 

SMS PZHL Katowice coach Artur Ślusarczyk remains behind the bench as head coach for the Polish U20 squad. This will be his second IIHF tournament for Poland as a head coach. Along with leading the U20 team last year, Ślusarczyk was an assistant coach for the men’s senior team at the Division 1 Group B World Championships, where the team won gold and promotion. He was also a part of the Polish staff that won gold and promotion with the U18 team in division two. I hope to see a much better performance from his roster this time around. 

Arkadiusz Burnat and Bartłomiej Nowak will return as assistant coaches, Nowak liking serving as the goaltending coach. Both served with Ślusarczyk on Poland U18 but are still very young in their coaching careers. Nowak briefly served as goaltending coach with GKS Katowice in 2022 but was relieved of his duties three months into the year. Burnat previously worked as a player coach with UKH Debica in the second league. Marta Zawalska will once again serve as team manager. It will be her fifth time in the role for Poland IIHF teams.

Goalies 

Poland brought in four goalies to camp this year. Mikołaj Szczepkowski is the only goalie returning from last year’s team. He had some highlights against Slovenia but struggled greatly at times. He has spent the entire season in the MHL with UKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec posting a .888 SV%. He did start one of Poland’s pre-tournament games against Ukraine, stopping 33 shots and allowing two goals in the 4-2 win. I expect him to be the main starter for Poland at the tournament. 

The starter for Poland’s other friendly match was Szymon Klimowski. In the pre-tournament match, Klimowski stopped 30 shots in a 2-1 loss. This year he played in four matches for Podhale Nowy Targ, posting a .863 SV%, which is up from his numbers in seven games last year. He also owns a .852 SV% in 7 MHL games. I expect him to splint starts with Szczepkowski. 

Filip Wiszyński and Tomasz Grobelkiewicz also attended camp but only served as backups against Ukraine. To me, that was the sign of who Poland will take as their goalies for their tournament. I thought Grobelkiewicz would grab the starting spot this year. He has the best stats in the MHL with a .902 SV% in 9 games for Polonia Bytom. He was also great last year for SMS PZHL Katowice. Plus, if you’re a goalie-size person, he is the tallest goalie by two inches. Wiszyński also had a solid season with UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, posting a .897 SV% in 9 games.. A really tough choice for Poland, with all goalies being in their final year of eligibility.

Defensemen 

The defense comes in with ten skaters, so I expect three cuts from the group. Only two players will be returning from last year. Kacper Maciaś is going to be the defensive leader on this team. The 19-year-old will be making his final appearance for the U20 squad and has played in 22 PHL games this year with GKS Katowice. Young promising defenseman Eryk Schafer will also be returning. At only 18, Schafer will already play in his second U20 IIHF tournament. He was a ball of energy last year, and I’m excited to see how he has developed.

The remaining eight can be split into the 19-year-olds and the young players looking to make their mark early. Outside of the two returning locks, Marlon Wróbel seems like a lock to make it. Wróbel played in 15 games this year in the PHL with STS Sanok. He also has 12 points (1-11-12) in 15 MHL games. He spent both games against Ukraine on the top pairing with Kacper Maciaś. Jakub Wilk, Jan Stępień, & Szymon Gurzyński from Polonia Bytom are all trying to make the squad in their final year of eligibility as well. Stępień and Wilk seem likely to make the team as Poland’s third defensive pairing, as they played in the spot in both games against Ukraine. Both have been a steady presence for Bytom this year, with Wilk leading defensemen in points on the team. Gurzyński appeared in only one friendly game and took two minor penalties on the fourth pairing. 

In the group of young players, Oliwier Kurnicki has cemented himself on the second pairing with Torun teammate Eryk Schafer. Kurnicki scored against Ukraine in Poland’s 4-2 win in their first exhibition match. He has had a great club season with two assists in 15 PHL games on KH Torun, along with 14 points in 15 games at the MHL level. Karol Sobecki is someone I thought would challenge to make the roster at 17 like Schafer did last year. Sobecki has appeared in 12 games for GKS Tychy, along with scoring twice in nine MHL games. He would be my pick for the seventh defenseman. Blazej Chodor also had his shot at making the team. The 17-year-old has a lot of potential, but I’m not sure if he will be ready this year for the U20 squad. Kacper Łukawski has an outside chance at grabbing the final spot on the team, given his familiarity with head coach Ślusarczyk. Chodor, Sobecki, and Łukawski only appeared in one game in the fourth pairing during friendly matches. It seems Poland came in pretty set with their defense. 

Forwards 

The biggest thing about the offense is Krzysztof Macias. Not since Alan Łyszczarczyk has Poland had such an all-star player in their squad, and Macias might even be better. This year already, he has made his debut with the senior national team and at the top level of hockey in Czechia. Macias might be the best prospect to come out of Poland in the past decade. Poland will no doubt be hoping he can carry this team to gold. 

He won’t be alone in that quest, as Poland has a decent supporting cast. Poland brought 15 forwards to camp, and about eight players seem to have their spots secured. Still expect two cuts from this group. On the top line, he is likely to be joined by Jakub Ślusarczyk, his teammate at HC Vitkovice U20. Ślusarczyk has been one of Poland’s best performers on the international stage and is starting to prove himself on the club level in Czechia. They will not be the only players from the Czech U20 league as Adrian Gromadzki (HC Dynamo Pardubice U20), Aleks Menc (HC Karlovy Vary U20), Michał Kusak (HC Karlovy Vary U20), and Patryk Kusak (HC Olomouc U20) have all likely locked their place on the roster. Six forwards in Czechia’s top U20 level is a rare sight for Poland and will give them some solid options up and down the lineup. 

Outside Poland’s junior prospects in Czechia, Karol Sterbenz and Szymon Maćkowski have locked spots. Sterbenz plays for HK Poprad U20 in Slovakia’s top U20 league and has seen a decent production increase compared to last season. He spent both exhibition games on the top line with Macias and Ślusarczyk. Szymon Maćkowski made it to the PHL this year and has two goals and two assists with KH Torun in 17 games. That leads all U20 skaters in the PHL by two points. Paweł Wybiral should also be safe, given he is returning from last year’s team, where he recorded a goal and assist in five games. 

This leaves six players for the four remaining spots, who will be the fourth line and the extra skater. Arkadiusz Karasiński, David Wawrzkiewicz, Filip Sienkiewicz, Marcin Dulęba, Mikołaj Kociszewski, and Piotr Ciepielewski. Only one of the players from this group played in both exhibition games against Ukraine, which seemed to set the lineup for the tournament, especially in the top six and on defense. Arkadiusz Karasiński playing in both games makes me think he is safe, and I would be very happy to see the Lodz hockey product make it. Mikołaj Kociszewski has experience with the head coach and has been a top scorer in the MHL. Piotr Ciepielewski has PHL experience and substantial MHL numbers. Filip Sienkiewicz spent most of his year in the PHL with one goal in 18 games. David Wawrzkiewicz plays in the USA in the USPHL Premier, a league in which quite a few opponents also have players from. Marcin Dulęba is one of the best playmakers in the MHL and records some of the best U20 assist numbers in the league. You can argue for each player to appear on the final line. 

Projected Lineup

Krzysztof Macias – Karol Sterbenz – Jakub Ślusarczyk

Aleks Menc – Adrian Gromadzki – Michał Kusak

Patryk Kusak – Szymon Maćkowski – Paweł Wybiral

Mikołaj Kociszewski – Piotr Ciepielewski – Arkadiusz Karasiński

Filip Sienkiewicz

Kacper Maciaś – Marlon Wróbel

Eryk Schafer – Oliwier Kurnicki

Jakub Wilk – Jan Stępień

Karol Sobecki

Mikołaj Szczepkowski

Szymon Klimowski

Can this lineup compete better than last year in the group? It is hard to say; I feel very shaky about the goaltending with how they played last year. The defensive group should have a lot more chemistry this season, thanks to players that already play on the same paring in their club seasons. Still, it is not the best group Poland has ever taken to this tournament and has never really been the vital part. Offensively there is a lot of talent in this group, but its key players are also very young. Still another group that knows each other well, and that should help with chemistry. I overall feel better about this team thanks to the true star power it might have at the top. If the offense falters like last year, I don’t think the defense can recover. 

Predictions 

Poland will start the tournament on Sunday, Dec. 11, vs. Estonia. Estonia survived relegation last year by beating Poland in overtime. The goaltending on this team looks unknown, and together have played four total club games in 2022-23. Klaus Kaspar Jõgi will lead the team offensively, and he plays in the second level of US junior hockey, the NAHL. Deniss Kontseus and Nikita Stepanov, who play with Krefelder EV 1981 U20 (DNLU20), should also be considered scoring threats. Marek Potšinok is also doing well in the top level of Finnish junior hockey. A young potent offense will be scary, but they have questions on the defensive end and in the net. Estonia is much like Poland. Still, I like what I see here for Poland, and I predict a win. 

Poland’s second game will be on Monday, Dec. 12, vs. Ukraine. It is great to see Ukraine at this tournament. We also know how this match should go based on Poland’s pre-tournament matches. I like Poland’s chances as long as the offense can capitalize. I predict a second Poland win. 

Poland’s third game will be taking on Japan on Wednesday, Dec. 14.  Games vs. Japan are always hard to tell, given the lack of information about the junior level in the country. Still, they will have five players coming to the team that played in US junior leagues last year. The top name to watch is Yusaku Ando, who finished with nine points in five games last year. Japan only lost one of their top scorers from last year, while 6’5 goalie Ryuto Nakamoto will be joining this year after an impressive start to his USPHL season. I don’t see Poland finding a way to win this one. The Japan offense was too strong last year and only came back more experienced. 

Poland’s fourth contest will come against Italy on Friday, Dec 16. Poland will face off with likely the best player in the tournament, Tommy Purdeller, who currently plays in the Ontario Hockey League for the Peterborough Petes. Damian Clara should be a force in the net, possibly as well for the Italians. There are a lot of big names in big leagues on this squad, but a lack of depth. I don’t think Poland will be able to stop their rise. There is just too much talent and experience for Poland to overcome. 

Poland’s last match will be on Saturday, Dec 17, vs. South Korea. South Korea is the true wildcard of this tournament, as like Japan, there is little information about their team. They were promoted to Division 1 Group B due to the Belarus and Russia suspensions. The team looks to be hurting due to players aging out. South Korea will lose all five top scorers from last year, along with their starting goalie. I will give Poland a win here, but it is hard to say until the tournament begins. 

Final Record: 3-2. Good for Bronze

Conclusion 

After a disastrous tournament last year, I do see Poland getting on track, but that is more due to the drop in talent for the division than it is the change in the team. Poland is lucky to be back in Division 1 Group B and can’t waste a golden opportunity to possibly get a promotion or at least stay in the group. Maybe there is a chance that Macias can carry Poland to gold with his strong offensive supporting cast, but it is just as likely that this young Polish team crumbles to their opponent’s star players like last year.

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The Most Interesting Import on Every PHL Team

Every year there are fresh faces in the PHL. Sometimes import signings are big-name players with NHL or KHL experience, while others are from lower North American or European minor leagues looking to take the next step in their careers. Some become team staples, while others are gone in less than a month. I always enjoy checking out every import signing in the PHL. Today I wanted to look at each team’s most interesting new foreign player—keyword interesting, not the most impactful or best signing. 

Cracovia Krakow – Ben Blood

Ben Blood is an American defenseman with an impressive resume. In 2007, he was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round of the NHL entry draft. He would then spend four years at the University of North Dakota. Following his college career, he would bounce around the North American minor league system, playing 80 AHL games and 50 ECHL games. He would primarily play in Liiga starting in 2015 and, in total, appeared in 300 Liiga games. The 6’4 defensemen spent last year in Austria in the ICEHL. The physical defenseman will surely be a force in the PHL this season. 

GKS Katowice – Shigeki Hitosato

Hitosato is only the third Japanese player to appear in Poland, and he was very impressive at the World Championships that Poland hosted earlier this year. Over the past three seasons, the 5’6 forward has been one of the top producers for the Tohoku Free Blades in the Asia League and Japan Cup. The Tomakomai native was the captain of the Japan U20 squad and has since transitioned into one of the top scorers for the Japanese senior team. He already scored his first PHL goal two games into the year. 

GKS Tychy – Alexander Younan

Finding good defensemen is more challenging than finding skilled forwards. Younan already has 228 games in the Hockey Allsvenskan and spent one season in the SHL. That kind of resume is not something you commonly find in the PHL. He is only the ninth defenseman to play in the PHL after playing at Sweden’s top level. Last year was his first year outside of Sweden, and he spent it in the ICEHL. 

JKH GKS Jastrzebie – Bence Bálizs

With Patrik Nechvátal retiring, there was a need for a new number one in Jastrzebie. The new netminder came from an unlikely source in one of Poland’s biggest rivals in Hungarian Bence Bálizs. The Hungary national team goalie has spent his entire career in his home country, playing in the national league and for Hungarian teams competing in the ICEHL and Tipos Extraliga. You don’t see many players take their first trip abroad during their age 32 seasons. The five-time Hungarian league Champion is only the fifth Hungary-born player to play in the PHL. 

KH Torun – Ervīns Muštukovs

Ervīns Muštukovs is the definition of a journeyman goalie. The 38-year-old has played in 13 professional leagues for 20 teams. He has represented Latvia at the Elite Division of the World Championship and reached the KHL with Latvia’s Dinamo Riga. Not only is he the clubs’ goalie, but he will also serve as goaltending coach for Torun’s MHL team. He is adding another two things to one of the longest resumes I have ever seen in hockey. 

Podhale Nowy Targ – Lukáš Hvila

Lukáš Hvila is a legend in Slovakia’s top league. He has the fifth most games played in league history, with 969 games over 19 seasons. The 40-year-old hasn’t just played in his home country either. He made stops in Czechia, France, Kazakhstan, and Slovenia. That longevity as a player is extremely impressive. A couple of months into this year, he will turn 41 and play his first season in Poland. It also is his 24th season of playing professional hockey.  

STS Sanok – Vladislav Lysenko

Vladislav Lysenko has a unique history in international hockey. The defenseman was born in Ukraine but developed in the Russian junior system. His time in Russia led to him eventually representing the Russia U18 team at the IIHF U18s and Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. He has played in his birth country for the past two seasons and has not represented Russia since 2013. It’s an interesting background, given Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine. This invasion led to Russians being pretty much blocklisted from the PHL. The 27-year-old defenseman has spent most of his career in Russia’s second league, the VHL, but has appeared in five KHL games. 

Unia Oswiecim – Pavel Padakin

Ukrainian hockey had fallen a bit in a similar way to Polish hockey. Not many high-end players, but Pavel Padakin broke through the ceiling most Ukrainians faced. The Kyiv native worked his way up in Ukraine and earned a chance in the USA’s NAHL. He got noticed in the NAHL and would be drafted in the CHL import draft by the Calgary Hitmen. Following his junior career, he would attract the attention of the Philadelphia Flyers and sign with their American Hockey League club. After one year in the AHL, he would head to Russia and sign to the KHL. He would play in the KHL from 2016 to 2021, recording 76 points in 206 games, and earning all-star game honors in 2018. 

Zaglebie Sosnowiec – Nikita Butsenko

Our last team didn’t bring in a lot of imports and is among the leaders in Polish players in the PHL. A lot of their imports are also familiar faces to PHL fans. One of those is Nikita Butsenko, who returns to Poland for the third time. The 32-year-old center has split his career between Ukraine and Poland, along with one season in Romania. He has recorded 77 points in 110 PHL games with Polonia Bytom and Sosnowiec. Butsenko is a leader of the Ukrainian national team and has always received interest from Polish teams every offseason.

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2022-23 PHL Standing Predictions

The hockey season is officially in full swing. The season finally starts after a crazy offseason involving wars complicating players and teams, teams backing out and then backing in, and everything else in Polish hockey. This year, in my opinion, should continue to show the strength of the PHL and how it has improved. That should already be seen across Europe with last year’s champions, GKS Katowice, beating the runner-ups of Switzerland, ZSC Lions. Will they repeat as champions, or will a new team take the crown?

9. Podhale Nowy Targ

Podhale will most likely be repeating as the worst team in the PHL. But this time, it is not an easy guess. Podhale is much better this year, especially with the additions of Kevin Lindskoug and Martin Przygodzki. Last year, Podhale won only three games, so their one win in four games this year is a promising sign. New head coach Juraj Faith has a lot of challenges to face, but they have done a solid job of assembling a roster of PHL veterans, young talent, plus quite a few random imports. While I think they will finish last in the PHL, I don’t believe they’ll be as bad as the last-place teams of the past.

8. Zaglebie Sosnowiec

Zaglebie Sosnowiec had an up-and-down off-season, which is how this season will probably go. I see them finishing in eighth place, where they were last year. Much of that will come down to how Patrik Spesny and Sebastian Lipinski perform in net. Spesny had a rough year in Sanok last season, while Lipinski has never had extended PHL playing time. The offseason additions of Jakub Witecki and Nikita Butsenko will be relied on heavily for the offense. I like what they’re doing on defense with some young additions that will finally get big chances. I approve of where they are going, but it is just not a winning team right now.

7. STS Sanok

Sanok had the roughest offseason of any team. Not due to anything with roster building, but their main sponsor’s building burned down. They originally had to back out of the PHL due to funding but were saved just a minute before midnight. The team brought in a whole new batch of Finnish players who will once again be relied on as team leaders. Ville Heikkinen has the potential to be a really solid producer while getting Kalle Valtola from GKS Katowice should really help on the backend. Unfortunately, losing the PHL’s leading scorer Jakub Bukowski and Radoslaw Sawicki is something I don’t think they added enough to overcome. In the third straight repeat, I have Sanok finishing seventh.

6. KH Torun

I have KH Torun also repeating their place from last year. While not exciting, that is just the bottom of the PHL. Only three players from their top ten scorers are returning this year. The Kalinowski brothers will be relied on heavily to step up their production. While young, Mark Viitanen is a big-body forward and has a lot of potential to be an impactful winger. The strength of this team is on defense. The addition of Jakub Gimiński will be a major key to competing with top clubs, and I am really excited to see the sophomore year of Eryk Schafer. The true key will be how well veteran Latvian goalie Ervīns Muštukovs holds up in net. Depending on how young players produce or imports turn out, Torun could stun a few teams.

5. JKH GKS Jastrzebie

JKH GKS Jastrzebie is the top team to me that had the most disappointing offseason. In net, I am very wary of Bence Bálizs as the starting goalie taking over for Patrik Nechvátal. Vitālijs Pavlovs, who was a key player last year, was surprisingly dismissed this season after one game. The team brought the well-traveled Josef Mikyska to replace Pavlovs in that top center role. Mikyska should be close to a point-per-game player in the PHL. Losing Frenks Razgals, Martin Kasperlík, and Roman Rác hurts a lot, and the forwards they brought in the replace them doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The big news was being able to retain star forward Dominik Pas. A strong Polish core should keep them towards the top, but I don’t know about contending.

4. Cracovia Krakow

Cracovia’s roster strength might change since I don’t doubt one or two players might be here just for the Champion Hockey League games. Still it was quite the offseason for Poland’s New York Yankees as they raided other PHL teams of top forwards like Martin Kasperlík, Mateusz Michalski, Patryk Wronka, Radoslaw Sawicki, Robert Arrak, and Roman Rác. Combine that with talented imports including Jack Walker, Marek Račuk, and Vojtěch Polák, and it is hard to see Cracovia not having a top offense. They retained their strong defensive core based around Ales Jezek, Jakub Saur, and Jiri Gula, and I’m really intrigued by the addition of American Ben Blood. In net Rok Stojanovič and David Zabolotny should be more than enough to lead this team to a potential title.

3. Unia Oswiecim

Oswiecim has a chance to lead the league in goals for. The additions of the acclaimed North American duo Alex Szczechura and Mike Cichy should guarantee them two top scorers. Pavel Padakin also has a chance to make a major impact in the PHL this year. These new imports add to already established top forwards Krystian Dziubiński and Teddy Da Costa who should lead the charge. Defense is not the strongest point of the team, but I really like the offensive potential of Pylyp Pangelov-Yuldashev from the back end, while veteran Latvian Aleksandrs Jerofejevs should provide stability. Linus Lundin is taking the starting role in goal, and while he boasts a .905 sv% in 106 HockeyAllsvenskan games, he has struggled with consistency in his career. The offensive firepower should be enough to carry this team to the top, with title dreams if they hold up defensively.

2. GKS Tychy

It feels like a season of transition for the former back-to-back champs. Last year, they finished fifth in the PHL and would lose in the bronze medal series. The team said goodbye to a lot of major imports and team leaders. Tyhcy brought in more than enough major replacements. National team members Bartosz Ciura, Filip Komorski, last year’s regular season goals leader Jakub Bukowski, and Oskar Jaśkiewicz all joined the team this offseason. Ondrej Sedivy and Roman Szturc should be solid imports addition to help the forward core. On the back end, getting Ciura back along with import Alexander Younan and Jaśkiewicz should be able to replace the losses there. Tomas Fucik has long been one of the best PHL goaltenders and I don’t see that changing. GKS Tychy is an easy pick to finish in the top two.

1. GKS Katowice

The reigning PHL champions did have a lot of talent stolen in the offseason, but I don’t see that preventing them from re-claiming their title. First, it starts in net, John Murray is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. They retained their national team core, which included Marcin Kolusz not returning to Podhale Nowy Targ after his loan last season. Niko Mikkola should also be an interesting addition to the team and give them an another offensive defensemen to pair on the power play with Kolusz.

Grzegorz Pasiut should continue to lead the team on the forward end, while Bartosz Fraszko and Patryk Krezolek are among the best young Polish forwards. Christian Blomqvist and Teemu Pulkkinen should be relied on heavily to produce. While Brandon Magee brings a lot of energy and should help drive play. Japanese forward Shigeki Hitosato was impressive at the Division 1 Group B World Championships, so I am excited to see what he is going to be in Poland. The team has to hope Igor Smal and Jakub Porkurat will take another step forward and contribute more offensively. It is hard to see the Champs not being the major favorite to repeat.

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5 Thoughts: 2022 Women’s Division 1 Group B U18s. The Offense Fails to Finish

For the first time since 2020, we were going to see the Women’s U18 squad in IIHF action. From cancellations to movements, it was finally time to see what the future of women’s hockey looks like for Poland. Poland has been in the division 1 group B since 2017, when they took bronze in their first shot. Since that debut, they took bronze one more time but have finished fourth and fifth in the most recent tournaments. The women’s team has grown rapidly, and it was time to see if the U18 squad would continue that success.

Poland would face their toughest challenge right off the bat with Austria. In game one, they would get shut out and create a major hill to overcome. Poland would bounce back with a 2-1 win over Denmark. It would all come crashing down when the U18 squad was upset by Chinese Taipei in a game where they overshot their out by over 50. They would end the tournament on a high note securing second place with a 2-1 win over South Korea.

Failure to Finish

The biggest story of the tournament for Poland was the lack of scoring. The red and white would only score five goals in four games. This gave them, on 152 shots, a shooting percentage of 3.29%, half of the next team. Over 100 of those shots came from just five players, who also produced all five goals. Poland just couldn’t finish high danger chances. It is definitely a bit of just bad luck. But also disappointing given the forward talent in the lineup for Poland. Going 1 for 13 on the powerplay has to be addressed as well.

68 Shots!!!

The biggest failure to finish came in the game against Chinese Taipei. Poland fired 68 shots on goal and only scored a single goal in a game that went into overtime. First, hats off to Ai Chung, who was sensational and stopped 67 shots. That is an amazing performance and deserves a lot of praise. For Poland, how could you not score? This game officially ended Poland’s small chance for a gold medal in what should have been an almost guaranteed win. It wouldn’t be Polish hockey without an extremely frustrating game…

Ratajczyk Review

I was really interested in who would be Poland’s starting goalie in this tournament. Julia Bujak and Nadia Ratajczyk had played sparingly in the PLHK on powerhouse teams. Ratajczyk got the starting role and ran with it. She only allowed 8 goals all tournament, including a great game against Denmark, where Ratajczyk made 19 saves and earned player of the game honors. If you take out the one weird game against Chinese Taipai where she only faced seven shots, she finished with a .914 save percentage.

Sweet Silver

While the goal of a tournament is always to take home gold. This is the best finish in history for Poland’s U18 squad. The highest before this tournament was taking bronze, so silver feels sweet. It is crazy to see a team have a negative goal differential finish second in a tournament. While the offense did not produce, the team as a whole controlled the games they were in for the most part. It was another sign of progress for Polish hockey.

Is the Future As Bright?

Whenever progress happens, it is always interesting to see if that progress will continue. This team will compete again in December or January if the 2023 tournament stays in its usual spot. They will be without quite a few key players in that tournament, including Alicja Kobus, Alicja Mota, Anna Kot, Amelia Bula, and Julia Zielinska. There was still eligible talent that proved themselves in this tournament, including starting goalie Nadia Ratajczyk and leading scorer Maja Brzezinska.

Quick Thoughts

  • Anna Kot and Natalia Nosal really were great on the backend in this tournament.
  • It was another tournament with a lot of evidence that the top of Poland is a lot better than the depth with a wide gap.
  • Magdalena Łąpieś had a bit disappointing tournament production-wise and took 6 minor penalties.
  • Congrats to Magdalena Czaplik and Dominik Kraus on making their IIHF coaching debuts.
  • Former Unia Oswiecim player Monika Szpyt-Jucha, also made her IIHF staff debut as team manager.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. Stats and Notes

The Men’s top 80 list has officially concluded for the year. It is now time to look at just some random notes for the list, like which team had the most players or which player had the highest rise. This year’s goal was to give more credit to goaltenders again, but it is hard to rank them in Poland, given the sparse opportunities available for them. Still, they almost tied defensemen in representation on the list. The defensive group will likely be the next position group I evaluate and change how I rank.

All Articles

Players 80-51Players 30-21Players 10-8Player 3
Players 50-41Players 20-16Players 7-6Player 2
Players 40-31Players 15-11Players 5-4Player 1

Entire Top 80 Board

Biggest Risers

  1. Blazej Chodor +42
  2. Michał Kusak +39
  3. Krzyzstof Macias +33
  4. Jakub Ślusarczyk +29
  5. Oliwier Kasperek +28

Biggest Drops

  1. Jakub Blanik -22
  2. Kacper Gruzla -21
  3. Marcel Kotula & Michal Cychowski -19
  4. Bartosz Florczak -18
  5. Jakub Wenker -16

Highest List Debuts

  1. Eryk Schafer (23)
  2. Dominik Kolat (24)
  3. Krystian Lisowski (33)
  4. Kacper Macias (40)
  5. Filip Sienkiewicz (42)

Player I Wish I Ranked Higher

Michał Proczek – Really solid defenseman, and the more I reviewed film and statistics on players above him the more I thought I made a mistake in rating him so low.

Player I Wish Ranked Lower

Szymon Bieniek – The player I have the least amount of film on over the past three years. But he is one that coaches love and statistics favor. Those big stats often come at lower US junior levels. His offseason ending with him signing in Division 3 of Sweden is not really inspiring.

Filip Plonka – Still a lot to love in him as a goalie. Just other goalies had better years and better numbers. The limited amount of games is going to potentially really hurt long-term development.

Players By Team

Players By Position

County By Country

Notes

  • Every year the player ranked #2 has been different and featured 4 different players.
  • With only one player, this is the least amount of JKH GKS Jastrzebie players on the list.
  • The highest amount of players playing in Sweden to be ranked.
  • The lowest amount of players playing in Germany to be ranked.
  • The highest amount of goalies to be ranked.
  • The lowest amount of forwards to be ranked.
  • Defensemen are up 3 versus last year.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #1

There have only been three players in my rankings to grace the number 1 spot. Wiktoria Sikorska has always held the women’s number 1 spot, while Alan Łyszczarczyk and Paweł Zygmunt finished first on the men’s side. This year that number will remain the same as Zygmunt has retained his top spot. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16 years old on June 1st, 2022. 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. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 169 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking.

Players 80-51Players 30-21Players 10-8Player 3
Players 50-41Players 20-16Players 7-6Player 2
Players 40-31Players 15-11Players 5-4

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings) 

1 – Paweł Zygmunt (F), 23, HC Litvínov, (1, 0) 

Paweł Zygmunt continues to slowly evolve his game and carve out a more permanent role in the HC Litvinov lineup. It seems he and the team are committed to his future in Czechia. Zygmunt has taken to the Extraliga much quicker than expected, and the results are strong. He has quickly found himself in a middle-six forward role contributing to the penalty kill. The offensive numbers are not jumping off the page yet, but he is driving a lot of chances. 

This year in 45 games, he posted seven goals and two assists. The seven goals are a new career high for him during the Tipsport Extraliga regular season. They were all scored at even strength putting him fifth on his team for even strength goals. It was also tied for twelfth in even-strength goals among U23 skaters. His nine points were 30th among the same age group.

Thanks to hokej.cz, we can take a closer look at this game and how he grades out as a player. Individually Zygmunt generated a lot of chances, and his 3.70 chances per 60 were fifth on HC Litvínov and 20th among U24 skaters. With only an average TOI of 11:31 per game and just over a minute and a half, that came on the penalty kill. Zygmunt found a way to maximize his offensive ability in limited minutes this season. With 98 shots attempts, he placed 23rd among U24 skaters. 

Zygmunt Goal vs. Estonia IIHF Senior D1B

He is finding his way defensively as well. Over the last two seasons, he played a crucial part in the team’s penalty kill, which is great to see him trusted with a role like that so quickly. He finished seventh among U24 skaters in Corsi For Percent with 53.5%. His shots against per 60 were also the fourth lowest on his team. By all accounts, Zygmunt is finding his way, and the team invested in his future, which paid off for them. 

Take his size and early success, and I have no doubt we will see him in the Extraliga for a long time to come. Looking at production matches for a player three seasons into a professional league can be a bit redundant, as we already see they have played almost enough games for a long career. That is exactly what his production matches show, with 93.9% playing in 200 Extraliga games. What I enjoy seeing, though, is if players can step up to a stronger league. We see 2% of his matches playing at least 50 NHL games and 12.2% playing 50 games in a top European league like the KHL or SHL. 

Zygmunt was a key contributor to the Polish national team. He represented the senior team at three events. He posted 7 points (4G-3A-7PTS) at the Baltic Challenge Cup and another 3 points (1G-2A-3PTS) at the senior World Championships. He also represented Poland in the final round of Olympic Qualification. 

Zygmunt has cemented himself as a good player outside of Poland in stronger leagues. He is already one of the leaders of the national team, all at just 22 years old. It is incredible how fast he blew up and the leaps he took professionally. Seeing how far he goes in the Extraliga and his peak will be exciting.

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