2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #7-6

Now to the final two that just missed out on the top five. These two players had insane breakout seasons and are two of the biggest risers in my rankings. One took a second giant jump after being the biggest riser in 2021. The top five players were all established before this season, and I didn’t expect anyone to disrupt the top five. These two forwards came very close to making the top five with historical seasons. 

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

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

7 – Jakub Bukowski (F), 22, STS Sanok (25, +18)

The elder Bukowski brother had an excellent PHL rookie year in 2021. He had 11 points in 36 games, which was considered a pleasant surprise. Jakub Bukowski had a weird junior career and mostly played in the second level of the Czechia junior system, then spent a year in the third level of Switzerland. That background is not one that usually suggests a solid professional career. So the rookie year was a good surprise and suggested he may be able to play a middle-six role in the PHL. 

Instead, Bukowski proved he might be one of the best goal scorers in the PHL. In 45 games this season, he scored 29 goals and assisted on 15. He led the regular season in goals with 27. Even in overall totals, he still finished third despite Sanok being eliminated in round one of the playoffs. His 27 goals are the most in the regular season since Krystian Dziubinski scored 28 in 2020, and it is tied for the 27th most goals in the regular season since 2010. 

This was a fantastic year for a PHL player, regardless of age. But remember, Bukowski was only 21 this season. He led all U23 skaters in goals by five and all Polish U23 skaters in goals by 19. His 44 points also led all U23 skaters. His 29 total goals are the most by a U23 player since Damian Kapica scored 31 as a 22-year-old in 2015. His goal total is also tied for the second-most by a 21-year-old, and his 44 points make it the sixth-best season ever in the PHL by a 21-year-old. 

Alright, that is enough posting numbers on how historical his season was. Bukowski was just unstoppable this year. I have no idea if it is sustainable, but he battled hard and earned every goal. Bukowski was rewarded with his first senior team appearances, representing Poland at the Baltic Challenge Cup, recording one goal and three assists in four games. He also made his IIHF debut playing for Poland at the Division 1 Group B World Championships. The dominant season resulted in him making the jump to GKS Tychy this offseason. He will have to reprove himself in a very loaded offense. 

6 – Krzysztof Macias (F), 18, HC Vitkovice U20, (39, +33

When Alan Lyszczarczyk finished atop the Cezch U18 league and became an NHL draft prospect after a strong rookie year in the OHL, it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Polish hockey. Then only a few years later, Jakub Lewandowski dominated in Czechia, moved over to the USHL, and was ranked in the pre-season as a draft prospect. Again it felt like such a rare moment for Polish hockey. This year, Krzysztof Maciaś posted a strong year in the top Czech U20 league, and I believe he just missed out on that NHL draft prospect status. 

So why did Macias miss out? The 17-year-old forward had a great year at Czechia’s top level of junior hockey. He finished with 14 goals and 22 assists in 48 games. Among players in their draft-eligible season, his 36 points were tied for 17th in the league. His season was not always consistent though. 

Graph showing Macias points per date.

After a strong start, he had an awful December and January and a nine-game pointless streak during the months. If you take his poor stretch out from December 3rd to January 25th, he instead finishes with a .94 point per game average instead of a .75. That inconsistency at times and final number cost him. 

Macias also represented Poland at both the IIHF U18 and U20 World Championships. At the U20 World Championships, he was one of Poland’s best forwards at only 17. In five games, the left winger assisted on two goals. At the U18s, he was a different animal and put in what has to be one of Poland’s best performances in U18 history. He put the team on his back, forming an electric line with Kolat and Kusak. He scored two goals and assisted on five. The U18 captained was involved in seven goals on a team that scored only 11 the entire tournament. He was among the best forwards at the event regardless of country. 

Macias Goal vs. Italy IIHF D1B U18s
Macias Goal vs. Italy IIHF D1B U18s

That idea of Macias being an NHL prospect is a dream he is chasing and will sacrifice for. In an interview with hokej.cz, he talked about his idol Alan Lyszczarzyk. “He’s from my town. I followed him even when I was still in Poland. I went to his matches. He has an interesting career path and I think he will go far.” When asked about other professionals like Aron Chmiewlewski, he replied, “respect to him and others, because they are really excellent hockey players. But as I said, the greatest inspiration for me is Alan’s journey.” Łyszczarczyk went from Czechia to Canada’s top junior league and then a professional in the ECHL and Czechia.

I feel Macias has a solid chance to duplicate that journey and become a strong professional in leagues better than Poland. It feels almost wrong having Macias this low on the rankings, as he was easily the Polish junior player of the year, in my opinion. He is returning to the Czechia U20 league next year, but I hope to see him earn some chances at the pro level. If he improves on his Czechia U20 season and gets those small professional chances, I could see that NHL prospect door opening up. 

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Polish Roots: Adam Kiedewicz

In the 2022 draft, Polish hockey got a rare, but fleeting, spotlight when the Arizona Coyotes selected German defensemen Maksymilian Szuber. Szuber was born in Opole, Poland, but represents Germany on the international stage. Still, he was credited in most places as Polish due to his birthplace. The draft pick got many people talking about how Poland possibly lost a player to another country. That is why we wanted to start this series called Polish Roots, where we dive deep into the careers of players with Polish roots, and find out why they didn’t represent Poland. Today, we take a look at Adam Kiedewicz. 

Adam Kiediwicz was born on May 21st, 2000, in Toruń, Poland. His father, Sławomir Kiedewicz, was well known to Polish hockey fans. The elder Kiedewicz had played in Poland’s top level of hockey with TKH Toruń for 12 years. He also appeared outside Poland in Germany’s fourth division for seven years, mainly with EHC Troisdorf. Sławomir’s brother, Łukasz Kiedewicz, was also a long-time player for TKH Toruń, appearing for the club in eight seasons. Łukasz Kiedewicz has been a coach at the youth and senior levels for Toruń-based clubs since retiring. Both brothers represented Poland at the IIHF junior and senior-level non-IIHF events. 

The Kiedewicz family was well established in Toruń hockey, and it wasn’t considered a surprise when Sławomir’s son Adam took up the sport. Sławomir Kiedwicz played in Germany from 2007 until the 2012 season when he retired. But Adam Kiedwicz remained in Poland during that time. 

“So I grew up in Toruń, and I played there until 12, and then I moved to Germany.”

Adam Kiedewicz on where his hockey journey began.

Starting in 2013, Kiedewicz played in the German junior ranks after playing his youth hockey in Poland. He quickly moved up the age groups and eventually reached the top levels. In 2015, he appeared for Kölner EC U16 in Germany’s top U16 league. He was teammates with fellow Pole Dominik Olszewski and current New Jersey Devils’ prospect Dominik Bokk. It was also an organization his father had played in; Sławomir Kiedewicz appeared for Kölner EC II in 2001. 

“Was a honour to wear the Haie Jersey for sure, it wasn’t easy to get there obviously I had to show character and work harder than anybody to prove, because of the foreigner status haha

Was really nice to meet and play with players like Dominik, especially when you are young and grow up together”

Adam Kiedewicz on getting to play with Kölner EC and players like Dominik Bokk

After another year at the U16 level in 2016, he would get his shot at the top U20 level the following year. At only 16 years old, Kiedewicz had made it to the top German junior level, the DNL, and it was also for Kölner EC U19 that had just made the previous season’s semi-finals. In his first year in the DNL, he would post four goals and four assists in 41 games. The solid first year attracted the Polish national team’s attention, which appointed the 16-year-old to the Polish U18 squad. 

“Special time for me and of course huge honour to represent the own country, because I was 16 at this time But nothing crazy.”

Adam Kiedewicz on memories of representing Poland U18

In April of 2017, he was off to Slovenia to represent Poland at an IIHF event for the first time. While Poland was relegated from the tournament, it was their first year back in Division 1 after being promoted the previous year. Still, things looked bright for Poland, as they had a special group of players in the tournament. Among the 2000-born players on the team were some notable prospects in Adam Kiedewicz, Damian Tyczyński, Kamil Wałęga, and Jan Soltys. While three of those players have become critical parts of the national team’s future, this would be the last time we saw one in the red and white. 

2017 was the last time Adam Kiedewicz represented Poland internationally. There were quite a few eyebrows raised in 2018 when he was not brought to camp for the Polish U20 team. The PZHL said after the event he was no longer representing Poland. A few people reported that the Toruń native would be trying his hand at making team Germany on the international stage. The reason seemed a bit far-fetched at the time, due to eligibility rules requiring him to play for four more years in Germany before he could appear for the German national team. The belief was now that Poland had lost a strong player to Germany, as was the fear with quite a few other young players. But why did Kiedewicz stop representing Poland? 

“In Germany the rules for foreigners are very strict, so I decided to not play for the Polish national team and get German passport.”

Adam Kiedewicz on why he hasn’t represented Poland since 2017

Following the 2017 season, the passport would not be his only change. He switched over to the Krefelder EV 1981 junior system. A team that is very familiar to Polish fans, as plenty of Poles have appeared for the club, including GKS Katowice forward Jakub Prokurat. Other Polish Root players like Darren Mieszkowski and Maciej Rutkowski also appeared for the team. So why the change in junior clubs? 

“I’ve changed the team because of the school and in my opinion it was the best move for me and my hockey future, Krefeld gave me the opportunity to end up the highest graduate of Germanys school system and by the way pro contract for the Del team so I decided to move on.”

Adam Kiedewicz on moving to Krefelder EV 1981

The passport and transfer seemed to pay off quickly. After Kiediwicz’s first season with Krefelder, where he was one of the leading scorers, he would sign a 3-year deal with the Krefeld Pinguine of Germany’s top league, the DEL. The Krefeld Pinguine were affiliated with Krefelder EV 1981.  He would continue to play junior hockey with Krefelder EV 1981 during the 2018 season. That season he would post over 110 points in what would be the final junior season of his career. 

The Toruń native was now set to play senior hockey after his career-high junior season. He moved up to the Obelriga, Germany’s third level of hockey, now with Krefelder EV 1981 U23. There he was teammates with long-time DEL forward Adrian Grygiel, born in Katowice, Poland. Kiediwicz would spend the next two seasons with the U23 club, posting 62 points in 81 games. 

Following the end of the 2021 season, his contract with the Krefeld organization would expire, and he would not re-sign. For the 2022 season, he moved on to Dresdner Eislöwen, who compete in the second level of German hockey, the DEL 2. He would record 17 points in his first year in the new league. 

“It was a big difference to play in DEL 2 than in Oberliga, the experience that I collected in U23 team helped me a lot to get on the senior level ( physical and quicker ) but there was a lot of strategy plays which I had to learn and I had to be patient on it.”

Adam Kiedewicz on moving from a U23 team in a senior league to a DEL 2 team

The young forward impressed enough to earn another opportunity in the league and has re-signed for the 2023 season. Kiediwicz making the DEL 2 is pretty impressive for a kid from Toruń. He comes from a hockey family that was only really known in Toruń and is growing it on a much bigger stage in Germany. The journey to the top league continues, and I would be shocked if he never makes it to the DEL. Even though he no longer represents the Polish national team, I can guarantee that Polish fans will follow and cheer his journey.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #10-8

We are getting close to the end of the rankings as we hit the top ten. This group grades out as stars in Poland at a minimum and are players that will push the national team forward. The three players in this article have had success outside of Poland in foreign junior leagues. Two are still playing junior hockey abroad, while one has returned to Poland and made an impact. 

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

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

10 – Michał Kusak (F), 18, HC Karlovy Vary U20, (49, +39

Last year, I was excited to see what Kusak could do in Czechia. He had moved to a strong team in HC Karlovy Vary, and I expected big things from the young forward. But due to the pandemic, we only got four U17 games. In 2022, Kusak made the U20 squad for HC Karlovy Vary and proved that he belonged. Thus a big jump in the rankings. In his first taste of U20 hockey, he posted 18 points (5G-13A-18PTS) in 33 games. Among players in their NHL Draft eligible year, his 18 points were tied for 22nd, and his .55 point per game average was 25th. 

I start to get excited about his year when you look at his player production comparables. He is a rare player with high-end matches, with 4.35% of his matches going on to play in the NHL. 43.5% of his matches played in Czechia’s top league or higher. Then at the bare minimum, 82.61% went on to play in the Chance Liga, the second level of hockey in the country. It is not often we get someone with any NHL matches. While I don’t see that as a high possibility, I’m excited about a player who projects to be an impact forward in Czechia. You look at the leaders of the Polish national team now, and quite a few play in the Extraliga or even the Chance Liga. 

Michał Kusak Goal vs. Italy IIHF U20 D1B

On top of all this, he finished his season wit the highlight of his year, when he represented Poland at the Division 1 Group B U18 World Championship. Side note, he was snubbed for the Polish U20 team. At the U18s, he formed a strong trio with Dominik Kolat and Krzysztof Macias. In five games, he finished with two goals and one assist. He came in third on team Poland in points.

He did suffer a severe injury to miss the back half of the Czech U20 season, but it appears he will be back to 100% for next season. He is committed to return to HC Karlovy Vary U20, and I am interested to see how his second U20 year could go.  

9 – Krzysztof Bukowski (F), 20, Genève-Servette U20, (11, +2

One of two Bukowskis in our top ten, the younger brother comes in lower ranked for the first time. Bukowski had another solid year in Switzerland. He made what I thought was a lateral move in the offseason going from Kloten U20 to Genève-Servette U20, which is still in the top Swiss U20 league. With Genève-Servette, Bukowski was going to be trained by former National League player and Swiss U18 team assistant coach Eric Walsky. Genève-Servette U20 would not fare as strong in 2022 as they did the previous year but fought off relegation. 

Krzysztof Bukowski vs. Goal HC Davos U20-Elit

Bukowski slightly improved his production from the previous season. In 46 games, he scored 11 goals and assisted on 14. Three of his assists came in four relegation games. His 25 points were tied for 59th among all skaters, and it was tied for 18th among skaters in their Draft Eligible +2 season. Regarding production comparables, 6.25% went on to play in the top Swiss league, the National League. While 22.9% went on to play in the National League or the second level of Swiss hockey, the Swiss League.

Bukowski finally made his IIHF debut for Poland, playing at the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships. In five games, he scored once and picked up an assist. Those two points were tied for second on the team in scoring. He was one of Poland’s better forwards at the tournament and looked well above many other Poles. Now out of his U20 career, it will be interesting to see what is next. His brother went from lower Swiss leagues to stardom in the PHL. Could Krzysztof Bukowski try that same path, or will he try to be a professional in Switzerland? As a final note, he holds a Swiss Player license and wouldn’t count as an import. This license allows him to avoid a major hurdle to playing professional hockey in the country. 

8 –  Fabian Kapica (F), 20, Podhale Nowy Targ (16, +8

Our second-highest ranked U20 player on the list, Kapica, was the standout U20 player of the PHL this year. He signed on with Podhale Nowy Targ for the 2022 season and was moved up and down the lineup. Kapica had one of the best U20 seasons in the past few years on a team desperate for offense. The 19-year-old posted 10 points (5G-5A-10PTS) in 30 games. His 10 points led all U20 players in points and goals, and he was tied for the lead in assists. It was also tied for seventh on Podhale in scoring. 

Kapica also played in the MHL for 14 games and scored a big 20 points (9G-11A-20PTS). His 1.43 point per game average was sixth among all U20 skaters. His most impressive outing was at the U20 World Championships. There he was easily Poland’s best forward at the tournament. You could really see him play with so much confidence and offensive ability. On the low-scoring Polish team, he finished with a goal and assist, and it was a pretty nice goal too. 

So far, the situation in Podhale is still unclear, and it is unknown if they will have a team next year. Kapica has consistency issues he will have to improve in the 2023 season, and I would not be surprised if that kept other PHL teams from poaching him and giving him a substantial role. The young forward is on a try-out with Cracovia Krakow. He did sign a two-year deal with Podhale at the end of the 2021 season. We will have to see how the rest of the offseason turns out in Nowy Targ to know where Kapica could play.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #15-11

We now hit the top 15 with many players that were counted on to contribute to their PHL team. While they were mainly on the lower lines, their clubs could not live without them. We also have the last of our defensemen with the top two highest ranked. That means after this article, only forwards are left in the rankings. These are the players that I feel are going to be top six forwards and top two defensemen in Poland. They have a shot at representing the national team, but should never be considered roster locks for it potentially. 

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 30-21
Players 50-41Players 20-16
Players 40-31

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

15 – Konrad Filipek (F), 22, STS Sanok (29, +14) 

In Sanok this year, many young players took significant strides. While much of the attention was on Jakub Bukowski, I was impressed with Konrad Filipek as well. The 22-year-old forward posted eight goals and two assists in 43 games. His ten points were a new career high after posting six the previous season. His eight goals were tied for the fifth most by a U23 skater and were third among Polish U23 players. His ten points were the second most by a player in their age 21 season. 

Filipek Goal vs GKS Katowice PHL

Filipek is in the final year of a 2-year-deal he signed with Sanok, giving him at least one more year with his hometown club. The departures of Bukowski and Sawicki, means there is room for the 6’1 forward to build upon his role in 2023. After Miika Elomo took over, Filipek played up the down the lineup with a few chances on the second line and some powerplay time. 

14 – Igor Smal (F), 22, GKS Katowice (14, 0)

Smal went from the big fish in a small pond to the small fish in the big championship-winning pond. When you move from the bottom of the PHL to the top, you will see a role reduction. Smal played on the fourth line all season but saw some time on the second line during the playoffs. The development opportunities in Katowice are very strong with their lineup and being under the watch of Jacek Plachta. 

Smal Goal vs. Zagłębie Sosnowiec PHL

Smal posted seven points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 50 games this past season. This was the lowest point total of his PHL career. The role change played a big part in that production drop. Stil in a fourth-line role, posting comparable production to last year is nothing to sneeze at. His seven points were tied for 12th among U23 skaters, and it was tied for third among aged 21 skaters. The speedy young center has re-signed with GKS Katowice for the 2023 season. With quite a few key forwards departing Katowice in the offseason, there may be a chance for Smal to jump into a higher spot in the lineup. 

13 – Jakub Prokurat (F), 21, GKS Katowice (8, -7) 

From one small fish that went to a big pond to the next, the story of Jakub Prokurat is similar to Smal. My expectations were a bit higher for Prokurat, as he was coming off a .50 point per game average season in the Oberliga. When you look at the history of players between the two leagues, that .50 usually translates into solid production in Poland. But like Smal, he mainly was stuck on the PHL champion’s fourth line while also spending some time in the MHL on loan to KS Naprzod Janow.

Prokurat Goal vs. Cracovia Krakow PHL

He spent most of his season with Katowice, where in 47 games, he posted five points (2G-3A-5PTS). This was tied for fifth in points among players in their aged 20 season. He had much more success in the MHL, recording 17 points (10G-7A-17PTS) in just ten games. His 1.70 point per game average was fifth among U21 skaters in the league. Prokurat could potentially be a Patryk Wronka-esque player but lacked the two-way game and explosiveness to move up a PHL lineup in 2022. 

12 – Karol Biłas (D), 20, STS Sanok (20, +8

We have reached our second-highest ranked defensemen, the highest-ranked defensemen to play in Poland during the 2023 season. Biłas made his mark both in Poland and on the international stage. He played in a career-high 42 PHL games this year while recording five assists. This led all U20 defensemen in points and saw him tied for second among all U20 skaters in points. He also appeared in the MHL, almost exclusively during the playoffs, where he scored twice and picked up three assists in eight games. To top it off the defenseman also appeared in three CJL games and averaged a point per game. 

Biłas primary assist vs. France IIHF U20 D1B

On the international stage, Biłas made two big appearances. The first was playing for Poland at the IIHF Division 1 Group B U20 World Championships. The 6’0 defenseman was named captain of the event for Poland. The Sanok native also made his senior debut representing Poland at the Baltic Challenge Cup, where he scored against Ukraine. Still mostly playing on the bottom pairings of Sanok, he has re-signed for the 2023 season. I expect this to be when he starts to make significant climbs up the lineup. 

11 – Szymon Bieniek (D), 21, New Jersey Rockets (8, -3

We have now hit our highest-ranked defensemen on the list, meaning all of the top 10 are forwards. Bieniek was a player I was excited to see what the offseason could have in store. While much of his season was canceled due to the pandemic, in 2022 he made his Chance Liga debut and had shown strong production in his six Czechia U20 games. In the end, Bieniek landed back in the US with the New Jersey Rockets. 

The Rockets have teams in the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC) and the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL). The NCDC is in the second tier of US Junior leagues and is considered the third-best junior league overall. The USPHL is in the third tier and a decent step below the NCDC. Most USPHL players go on to make low-level college commitments. 

Bieniek assist vs. Metro Jets USPHL

With that said, Bieniek played in the USPHL most of the season. He was only in five NCDC games and got on the scoresheet once with an assist. In the USPHL, he played in 50 games scoring 15 goals and assisting on 30. His 45 points were tied for 13th among all defensemen. During the season, Bieniek earned defensemen of the month honors in January. Most of his production matches went to play in NCAA D3, but one made an NCAA commitment and has gone on to play in the ECHL. Bieniek will have better pro opportunities in Europe. But for a defenseman past his junior days, I would have liked to see him start to take baby steps into professional hockey, or at least a stronger junior league. Still a great season and I’m excited to see where he plays next year.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #20-16

Now in the top 20. The top 20 is the part of the rankings where I started to grade players with a strong chance of becoming PHL top-line forwards, top two defensemen, and starting goalies. This is also the only part of the rankings where every player in the group played in the PHL this year. To top it off, we also have our highest-ranked goalie. 

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 30-21
Players 50-41
Players 40-31

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

20 – Mateusz Bezwiński (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow (21, +1

If you look at Krakow’s lineup sheet this year, Bezwiński was all over the place. This is just how weird Cracovia is and can sometimes roll their lines. He wasn’t the only one to play out of position or be listed on defense while being a fourth forward on the bottom. His actual future is up the middle for Cracovia. He has a lot of potential as a playmaking center, and he was able to show glimpses of that potential this year, creating chances in tight spaces. 

Bezwiński Primary Assist vs. Zaglebie Sosnowiec PHL

The Krakow native set a new career high in games played with 36. In the box score, he posted five assists for the year. His five assists are tied for eighth among U23 skaters and a career-high. He also appeared in the MHL for a short stint with three goals and three assists in seven games. The best thing a young player can do is find a way to stay in the lineup, and Bezwiński did that this year.

19 – Wiktor Bochnak (F), 20, Podhale Nowy Targ (44, +25

Bochnak is a player I feel never got the proper spotlight during his run in Czechia. He played for two years at the top level, while under 18 years old. Then COVID wiped out his aged 19 season. He returned to Poland and turned professional for his final U20 season. In 37 games with Podhale, he scored twice and assisted on three. This was second among all U20 skaters this year in the PHL for points. 

Bochnak Goal vs. Cracovia Krakow PHL

He also spent time in the MHL, where in just 15 games, he posted 19 points (9G-10A-19PTS). His 1.27 point per game average came in at 11th among U20 skaters. He also continued his scoring ways with six goals in the CJL finals. On top of all that hockey, he was a member of the Poland U20 team. In five games at the U20s, he posted 2 points (1G-1A-2PTS). The young forward had a strong season wherever he went. Bochnak could be an exceptional player in the PHL as he continues to gain his stride. 

18 – Jan Sołtys (F), 22, Unia Oswiecim (10, -8) 

Sołtys has all the tools to be a top player outside of Poland. Unfortunately, why that hasn’t happened yet has nothing to do with what he does on the ice. After only three games with Unia Oswiecim this year, he suffered a season-ending injury. This was his second significant knee injury that kept him out pretty much an entire year. Losing two years of development and the explosiveness that injury causes makes it hard to see Soltys being an impact player outside of Poland.

17 – Michał Naróg (D), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec (18, +1

Naróg continues to establish himself as one of the best young defenders in the PHL. This year, he bounced between the first and second pairing, mainly playing with Mikhail Syroezhkin. In 41 games, he recorded six assists. This put him second among U23 defensemen in points while tied for fifth among all U23 skaters in assists. He appeared in the MHL playoffs for Sosnowiec, recording another three assists in four games. 

Naróg Primary assist vs. JKH GKS Jastrzebie PHL

The two-way defender also made his senior national team debut appearing for Poland at the Baltic Seas Cup. In the tournament, he recorded one assist in two games. He is our third highest-ranked defenseman this year. I think he is on the fastest track to becoming a national team regular, thanks to his vast experience and poise at such a young age. He only turns 21 in August and already has over 100 PHL games with some big minutes. 

16 – Maciej Miarka (G), 21, GKS Katowice (34, +18

As promised, we have now hit our top-ranked goalie. Miarka also only barely makes the ranking after playing only six games. Of course, in Katowice, there are not many options to play with John Murray as the starter. Still, it speaks to a common problem in Poland with young goalies and their options for ice time. Despite limited games, he started and shut out his opponent in half of the games he played this year. 

Miarka save vs. Cracovia Krakow MHL

Miarka spent his season as the backup in Katowice and played in a few MHL games. He played in three games at the PHL level, posting a .942 save percentage. He shut out Podhale Nowy Targ in one start while keeping Sanok and Jastrzebie to only two goals on 20-plus shots. In the MHL, he was loaned to KS Naprzod Janow. With Janow, he shut out Gdansk and Cracovia while posting a .972 save percentage in three games.

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Andrei Gusov Is the Next Men’s U18 Coach. He Is Also the Best Choice.

After a couple weeks of rumors, Poland has announced Andrei Gusov as the next head coach of the Men’s U18 team. The Belarussian head coach is very familiar with Polish hockey, with six years as a player in the PHL and five years as a head coach. This was a hire that I have pitched a few times in articles dating back to 2019. In my opinion, Gusov was the best option Poland could realistically get to take over the men’s U18 squad.

Gusov is not just experienced with Polish hockey, but he also played for a long time in Belarus’ top league, along with the second and lower leagues of Russia. During his playing career, he also represented Belarus on the national team stage, representing his homeland at multiple World Championships and the 1998 Olympics. The 52-year-old had a long career that spanned the peak of Polish hockey and its decline. The Minsk native played in Poland from 1995 to 2000 for Cracovia Krakow, KTH Krynica, Podhale Nowy Targ, and SMS I Warszawa. During his club time in Poland, it was when the national team was at its best, and he knows what team Poland could possibly reach.

Right as his career ended in 2005, he went right into coaching. His first year of coaching was in the Belarus second league and as an assistant coach for the country’s U18 squad. He would serve as an assistant for the U18 team as well in 2006 and would take over as the head coach for 2007. In his one year as head coach, they would earn gold and promotion to the Elite U18 division of the IIHF. He would later become the head coach of Belarus’ U20 team and lead them to silver at the 2009 Division 1 Group U20 World Championships. He is a coach with junior IIHF experience in divisions well above where Poland is currently at. In five game tournament, you have less room for mistakes and less time to make choices. Having experience with tournament play can really help a coach.

While the junior IIHF experience is excellent, he has never really coached junior hockey. From 2006 to 2009, he was the head coach of Keramin Minsk. In 2010, he would reach his highest level as a head coach. He served as the head coach of Dynamo Minsk in the KHL after their initial head coach was let go in mid-October. After one year at the top level of Russia, he would return to Belarusian Extraleague and be in charge of Shakhter Soligorsk for seven years. During this time, he also served as an assistant coach on the Belarus Men’s senior World Championship team twice. Since 2018, Gusov has served as a head coach in PHL with GKS Tychy and Podhale Nowy Targ. While he is a well-decorated coach with two Belarusian Extraleague titles and one PHL championship. The lack of junior hockey coaching concerns me. He has become very familiar with junior Polish players in his last two PHL seasons. Nineteen U23 players appeared for Podhale Nowy Targ last season.

Gusov, to me, was the best coach Poland could get to take over the U18 squad. The biggest thing I wanted in a new coach was someone with experience in stronger hockey countries, and he has a lot of that from his time in Belarus. Gusov is going to hopefully be able to implement a new training and development system that will help U18 players grow. At the end of the day, the U18 and U20 tournaments are dress rehearsals for the senior team. Poland stays even with other countries at the youth level but starts to fall off in the most essential years once a player hits 16. Not to mention, with the U18 squad almost being relegated again, Gusov does have results in leading IIHF junior teams to medals. He knows Polish hockey, experience outside Poland, and has had success in the IIHF junior divisions. His resume checks all the boxes for me besides club junior hockey experience.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #30-21

We are more than halfway through the rankings now! Many remaining players have already well-established themselves as PHL players or have taken on the challenges of a top junior league abroad. This group of players features two major risers and the two highest debut rankings for 2022. 

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 80-51
Players 50-41
Players 40-31

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

30 – Karol Sterbenz (F), 19, HK Poprad U20 (15, -15)

Sterbenz was putting up a lot of points in the Austrian junior system, making him an intriguing player in the 2022 offseason. GKS Katowice agreed and offered him a tryout and invitation to training camp, but he would stay abroad in the end. He signed on with HK Propad U20, who play in Slovakia’s top junior hockey league. It was not the most explosive year production-wise, as the Katowice native posted 16 points (10G-6A-16PTS) in 49 games. His two-way playing contributed to the club’s top regular season finish and silver medal in the playoffs.

Sterbenz Goal vs MMHK Nitra Slovakia U20

Moving from Austria to Slovakia would be a jump, especially with such a strong club. Still, I was a bit disappointed in his production. His 16 points were 30th among all 18-year-old skaters in the league. When we look at production matches, many did not pursue hockey after their junior career. Of those who did, only 19% when to play 50 games in Slovakia’s top league, while a majority, 60%, went on to play in Slovakia’s second league. Sterbenz also represented Poland at the Divison 1 Group B U20 World Championships, where he posted 1 goal in 5 games. To project him being a strong player outside of Poland, he will have to post better production year in his age 19 season.

29 – Krystian Mocarski (F), 23, STS Sanok (28, -1

Mocarski excelled in a more prominent role on the Gdansk and was one of 2021’s breakout players. In 2022, he moved to a better organization in Sanok. That move, of course, would come with a role decrease. While Sanok was not the best team, they certainly had more options at the forward end. Mocarski felt that as his production was halved. In 45 games, he posted one goal and nine assists. This placed him tied for seventh among all U23 skaters in points. His nine assists were top five among the age group.

Mocarski Goal vs KH Torun PHL

Mocarski bounced around the lineup this year in Sanok, mostly settling in on the third line. He did earn some top-line chances late in the season, and it appears that Miika Elomo trusted him more than Marek Zietara did. We also see a vast difference in production under the two coaches, as it went from .15 under Zietara to .28 under Elomo. Mocarski is already a third liner in Poland, and I think his ceiling will be a middle-six guy but could crack the top lines in the bottom half of the PHL. 

28 – Jakub Ślusarczyk (F), 19,  HC Vitkovice U20 (57, +29

Ślusarczyk is another player that receives a massive boost after barely playing the previous year due to COVID canceling Czech junior seasons. After spending the first two years abroad with HC Poruba, Ślusarczyk jumped to HC Vitkovice U20 in the top level of Czechia junior hockey. He flourished in his first season with the club, recording 11 goals and ten assists in 48 games. His 21 points were 47th among 18-year-old forwards. 

Ślusarczyk Goal vs. Ukraine IIHF U20 D1B

It wasn’t instant success at the start of the year, as he only recorded six points in 20 games for the year’s first half. In December, he represented Poland at the Division 1 Group B U20 World Championships. There in five games, he recorded one goal. Once he returned, he was a bit of a changed player. He finished the year with 15 points in 27 games. Maybe it was just getting more comfortable in Czechia’s top junior league. Either way, that second half gives me a lot of hope for what next year could be. 

27 – Michał Zając (F), 21, KH Torun (32, +5

Zając is another player that left the sinking boat of Gdansk and moved on to another PHL club. The Bytom native stayed in northern Poland, moving to KH Torun. Like Mocarski, he would get a minor role downgrade, especially as a younger player. He didn’t experience that big of a drop in production though. For the 2022 season, he recorded eight points (2G-6A-8PTS) in 40 games. This was only down three points from his totals in 2021. It was the 11th most points by a U23 skater and the second most by an aged 20 forward. 

Zając Goal vs Zaglebie Sosnowiec PHL

I was thrilled with his production, given he was pretty much glued to the bottom six for Torun this year. So only a slight production drop with that ice time is not the end of the world. Production matches in the PHL don’t paint the brightest picture. Only one match, Martin Przygodzki, has gone on to great PHL success. Many players hovered in the 20-point range and had long PHL careers as critical bottom six contributors. 

26 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow (19, -7

Brynkus drops for two consecutive years on the list. In Cracovia, he has not been trusted with a significant role. This year Brynkus was stapled to the third and fourth line. He appeared in 46 games and scored three goals while assisting on four. The seven points being the second lowest point total in his four PHL seasons. He did make his second appearance for the Polish senior national team, where he scored a goal versus Ukraine. 

Brynkus Goal vs Podhale Nowy Targ PHL

It was rumored during the offseason that Brynkus could be leaving Cracovia. In the end, he returns to the red and white. When I wrote this report,  Cracovia had already added Marek Racuk, Martin Kasperlík, Patryk Wronka, Radoslaw Sawicki, Robert Arrak, and Roman Rác to their forward core. It doesn’t seem like many spots in the top nine will open up soon. At only 21-years-old, Brynkus has a reasonable amount of time to develop. 

25 – Armen Khoperia (D), 22, Zaglebie Sosnowiec (38, +13

Khoperia is my fastest-rising PHL defenseman on the list this year. He earned his way up the Sosnowiec lineup, eventually taking on the top pairing duties. His club was in a complicated situation after Bartłomiej Bychawski left the team in January, and Daniel Klinecký failed to live up to expectations. Khoperia was thrown into the fire and ran with it.

Khoperia Secondary Assist vs. KH Torun PHL

2022 was his highest career point total as he posted six assists in 45 games. His six assists were tied for the most among all U23 defensemen. The stay-at-home defender also was appointed to the men’s senior national team for the April grouping. For 2023, Armen Khoperia is continuing to suit up for Zaglebie Sosnowiec. He should get plenty of chances and challenges. 

24 – Dominik Kolat (F), 18, HC Poruba U20 (NR) 

Kolat is our second highest-ranked debut player this year. The Czechia-born forward also has spent most of his junior career in the country. After only playing seven games in the Czechia U17 league for AZ Havirov in 2021, Kolat moved up to the U20 level with HC Poruba U20. This jump put him in the second-level of U20 hockey in Czechia. He also made a single appearance for AZ Havirov at the top level. 

Kolat Goal vs Italy IIHF U20 D1B

In 36 games, the Ostrava native scored 13 goals and assisted on nine. His .71 point per game average was 21st in the league among draft-eligible skaters. He broke out when he played for Poland U18 at the IIHF level. There in five games, he scored four goals and assisted on two. His four goals were tied for third in the tournament. I am excited to see him continue to grow in the Czech junior system. 

23 – Eryk Schafer (D), 18, KH Torun (NR) 

Schafer comes in as our highest-ranked debuting player. Watching him play this year, the best way I can describe him is a ball of energy that will not stop bouncing around til its hits someone or something. He made an impact everywhere he played this year, starting in the PHL, where he made the Torun lineup. He played in 27 games this year and scored his first PHL goal. Playing in the PHL at 17 as a defenseman is rare, so it makes sense that 83% of his production matches have become PHL regulars. 

Schafer Goal vs Polonia Bytom MHL

On top of his PHL season, he appeared for Sokoly Torun in the MHL. There he recorded 18 points (9G-9A-18PTS) in 21 games. This was tied for sixth among all defensemen in points while leading all U18 defensemen. He also made the Poland U20 squad for the D1B World Championships, where he posted one assist in five games. His season did end on a down note when he was left off the U18s squad due to off-ice issues. Head coach Łukasz Sokół did not elaborate on what occurred but said he talked with Schafer, who understood and took it well. 

22 – Oliwier Kasperek (D), 20, MOSM Tychy (50, +28

Kasperek comes in as our fourth highest-ranked defensemen. The Tychy native was the best defenseman for Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he posted two goals and one assist in five games. Those two goals led Poland at the event and were tied for the lead among all defensemen. His scoring was not his only asset, as he showed poise and firm control of the blue line. In his own zone against much stronger competition, he held his own. 

Kasperek Goal vs Japan IIHF U20 D1B

Kasperek mainly played in the MHL this year but did appear in four games with GKS Tychy in the PHL. In 24 games, he posted 16 points (3G-13A-16PTS). His increase in production from 2021 saw him tied for second in points among all U20 defensemen in the MHL. For next year, he has already re-signed with Tychy. It will be hard to see him breaking the lineup full-time, but I hope he can get a few more PHL chances. 

21 – Adrian Gromadzki (F), 18, HC Dynamo Pardubice U20 (26, +5)

One of my favorite things about Gromadzki is if you have a look at his season-by-season results, he has never not had a point per game season in at least one of level of hockey. From the junior leagues of Poland to Germany to now Czechia. In 2022, he moved up to the U20 leagues. He split the year between HC Chrudim U20 in the Czech second U20 league and HC Dynamo Pardubice U20 at the top level. 

Gromadzki Primary Assist vs. Italy IIHF U18 D1B

He posted 26 points (14G-12A-26PTS) at the second level in Czechia in 20 games. His 1.30 point per game average was the fourth-best among U18 skaters, and it’s the third-best season by a player in a draft-eligible -1 season since 2010. In the top league, his production was not as strong as he fought to earn his palace on the team. He came in at 10 points (1G-9A-10PTS) in 27 games. His 10 points were tied for 19th among skaters in their Draft Eligible -1 season. 60% of his matches have gone to play at least 50 games in the Czechia’s top league. 

It was a very strong year for Gromadzki, with great stints at both the top two levels of junior hockey in Czechia. To cap off his year, he represented Poland at the Division 1 Group B U18s, putting up two assists in five games.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #40-31

We’re now in the top 40! The players in this part mostly grade out as PHL quality players, appearing in middle six for forwards, top four for defensemen, and split starters for goalies. We also see a few young players taking double-digit jumps, including the biggest riser in the entire ranking. The rankings start to take shape at this point, and all players easily made the top 50 while the gaps widen. 

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 80-51
Players 50-41

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

40 – Kacper Macias (D), 19, HC Poruba U20, (NR)

Kacper Macias missed out on being ranked last year after he only played in six Czechia U20 2 games. In 2022, with an entire season, he was able to make a quiet impact on Poruba. It is always a bit hard to judge when a player is playing in a country’s second level of junior hockey, but we have seen plenty of Polish players come out of the Poruba system. In total, the 19-year-old defenseman posted 21 points (7G-14A-21PTS) in 43 games. His 21 points were 15th among defensemen in the league. 

Macias primary assist vs. France U20 D1B

Macias also represented Poland at the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships. In five games, he posted a single assist. It was an interesting year, but not one I got a lot of film to watch. When we turn to point production matches, we don’t see much. Most of his matches played in the third level of Czechia hockey or lower, with only 7% playing in the Chance Liga. Macias will have more substantial chances in Poland to play professionally, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a solid PHL defenseman. 

39 – Jan Krzyżek (F), 21, GKS Tychy (42, +3

In a year with so many significant rises and falls due to COVID, Krzyżek only sees his stock rise by three. He split the year between Tychy’s PHL and MHL squads, as most U23 players do. In the PHL, he set a new career-high in games played with 25. In those 25 games, he did record two assists. It gives him one more point than last year. The big body Krzyżek usually played in low-minute defensive roles for Tychy.

Krzyżek Goal vs. ŁKH Łódź MHL

The German-born forward played a lot bigger role in the MHL. There in just 12 games, he recorded 25 points (14G-11A-25PTS). His 2.1 point per game average was the best of his MHL career. But as a player over 20, I don’t give too much weight to MHL numbers. Krzyżek will be staying with GKS Tychy next year. I think his ceiling is a second line forward in Poland, but his size could open more doors possibly. 

38  – Sebastian Lipiński (G), 22, Peterborough Phantoms 2 (24, -14

Lipiński had long been ranked as the top goalie in my list, but that streak has ended. He comes in as our third-ranked goalie. Lipinski left Poland this year for his first season abroad, ending up in the fourth level of British ice hockey, the NIHL 2. In 20 regular season games, the 6’1 goalie posted a .928 save percentage, and he also put up a .908 save percentage in 3 playoff games. His regular season save percentage was the third best among goalies, just behind former Premier League goalie Petr Cech. 

The league is what it is, and I’m not sure how to judge performances in such a low level. His drop in the ranking is primarily due to the competition being much weaker than the PHL. He did get to play a lot this year, and it led him back to Poland in the end. He signed with Zaglebie Sosnowiec for the 2023 season and beyond. He should be able to compete with Patrick Spensy next year for starts.  

37 – Filip Plonka (G), 19, UKH Unia Oswiecim (45, +8

Before I get into the report, I want to note that Plonka’s rise is mainly due to how I valued goalies versus skaters for the 2022 rankings after I believe they were undervalued in past lists. Plonka has continued to serve as the third goalie in Oswiecim while needing more time against senior competition. His only PHL action this year was in October, when he stopped all six shots he faced against Sosnowiec. He was also left off the Polish U20 team for the U20 D1B World Championship. 

Plonka Savs vs. Zaglebie Sosnowiec PHL

 He mostly performed in the MHL for UKH Unia Oswiecim. There in 12 games, he posted a .866 save percentage, which was 2nd among 19-year-old goalies in the league. In the MHL, he often faced close to 40 shots a game, with his lowest total in a complete game being 27 twice. Plonka did finish the year strong, posting a .903 save percentage in the CLJ finals.  His past seasons are carrying a lot of weight in the ranking.

36 – Blazej Chodor (D), 17, SMS PZHL Katowice (78, +42

Chodor is the biggest riser in this year’s rankings. I usually don’t even rank players in their 15-year-old season who just turned 16 in time to be ranked. Last year though, there was no way to me that Chodor was not in the top 80. After another year of success, he now climbs to the top 40. Chodor has excellent size and is a strong skater who isn’t afraid to get physical. He spent the year playing for various Polish junior teams. For SMS PZHL Katowice in the MHL, he posted 14 points (6G-8A-14PTS) in 21 games. This was second among all 16-year-old defensemen. 

Chodor goal vs. ŁKH Łódź MHL

He then went on to play for Poland Team U16, which competes in Czechia U17 2. There, he posted 10 points (3G-7A-10PTS) in 21 games. His .47 point per game average was 17th among all defenders. He also represented Poland at the U18 Division 1 Group B World Championships going pointless in five games. Chodor has a lot of potential and would be my current pick for the Polish junior player to best succeed in North America. He needs more experience in stronger leagues, especially to improve his defensive awareness.

35 – Mateusz Ubowski (F), 21, GKS Tychy (35, +0) 

Ubowski is one of the trio of young Tychy forwards that continue to fight for a shot at playing time with the top club. This year he earned plenty of more chances than last year. He played in 29 games, recording two assists while most playing on the lower lines. He also recorded 11 points (5G-6A-11PTS) at the MHL level. However, it was age 20 season and lower than his age 19 production. 

Ubowski seems like a great fit to be a middle-six forward in the PHL. It will be a prolonged rise up the lineup if he continues to play for GKS Tychy. We saw one of his teammates, Kacper Gruzla, choose to leave for a more significant chance. That might be what Ubowski needs, as it will be hard to see him getting a lot of opportunities unless put on a loan to another club. 

34 – Stanisalw Drozd-Niekurzak (F), 20, Partille HK J20 (59, +25) 

Drozd-Niekurzak has bounced around several junior leagues, teams, and countries over the past few years. He landed back in Sweden with Partille HK J20 for the 2022 season. The 19-year-old forward put up 13 points (5G-8A-13PTS) in 11 games. He also took some baby steps into senior hockey, playing in 10 games in Sweden’s Division 3, where he recorded two goals and three assists. This was his best year in Sweden and the most production he has shown over the past few seasons. 

He capped off his season as the assistant captain for Poland at the U20 World Championships. There in five games, he recorded one assist. It has been hard to get a proper hold of what Drozd-Niekurzak could develop into with his multiple short stints at quite a few clubs. Right now, I believe his ceiling is his second-line forward in the PHL. His wealth of experience in Germany and Sweden should assist him tremendously. 

33 – Krystian Lisowski (F), 17, Kiekko-Espoo U18 Ch (NR) 

Lisowski makes his debut in the top 40, one of the highest debut rankings of all time. He is a player that could rocket into a top spot next year. Lisowski played in the U18 SM-sarja in 2022, the top level of U18 hockey in Finland. There in 44 games, he recorded 26 goals and 12 assists. His 38 points tied for 38th in the league among all skaters, and it was 7th among 16-year-olds. His 26 goals lead all 16-year-old skaters and are seventh among all skaters. He also played in one game at the U20 level where he scored one goal. He also represented Poland at the U18s, where he went pointless in five games. 

Lisowski has a more significant amount of production comparables and they show a lot of promise. 3.5% of his matches went on to become NHL players. Included in the group are Markus Hännikäinen and Rasmus Kupari. Quite a few of his matches were recent NHL draft picks as well. While the NHL chance is low, it’s still great for Polish players and one of the highest among all Polish skaters this decade in their age 16 seasons. What I find more promising is that 50 percent of his matches went to at least play one entire season in the Liiga or NHL. Even then, 79.3% of his matches played in the Metsis or above. Lisowski appears to have a strong chance at being a very impactful player in Finland or worldwide. 

32 – Jakub Worwa (F), 23, Podhale Nowy Targ (47, +15) 

Jakub Worwa is a player I have watched the past few years, waiting for a season when he finally put it all together. This year, he scored five goals and assisted on six in 31 games. Podhale Nowy Targ was in a rough state for 2022, and his point total was fifth among forwards on the squad. The Italy-born forward posted a point per game average of .36. Which was the highest of his career and the fourth best among U23 skaters in the PHL.

Worwa goal vs. GKS Tychy PHL

When looking at production comparables for the PHL only, most of his matches have gone on to post career point per game averages of around .40 in the PHL. At this point, a middle-six forward in Poland seems to be his ceiling. It will be interesting to see where he ends up for next PHL season.

31 – Miłosz Noworyta (D), 23, Unia Oswiecim, (30, -1

Noworyta has now appeared in the PHL in parts of seven seasons. He has only become a full-time PHL defenseman in the past few seasons. This year was a new career high in games played with 52 games. In his fifty-plus games, he recorded three assists, which is also a career-high in points. The stay-home defenseman plays his role well but still finds himself in Oswiecim’s bottom pairings. The floor is a bottom-six defender in Poland, and he will have a long line of stay-at-home defenders to beat to rise the ranks.

Noworyta primary assist vs. Zagłębie Sosnowiec PHL

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #50-41

After the 30-player-long part 1, we have now reached the first article of the top 50. This is the first group of players who, for me, graded out as solid PHL players in past, current, and future play. This group of players was hard to rank, as it has a few players struggling to find their identity in the PHL. It becomes hard to tell after a few PHL seasons if a player still possesses the ability to climb the lineup and become an impact producer. On top of that, we had plenty of players not previously ranked, breaking the top 50. 

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. One hundred sixty-nine players were considered for the list and reviewed, and eighty players received a ranking.

Players 80-51

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

50 – Szymon Dobosz (F), 20, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok (41, -9)

The top 50 spot always feels like its a player who has a larger story to their season. There were questions about Dobosz’s future at the end of the 2021 hockey year, and those were never really resolved. The young forward would not sign or play anywhere during the year’s first half. He did attend national team camps and sparrings, but that was it. He was then selected to the roster of the Polish U20 team for the Division 1 Group B World Championship. He was rusty at the tournament and looked out of place sometimes. After Poland was relegated, head coach Artur Slusarczyk said he believed that Dobosz was still one of the best wingers available to them even without playing a club season. 

Szymon Dobosz Goal vs. Sokoly Torun MHL

After the international tournament, Dobosz would return to Sanok and play in the MHL for the remainder of the season. He finished with 15 points (10G-5A-15PTS) in 13 games. He is a talented forward, no doubt. At this stage, he needs to play as much as possible to continue to develop. If Dobosz plays a lot, I could see him in a middle-six for Sanok. 

49 – Jakub Blanik (F), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec (27, -22

I had high hopes that Blanik’s production would recover this year after he only posted three points in 31 games during the 2021 season. Instead, his production went down as he only recorded two assists in 41 games. Those two assists also both came in one game against Podhale. These are very disappointing numbers for a forward, especially for one who had posted seven points in just 17 games during the 2020 season. He did post 20 points (3G-17A-20PTS) in 12 MHL games. 

Blanik primary assist vs. Podhale Nowy Targ PHL

Now that Blanik is in his 20s, these will be make-or-break seasons. His high character and competitiveness are things that coaches rave about. I see him being a PHL forward, even if only a bottom-six one. 

48 – Michał Nawrocki (F),  19, Kalix HC J20, (43, -5

Nawrocki continues his journeyman junior career as he split time between Poland and Sweden. This year, he spent most of his time with Kalix HC J20 in Sweden’s second U20 division. There in 22 games, he recorded two goals and two assists. The other part of his season was in the MHL with Sokoly Torun. He only played in ten games, but he scored six goals and assisted on five. He is likely too good to play in the MHL full time, so I have liked seeing him take chances abroad. 

Nawrocki Goal vs. Sokoly Torun MHL

For the 2022 season, he will move to the United States and play for the Hershey Cubs in the USPHL Premier League. A lower-tier junior league in states, but still boasts some professional alumni. We have seen quite a few Poles play in the league, but Nawrocki will possibly be the first forward to get extended time. 

47 – Kacper Ziarkowski (F), 17, Krefelder EV 1981 U17, (NR) 

Ziarkowski receives a huge debut rating after only playing five games in 2021. His 2022 season was the first time we saw him in an extended run, and it was a great showing. The Torun native posted 46 points (27G-19A-46PTS) in 34 Germany U17 games. His 46 points were 27th among all skaters in the league, the fourth most by a non-German player. His 27 goals were tied for 9th in the league. While the current structure of Germany’s U17 league has only been around since 2019, his production matches suggest he should be a good DNL U20 player. Plenty of them have already taken their first professional steps across all the top three levels of German senior hockey. 

Ziarkowski did take some baby steps to the next level. He played in one Obliega game in 2022 with Krefelder EV 1981 U23. He also managed to get in two games at the DNL U20 level, where he recorded one goal. The team has already announced that Ziarkowski will be promoted to the DNL U20 top level next year. Poland could be looking at an excellent IIHF U20 producer. 

46 – Oskar Bajwenko (D), 21, KH Torun, (63, +17

Bajwenko was a player I have been watching for a bit. As I think the aggressive defender has a strong shot at being a top-four defenseman in Poland. He started to crawl into the PHL this year, playing in 14 regular-season games and then 4 playoff games. He also showed he is ready to graduate from the MHL after posting a career-high of 15 points (3G-12A-15PTS) in 12 games. His 1.25 point per game average was fourth among all defensemen. 

Bajwenko Goal vs. Sokoly Torun MHL

He will be returning to a much more crowded defensemen room in Torun, as the team is returning their key Poles while also adding Jakub Gimiński and Ukrainian Volodymyr Aleksyuk. I do like that former longtime PHL defensemen Lukasz Podsiadlo will be aiding his development as an assistant coach in Torun. I expect Bajwenko to potentially step into a full-time top-six role with Torun this year. 

45 – Filip Świderski (G), 21, STS Sanok, (NR) 

After a pretty quiet 2021, Świderski took control of the backup spot in the Sanok lineup. During the 2021 season, Patrik Spesny was entrenched in the starting role, playing every game of the year. But in 2022, Spesny wasn’t as sharp, and this opened up a few chances for Filip Świderski. A specific game I want to highlight was on October 17th, vs. Unia Oswiecim. With the start, Świderski played great while facing constant pressure. He stopped 38 of 40 shots. In total, he posted a .894 save percentage in eight games. That is the 6th highest save percentage by a 21-year-old goalie in the PHL since 2010 (min 5 games). 

Świderski save vs. Unia Oswiecim PHL

Towards the end of the season, STS Sanok would add a new starting goalie in Dominik Salama. The move would shift Spesny to the backup role, and Swiderski went back down to the MHL in time for the playoffs. In the playoffs, he was lights out, posting a .935 save percentage in 7 games. Only 4 U23 goalies played in more than 5 PHL games last year, and Świderski posted the best save percentage by a decent margin. With new PHL goalie rules, I think Salama and Świderski will be a great pairing, and the Sanok native could hit double-digit appearances with a few starts. 

44 – Kacper Gruźla (F), 22, GKS Tychy (23, -21

After a break-out year in 2021, Gruźla weirdly saw his role diminish on Tychy. He would suit up in 18 games this year, mainly on the lower lines, and go pointless. He also played in the MHL, scoring nine goals and assisting on six in 11 games. This year was his age 21 season, so MHL production does not hold much water in his ranking. He has played in PHL games across four seasons, and this is the first time he failed to record a single point. 

Gruźla should be a PHL player, but it is clear that was probably not going to happen in Tychy soon. Unsurprisingly, the team announced he would leave the club. I hope to see him in a different organization that can provide more opportunities. Next season is his age 22 year so the clock is ticking, and I think Gruzla has the potential to be more than a bottom-six player. 

43 – Tomasz Grobelkiewicz (G), 19, SMS PZHL Katowice (NR) 

Grobelkiewicz is a prospect I have been watching for a while, as I have enjoyed watching the slow rebirth of hockey in Lodz. He received a look with Krakow to start the season. But returned to the MHL, and had a breakout year as the starting netminder for SMS PZHL Katowice. In 18 games, he posted a .905 save percentage, which was tied for third among all goalies and second among U20 goalies. He would also stay strong in three MHL playoff games, posting a .902 save percentage.

Grobelkiewicz save vs Lodz MHL

After a great MHL season, he would not slow down. He joined Polonia Bytom for the CLJ playoffs and posted his best performance of the year. In Five games, he stopped 111 shots and only allowed seven goals. No doubt in my mind that next year, I see Grobelkiewicz as the starting goalie for team Poland at the U20 World Championships. 

42 – Filip Sienkiewicz (F), 19, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok (NR)

Sienkiewicz fell under the radar the last two seasons as he played for the Connecticut Chiefs junior teams in the United States. He returned to Poland this year full-time in 2022 to play for Sanok. He would start the year in the MHL and build a strong season. In total, he scored 14 goals and 16 assists in 28 games. His 30 points were 11th among U20 skaters in the MHL and the fifth most by an 18-year-old skater. 

Sienkiewicz goal vs. Zagłębie Sosnowiec PHL

His strong MHL play led to him getting a PHL callup with Sanok in January. He would go on to play in eight games in the regular season and three in the playoffs. In those 11 games, he scored his first career goal and assisted on two more. A tiny sample size, but it was fourth among U20 skaters in points and second-best point per game average. Sienkiewicz was a pleasant late surprise for Sanok, and it will be interesting to see his role next year. 

41 – Aleks Menc (F), 18, Strömsbro IF J18 (37, -4

Aleks Menc played his first full year abroad in Sweden this year. He mainly played in the J18 Region, which is the second level of U18 hockey in Sweden. The young center recorded 18 points (12G-6A-18PTS) in 34 games. Looking at his exact production matches that went on to play a senior career, 38 percent went on to play in Sweden’s third level of hockey (HockeyEttan). No matches have reached a stronger league than the HockeyEttan. Menc also played for Poland at the U18 Divison 1 Group B World Championships, where he recorded one assist.

Menc Goal vs France U18 Exhibition

He is a talented offensive forward with a strong shot but lacks consistency in his game. This is most evident by 10 of his 18 points coming in the last nine games of the season—only eight points in the first 25 games of the year. Maybe the jump to Sweden took a lot of adjustment. He wasn’t surrounded by the most talented roster this year either, and his 18 points were third on Strömsbro. I am curious to see if Menc stays in Sweden next year. There is a lot of talent in there if someone can mold it correctly.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #80-51

We have reached the end of another hockey season—the first actual season of normalcy in a while. With the rankings, this year will see a lot of change. There was no hockey or minimal games for many players who tried their hand around Europe or North America in 2021. This year’s rankings experienced the most significant changes I have recorded in the five years of making the list. Fourteen players ranked in the top 80 either aged off, retired, or were suspended for a prolonged period. These are the most open spots the list has seen as well. With all of that combined, this is the first chance we have had in years to see what junior coaches in Poland think of players as 23 U20 and 23 U18 players were selected to represent Poland at junior IIHF events.

We have waited to reveal the players ranked 80-50 in past years until the final article. This year, I wanted to change that and add more thoughts to the players who just missed the top 50. That said, the difference in the rankings at this point is minor.

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. One hundred sixty-nine players were considered for the list and reviewed, and eighty players received a ranking. 

Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical order): Antoni Gauvin (G), Kacper Gulczyński (D), Jakub Pezowicz (D), Jonathan Kaczmarek (F), Mateusz Kołodziej (G), Mateusz Siekierka (F), Olaf Wlodara (D). 

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

80 – Michał Proczek (D), 20, Polonia Bytom, (NR)

The soon-to-be 20-year-old defenseman finished with 20 points (5G-15A-20PTS) in 31 MHL games. His 20 points were the second most among U20 defensemen in the league. He represented Poland at the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships. 

Proczek assist vs. Podhale Nowy Targ MHL

79 – Marcin Dulęba (F), 19, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, (75, -4

He only played in eight games this year but did record 12 points (3G-9A-12PTS)—primary assist machine over the last couple of seasons in the MHL. 

78 – Jakub Wenker (F), 20, Sokoly Torun, (62, -16)

Led all U20 players in MHL, scoring 53 points (32G-21A-53PTS) in 26 games. He also got 14 games in the PHL with KH Torun, where he went pointless. The top scorer in the second league may only be a bottom-six forward in the PHL. 

Wenker goal vs. Polonia Bytom MHL

77 – Szymon Klimowski (G), 20, MMKS Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR)

Klimowski split his time between Podhale Nowy Targ at the PHL and MHL levels. At the MHL level, he played in 14 games posting a .888 save percentage, which was fifth among U20 goalies. In the PHL, he played in four games posting a .816 save percentage. 

Klimowski save vs. Oswiecim MHL

76 – Dominik Kasprzyk (F), 20, UKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (NR) 

One of the busiest junior players of the year playing in 55 games across the international stage, PHL, and MHL. He was pointless in 22 PHL games but posted 27 points (17G-10A-27PTS) in 28 MHL games. He represented Poland at the U20 D1B World Championships and posted one assist in five games. 

Kasprzyk goal vs. Opole MHL

75 – Oskar Polak (G), 20, MMKS Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR)

Polak was another goalie put in the rough Podhale situation. He spent most of his time at the MHL level, recording a .881 save percentage. The 6’0 Nowy Targ native also played in six PHL games posting a .848 save percentage. He was the starting goalie for Poland at the U20 D1B World Championship but ultimately struggled at times. 

Polak save vs. KH Torun PHL

74 – Michał Jaracz (D), 20, Cracovia Krakow, (NR) 

Jaracz played a more significant role in Krakow this year in a bottom pairing defensive role. He went scoreless in 19 PHL games but put up seven assists in 13 MHL games. He was a steady presence on Poland U20 at the U20 World Championships. 

73 – Oliwier Kurnicki (D), 18, Sokoly Torun, (NR) 

I like Kurnicki a lot and think there are a lot of tools there that could make a good player. He mainly played in the MHL this year, recording 15 points (4G-11A-15PTS) in 30 games but also did play in 9 PHL games for Torun. He represented Poland at the D1B U18 World Championship, posting one assist. 

Kurnicki Goal vs Sanok MHL

72 – Bartłomiej Wsół (F), 22, Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR)

Wsół finally became a full-time PHL player after bouncing between the levels of Nowy Targ since returning from Slovakia. He recorded 7 points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 34 games. Both the floor and ceiling are likely a bottom-six PHL forward. 

Wsół goal vs. KH Torun PHL

71 – Paweł Pisula (F), 18, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, (NR)

Pisula didn’t have the most incredible club season this year, with only eight assists in 28 MHL games, but he had a great showing at the U18s and also picked up two assists in five games. Strong passer but will need a lot of seasoning. 

Pisula assist vs. MOSM Tychy MHL

70 – Mikołaj Szczepkowski (G), 19, UKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (NR) 

Szczepkowski had a roller-coaster season in the net. In 20 MHL games, he recorded the highest save percentage of all goalies at .914, but he managed a .854 save percentage in seven playoff games. When he represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, he looked great against Slovenia but struggled in his other appearance.

Szczepkowski Save vs Slovenia U20 IIHF U20 D1B

69 – Mateusz Wawrzkiewicz (D), 21, Tampa Bay Juniors, (NR)

Wawrzkiewicz spent another year in the USA with the Tampa Bay Juniors in the USPHL Premier. The 6’1 defenseman posted seven points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 37 games. Someone I think could step into a PHL lineup in a bottom-paring role, but we will have to see what his next move is. 

68 – Szymon Maćkowski (F), 19, SMS PZHL Katowice, (NR) 

Maćkowski has been consistent on junior non-IIHF national teams in the past few years. He recorded 31 points (19G-12A-31PTS) in 26 games with SMS PZHL Katowice. He also represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he scored one goal in five games. 

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67 – Jakub Michalski (D), 18, Strömsbro IF J18, (NR) 

Michalski started the year in Podhale, dividing his time between the PHL and MHL before making the late-season move to the second U18 league in Sweden. In Sweden, he posted a goal and assisted in 16 J18 Region games. Back in Poland, he went pointless in 10 PHL games but recorded five assists in nine MHL games. The stay-at-home defensemen also represented Poland at the U18s but struggled against stronger opponents. 

Michalski assist vs. Hungary U18 IIHF U18 D1B

66 – Hubert Szarzynski (D), 16, Flemingsbergs IK U16, (NR)

Szarzynski played all over the U16 level in Sweden last year. Across four different levels, he recorded 21 points (5G-16A-21PTS)  in 27 games. He mostly played at the U18 level, where he posted 11 points (1G-10A-11PTS) in 33 games. To top the year off, he made his senior debut, playing in four games and picking up two assists in Sweden’s division 2. For the next year,  Szarzynski will move to Nacka HK J18 and play in the top two levels of Swedish U18 hockey. Same junior program as former NHLer and Swedish Olympian Philip Holm. 

65 – Sebastian Wicher (F), 20, Polonia Bytom, (NR) 

Wicher has been a staple of Bytom since they were relegated from the PHL. This year, he posted MHL career highs with 37 points (22G-15A-37PTS) in 29 games. He also was a member of Poland U20 at the U20 D1B World Championships. I would not be surprised if a PHL team picks him up for 2023. 

Wicher Goal vs. Unia Oswiecim MHL

64 – Tobiasz Kapica (F), 20, Podhale Nowy Targ, (70, +6

Kapica was a prospect I was interested in for this year after he barely played in 2021 due to playing abroad in Sweden. He spent the season between Podhale’s PHL and MHL club this year. It was not what I would have hoped for in his final U20 season, as he went pointless in 22 PHL games and recorded 15 points (6G-9A-15PTS) in 20 MHL games. He also represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he went pointless in 3 games. 

63 – Piotr Ciepielewski (F), 18, KS Naprzod Janow, (NR)

Ciepielewski made significant strides this year and was rewarded with a cup of coffee in the PHL. He played in seven games with eventual champions GKS Katowice. He spent most of his season in the MHL, where the Sosnowiec native posted 17 points (9G-8A-17PTS) in 20 games. He later represented Poland at the U18s, where he assisted once in five games. Easy guy to project to play in the PHL. 

Ciepielewski Goal vs. Ukraine U18 Exhibition

62 – Paweł Wybiral (F), 19, SMS PZHL Katowice, (NR) 

Another familiar face on the covid era non-IIHF junior teams was Wybiral. He posted 34 points (15G-19A-34PTS) in 24 games, making him the leading scorer on SMS PZHL Katowice. He also represented Poland U20, where he notched a goal and an assist in five games. Another one I expect to see get some PHL time next year. 

Wybiral Goal vs. Estonia U20 IIHF U20 D1B

61 – Jakub Wieczorek (G), 16, Dübendorf U17, (NR)

We don’t often see Polish goalies go abroad to play junior hockey, and Wieczorek is quite the rarity, especially with his success in the second level of U17 hockey in Switzerland. While we don’t have a save percentage, we know that in 13 games, he posted a 2.15 GAA which was sixth among all goalies in the league. He has also been solid in appearances for Poland U16.

60 – Szymon Luszniak (D), 22, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (60, +0) 

Luszniak has cemented himself as a PHL defenseman and should continue to serve as that on lower-end PHL teams. He posted two assists in 32 games while primarily playing on the second paring, usually with Michal Narog. He did add 9 points (1G-8A-9PTS) in 11 MHL games. He is a PHL player and too good for the MHL, but he may have already hit his ceiling.

Luszniak assist vs KH Torun PHL

59 – Karol Sobecki (D), 17,  MOSM Tychy, (NR)

At only 16 years old, Sobecki became a full-time MHL player this year. The defensemen recorded three goals and three assists in 25 games. He also made his PHL debut in the playoffs for GKS Tychy, playing in one game during their series versus JKH GKS Jastrzębie. He was extremely impressive at the U18s. There he recorded two goals and one assist in five games. The 6’0 defensemen showed off a strong shot and sound defensive awareness. 

Goal vs Ukraine at U18 D1b World Championships

58 – Bartosz Florczak (D), 20, STS Sanok, (40, -18

Florczak has remained a full-time PHL defenseman for Sanok, but the development has not been as fast as I hoped. This year in 39 games, the defensemen went pointless but did record 5 points (2G-3A-5PTS) in 5 MHL games. He struggled at the U20 World Championships, finishing a minus seven with one assist in five games. He is too good for the MHL but hasn’t taken the step to being a good senior player. 

Florczak shot and assist vs. Estonia U20 IIHF U20 D1B

57 – Igor Augustyniak (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow, (61, +4)

Another case of too good for the MHL but not strong enough to be solid at the PHL level. At only 21 years old, he has played in 63 PHL games but only registered a goal and three assists. His ceiling may only be a bottom-six forward in Poland. 

Augustyniak Goal vs KH Torun PHL

56 – Igor Tyczyński (G), 16, Team Poland U16, (NR) 

Tyczyński has a solid chance to be Poland’s best goaltending prospect in a while. He was great with Poland team U16 in the Czechia junior system. The action that stuck out to me was at the MHL. He played in 9 games and posted a .912 save percentage while stopping 339 shots, averaging 38 saves per game. He topped that off recently with a tremendous U16 tournament at the 2022 Riga Hockey Cup. I’m very excited to see what next season holds for him. 

Tyczyński save vs Great Britain U16 Riga Hockey Cup

55 – Marcel Kotuła (G), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (36, -19

Kotula is a goalie facing the lack of game problem for many young goalies in Poland. Across the MHL and PHL, he only played in 12 games. He was not particularly impressive at either level, posting sub .880 save percentages in both leagues. The sample size is tiny, so stats are not fair to judge him on fully. He should be the backup in Sosnowiec next year, and I hope he gets more games. 

UPDATE: Marcel Kotuła has decided to retire. The rankings were already finalized before the decision was announced. We wish him the best in his next step. 

54 – Paweł Bizub (G), 23, Podhale Nowy Targ, (55, +1

Bizub went from playing way too little to maybe playing too much. Without much help, the 5’10 goalie played in 36 PHL games for Podhale Nowy Targ this year, recording a .870 save percentage. I still believe he projects as a PHL backup or tandem goalie, but he was impressive this year given the circumstances. 

Bizub Save vs. GKS Tychy PHL

53 – David Wawrzkiewicz (F), 18, Tampa Bay Juniors, (58, +5)

Wawrzkiewicz split the year between Poland and the USA after spending the previous few years in the Czech junior system. He posted 11 points (6G- 5A-11PTS) in the MHL in 16 games. His .69 point per game average was 10th among all U18 skaters in the MHL. In the USA, he appeared for the Tampa Bay Juniors in the USPHL Elite. He performed a little better with 16 points (10G-6A-16PTS)  in 17 games. His .94 point per game average was 21st among U18 skaters—two solid seasons in two different leagues. 

Wawrzkiewicz Goal vs. Italy U18 Exhibition

52 – Michał Cychowski (F), 19, Krefelder EV 1981 U20, (33, -19

Cychowski stayed high on the list over the past few years due to some tremendous U17 seasons in Germany and then having his first U20 experience delayed to covid. Now with a full year to play in the top level of German junior hockey, the expectations would be high. The results were underwhelming,  in 21 games, he recorded just two assists. That is among the worst production of all forwards in the league. I hope he rebounds with more substantial numbers in his final junior season. We saw it at the U17 level. 

51 – Filip Wiszyński (G), 19, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, (NR) 

Wiszyński went unranked last year after only playing a single MHL game. This year, he got a lot more time as he became the de facto regular-season starter for Sanok’s MHL team. He finished the year with a .905 save percentage, and this was tied for third among all MHL goalies and second among U20 goalies. While he served as the backup in the MHL playoffs, he did post a .900 save percentage in three games during the CLJ finals tournament. Wiszyński has a lot of potential, but he will be stuck behind another goalie on our list.

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