The U18s are here, and this gives us a chance to watch some of Poland’s younger talent make their IIHF debuts. It is a fun time and the first step for many players in their national team career. This year, there should be a lot of optimism for this team. There are quite a few key returning players from last year’s team, including players who played up at a level at the U20 World Championships. Here are five players to keep an eye on. These are not necessarily the best players, but the most intriguing ones.
Bieniek made his IIHF debut at the U20 world championships in December. The defenseman has some excellent puck-moving skills and offensive instincts. This season, Bieniek played in the top Czech junior league and has posted 25 points (6 G, 19 A) with HC Prerov U19. In a Polish defense that continues to make more strides towards being offensively based, Bieniek should have a very nice role. It will be interesting to see what is in store for Bieniek, at one point it appeared HC Prerov called them up to their senior roster, but he didn’t play. I would still imagine Bieniek starts to play some professional games next year in the second Czech league. A strong U18 would be a great way to finish his season.
The player who will be playing alongside Bieniek on the top defensive pair is also one to watch. Libik has always been a favorite of mine since he made his debut at the U18s last year. He also played at the U20 World Championships this year for Poland. Even though his performance wasn’t as big as I hoped at U20 World Championships, he still showed solid play. The most interesting thing about Libik is how inconsistent his development has been. He started playing hockey at a later age than most. He also plays forward and defense. In Norway’s U18 and U21 league, Libik has had to switch teams and go back and forth between his two positions. Despite the hurdles to his development, Libik continues to impress. In the U18 league, he has 13 points (7 G, 6 A) in 15 games, while putting up 12 points (4 G, 8 A) in 35 games at the U21 level. Libik is one of Poland’s top prospects, and it will be fun to watch him in his final U18 tournament.
Prokurat is often playing the Robin role to other top Polish offensive players. His play this year in the DNL U20 2 with Krefelder, has been overshadowed by Adam Kiedewicz and Maciej Rutkowski. He also would only play 10 games with the team. Prokurat is a very talented player and had 8 points (3 G, 5 A) in 5 games at last year’s U18. This is Prokurat first season playing abroad. Last year, he finished 5th in scoring for Poland’s u20 league as a 16-year-old. Prokurat will be one of Poland’s leading forwards. He is carving a journey that reminds me of a lot of Dominik Pas.
Krzysztof Bukowksi is one of the players who will be making their IIHF debut. Bukowski started off in the STS Sanok system before moving over to Meyrin system in Switzerland. Since then he has been one of Meyrin’s best young players. He has led their U17 team in points in both his seasons with the club.
Along with 28 points (15 G, 13 A) in 22 games across two years at the U20 level. His success in the lower levels has earned his two big chances, one to play in the top U17 Switzerland league with Genève-Servette and other to get some pro games in Switzerland’s Division One with Meyrin’s senior team. In 3 games at the senior level, he had one assist in three games. He represents a lot of promise for Poland, and his first IIHF will be a good indicator of what we can expect in the future.
Last is a player that has always kinda been an enigma. There isn’t much information on him, and he hasn’t played that many games at the U18 level. We saw in 2015-16, he played in Slovakia in a U14 league, putting up 25 points (15 G, 10 A) in 26 games. Before that, he was apart of the JKH GKS Jastrzębie system in Poland. Now Koslicki is a member of the Vienna Capitals in two years with the Capitals’ U18 team, he has 7 points (3 G, 4 A) in 28 games. This is not a significant portfolio to judge a player, which is what makes him one to watch. His success in Poland and Slovakia at an early age before moving to a strong Austrian junior league make him intriguing. The lack of games and points do cause hesitant. We should be able to see more of what player Koslicki really is at this tournament.
Sebastian Brynkus – Brynkus plays with Cracovia Krakow in the PHL, along with a 3 game stint with PZHL U23. His 5 points (2 G, 3 A) in 39 games are most by any U18 player in the PHL. He also had a really impressive showing with 4 goals at the 2018-19 U20 World Championships.
Fabian Kapica – When Kapica moved abroad to Germany at 15-years-old he took the Schüler-BL by storm with 41 points (22 G, 19 A) in 16 games. He moved to ETC Crimmitschau U17, where he has 28 points (10 G, 18 A) in 28 games. Not as good as in debut in the German system, but still impressive.
Marcin Plachetka – Plachetka got himself an honorable mention by how he performed in the exhibition games before the U18s. He recorded 2 goals and 2 assist in 4 games. JKH GKS Jastrzebie continues to be a steady producer of young talent.
Jakub Blanik – speaking JKH GKS Jastrzebie, another player they have on the U18 team is Blanik. Blanik has also been impressive in the warm-up games. Blanik also has 66 points (28 G, 38 A) in 33 games in the Poland U20 league.
Maciej Witan – Witan is returning from last year’s team and has the most professional experience. He plays for STS Sanok in the 3rd Slovakian senior league. In his two seasons in the league, he has 35 points (13 G, 18 A) in 31 games. Last year at the U18s, he had 5 goals and 4 points in 5 games. He gives Poland another top offensive presenc