Let’s talk about SMS PZHL Katowice, a team that competes in Poland made up of players under the age of 20. This is not a thing that is unique to the PHL. Today I wanted to look at other U20 teams and how they have fared in their country’s top league in comparison to Poland. The two countries we’re looking at are Slovakia and Belarus. Both better than Poland at hockey that is a fact that is not up for debate, but I also believe Poland and PHL are slowly getting closer to them.
Team Belarus u20
2015-16: 12th out of 12
2016-17: 8th out of 12 (Made playoffs)
2017-18: 7th out of 13 (On pace to make playoffs)
Team Belarus has actually been an above average team outside of their first year. A big part of this is top under 20 players being apart of the team. Since the team’s creation, they have had a big uptick in players taken in the Canadian Hockey League import draft. In the 2016 and 2017 import drafts, Belarus had 12 players selected. All but 3 have played for Team Belarus u20 and the 3 that did not, played for Team Belarus u18, which plays in Belarus’ second league. Playing on the team has also been a good place for USHL exposure, the USHL is the top junior league in the United States. Belarus has also seen a better performance at the World Juniors. After finishing 2nd in Division 1A for a long time. They now bounce between the top division and division 1A, but a better performance nonetheless.
Team Slovakia u20
2007-08: 12th out of 12
2008-09: 13th out of 13
2009-10: 13th out of 13
2010-11: 11th out of 11
2011-12: 11th out of 11
2012-13: Did not compete
2013-14: 11th out of 11
2014-15: 11th out of 11
2015-16: 10th out of 10
2016-17 11th out of 11
2017-18: 11th out 11
Team Slovakia u20 also competes in Slovakia’s 2nd league, but we are just going to look at their performance in the top league. Team Slovakia also does not play the full season in the top Slovakia league. Their performance is closer to what you get in Poland. Team Slovakia u20 has yet to have a season with more than 4 wins and they averaged 2 wins a year. There has been no uptick in players moving up to better leagues and if any a decline in regards to the CHL import draft. The team has done better at the World Juniors, but the leaders of those teams have not been Team Slovakia u20 players.
SMS PZHL Katowice
Joined the PHL: 2015
2015-16: 12th out of 12 (1 win)
2016-17: 11th out of 11 (0 wins)
2017-18: 11th out of 11 (0 wins)
1 win in three years. They have been worse than terrible. The biggest thing is most older u20 players don’t play for the team. Only 5 regulars in the line up were 19 years old. The average age is 17.65. They’re not really being put in a position to succeed. When you look at the top u20 players in the PHL most of them are with their traditional team instead of being loaned because of the fact they too important to that team. The perfect example is Dominik Pas, the top scoring u20 player is too important to JKH GKS Jastrzebie for him to be loaned long-term to SMS. It is also hard to judge the success of the team. No player promotion to speak of and it is hard to judge national team performance at u18 and u20 events after a poor u18s last year and otherwise dominating performances from players not playing for SMS leading the way.
The success that Belarus is having with their u20 team is what you want to replicate. You want a team that is both competitive and beneficial to the development of the players while also serving as a possible launching pad for bigger things. I’m really not sure SMS PZHL Katowice is offering any of those things right now. It should still be good for national success. This year the team has quite a few 17 and 16-year-olds who will be on the u18 team, especially Jan Soltys. Soltys has been quite impressive in his young career and played well at the u20 world championship. The players should be able to build up valuable chemistry, but I have to question how much are they gaining from embarrassing loses every game? I feel it is better for players like Jan Soltys and others to play in leagues outside of Poland or with a competitive PHL team, where they can get meaningful games and have experienced teammates to help them out.