Despite all that seems to go wrong in Polish hockey the light at the end of the tunnel has been the amount of great young talent that Poland has in their system right now. This is the deepest depth of young talent Poland has had this century. Regardless of what happens in regards to management and coaching with the talent that Poland has coming, they should be able to push forward. In this list, I wanted to rank Poland’s young talent to create a better picture of what the future look likes. This is part 2 of the series as we look at the players ranked 20 through 17.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team
#20 – Grzegorz Radzienciak (D), 21, JKH GKS Jastrzebie. We begin the top 20 with one of the most promising defensemen in Poland. When I talk about how it will be hard for defensive defensemen to make team Poland in the future it is for two reasons. The first is the amount of offensive and two-way guys that seem to be preferred by team Poland. The second is the amount of good young defensive first guys. One of those guys that many players are not able to beat is Radzienciak. Radzienciak while being a defensive first guy does have some great puck skills and is a smart passer.
Radzienciak was one of the best defensemen in the Czech junior leagues. His puck skills were shown by his offensive prowess in the U16 and U18 leagues. In 2013-14, his 18 assists were 6th among defensemen. He then finished 6th in points during the 2015-16 Czech U18 league. His high offensive skills never appeared though once Radzienciak got into the Czech U20 league. He never managed more than 16 points in his two years in the U20 league. He signed in the PHL for this season with JKH GKS Jastrzebie and only managed 6 assists in 42 games across the regular season and playoffs. It is fine that part of his game is taking longer to develop against men though. A lot of defensemen with offensive skills run into that problem. It also is not the highlight of his skills. Radzienciak is very smart and reads plays well. When he was a member of team Poland U20 in 2017-18, he was easily the best defensemen on team Poland and single handily led Poland’s defensive game. Radzienciak made his senior debut this year and should continue to earn more and more chances with the senior national team.
#19 – Sebastian Lipinski (G), 19, Unia Oswiecim. The only goaltender to make the top 50 is ranked pretty highly. Lipinski is Poland’s future in net. There is no doubt about that to me. He is the best junior goalie I have seen in Poland since I started following hockey in Poland. Lipinski was able to backstop the Polish junior team in the PHL to their first win since 2015-16. In the 5-2 win against Zaglebie Sosnowiec, Lipinski stopped 44 of 46 shots. He is already ready to take on senior competition at a high degree. Young goalies don’t have much success in the PHL or get many chances. This year among U23 Polish goalies with at least 5 games played, Lipinski led in both GAA (2.53) and SV% (.899) for his 11 games with Unia Oswiecim. In total Lipinski played 21 games this year in the PHL. This makes him the only U20 goalie to play more than 10 games since Mateusz Studzinski in 2016-17. The 21 games are also the fourth most games played ever by in U20 goalie in the PHL. It appears despite his age Lipinski was able to earn the trust of coaches in Poland.
The future is bright for Lipinski. He will be the starter for team Poland next year at the U20 World Championships. I hope that he will play more with Unia Oswiecim next year. He really is already in a good situation with Unia Oswiecim. The team is expected to be much better next year already retaining some star players and adding Patryk Noworyta and Jakub Wanacki in free agency. Michal Fikrt, the longtime starting goaltender and mentor to Lipinski, retired and moved to become the team’s goaltending coach. Giving Lipinski some nice stability. The team will also reportedly bring in another import goalie. Hopefully, a player Lipinski can split starts with and learn more from.
#18 – Lukasz Kaminski (F), 20, Cracovia Krakow. Kaminski is the first of a talented trio of young forwards that Cracovia Krakow has on the list. His 17 points (9G, 8A) were the fourth most by a U20 player in the PHL. The biggest credit to Kaminski is his offensive game. He has a hell of a shot and maybe the best shot of any young Polish player. He has a strong drive to the net and able to get enough separation to get that strong shot off. Kaminski will be returning to Cracovia Krakow and will probably be in line for a larger role with the number of forwards departure they have seen this offseason. Krakow still has some of the best offensive players in Poland though. It would be really good for Kaminski to get some reps with Damian Kapica, Michal Vachovec, or Mateusz Bepierszcz.
Kaminski promising season by a 19-year-old is not too common. Only 10 players that played at least 20 games since 1999 put up production similar to Kaminski.
We see that these players have a PHL career average of .61 which is not bad. That is about top 6 production in the PHL. Sixty percent of the players had gone on to have a career on the national team. I don’t think it is hard to believe that Kaminski will be a solid goal scorer in the PHL and a part of the national team in the future.
#17 – Ernest Bochnak (F), 19, AZ Havirov U19. No player has a had more of a roller coaster of a career then Ernest Bochnak. He has gone from star to forgotten prospect, then back to highly regarded only to fall once again. His story starts during the 2015-16 season. Bochnak is doing really good at 15-years-old being above a point per game. This earned a spot on the Polish U18 squad, where continued his strong offensive play with 3 goals and an assist in five games. It seemed like Poland had a star in the making, but this U18 tournament is still the last time he has played for Poland at an IIHF event. His 2016-17 season, saw him only produce 12 points (6G, 6A) in 32 games. That was only 3 more points than his previous season where he had only played eight games. Bochnak following season would be much better with 22 points (13G, 9A) in 41 games, but nowhere near his earlier production. Bochnak still wasn’t named to any more national teams. I asked David Leger, the former junior national team coach at the time, about his absences, “He had come to the February camp and was going to be competing for one of the final forward positions. We liked him at the February camp, and then he was not able to join us in a timely manner before the Tallinn Tournament. We had played an exhibition game in Prouba and he wasn’t able to join us. At that stage, we were right where we were making final decisions on players.” Leger’s quote makes it seem more like club commitments have prevented him from getting a spot with Leger’s U18 squad. For other seasons, it seems the new head coach, Pitor Sarnik, wants to limit players who play outside of Poland.
That takes us to this year when Bochnak made the shock move to the Finnish junior leagues. He moved to play with TUTO U20 in the Jr.A SM-Liiga. His move to the second best junior in Finland seemed like a good thing. Maybe a fresh start in Finland would help bring his strong offensive numbers back. The move to Finland raised his stock up, but his offensive struggles continued in the league. In 20 games, he recorded only 1 goal and 2 assists. He showed he still had a lot of offensive skill though during the year. When he was set down to the TUTO u18 team he recorded 3 points (1G, 2A) in 2 games. Then when training with the U20 team, he was able to score two goals in the PHL in his two-game stint with PZHL U23. He finished the year by returning to the Czech Republic with AZ Havirov U19. There he posted 12 goals and 6 assist in 20 games to finish the year off. There is no doubt that Bochnak has a ton of skill, but what is the key to unlocking remains to be seen. Bochnak has stressed that he will try to return to the Finnish league next year.