I have always wanted to write a piece on Michael Luba. At one point, he appeared to be Poland’s best goaltending prospect then seemingly disappear off the hockey map once he turned pro with Cracovia Krakow. This offseason seemed like the perfect time to finally write the piece. He had a career year with Cracovia Krakow setting a career high in games played with 28 and posted a .919 save percentage in those game. Krakow did later add another goaltender to the mix in veteran Czech netminder Miroslav Kopriva. Kopriva was the main goalie in the playoffs performing excellent and being a huge part of Krakow’s run to the finals. His success resulted in Luba not playing a single playoff game.
Despite the bump in the road during the playoffs, it seemed to me that Luba should be the future starting goaltender for Krakow. There were a lot of positive signs that it appeared to be the path they were taking. Luba had been a member of the Polish senior team during the year. Krakow had chosen him over former NHL goaltender Jason Bacashihua. It was also Luba’s fourth year with the team and he appeared to have finally paid his dues. Add in that Kopriva was an import and 35-years-old he seemed unlikely to be re-signed despite his success. Then hokej.net reported that Luba would be leaving the team to continue his career abroad. Then later it was announced that Kopriva had been re-signed. It leads me to wonder who Luba is and what is next for him.
One of the reasons that Luba has always stood out to me is because he is technically an import for the Polish national team. Luba was born in Montreal, Canada. He grew up there and played hockey in Quebec til he was 16. At the age of 16, he decided to make the move over to Europe and play junior hockey in Poland. When asked why he made the move to the Polish junior system Luba told me, “Because I wanted to play for the Polish national team.”
Luba played in the Sanok junior system from 2011 to 2014. Excelling in the Polish system, he then moved over to the Slovak junior system with HK SKP Poprad U20. There in 2014-15, he was the starting goaltender and posted a .911 sv% in 32 games. “Obviously at the junior level in Slovakia there are so many goalies so much more than in Poland and the quality is better. They have more teams and more games and they have a lot of goalie coaches so they could improve.” Luba said commenting on the difference between the Polish and Slovak junior leagues for goaltenders. His performance in the Slovak junior leagues earned him the starting job for Poland at the U20 World Championship. There he probably played some of the best hockey in his career. His .933 save percentage lead Poland to a bronze medal. Luba was named the best goaltender in the tournament and best player on team Poland.
After a strong season in Slovakia and on the international stage, Luba signed with Cracovia Krakow to begin his professional career. He served as the backup goaltender for Krakow from 2015 to 2018 playing a total of 23 games across 3 seasons.
Going into the 2018-19 season, it appeared though that Luba was in line to finally move out of the background role. Krakow did not add a goaltender during the offseason. During the season, Luba was starting Krakow and again posted career-high numbers in games played. More games played this year than across his previous three years. “Yes the league got really better and finally the coach got some confidence in me and I think showed that I deserved a chance to play else were,” Luba when asked on if the PHL has gotten better and how it felt to play so much this year.
Luba also earned a chance to travel with team Poland to Finland. There the Polish national team played in two exhibition games against Metsis clubs. Luba played in first of the two games. On what he took away from the experience, “I gained a lot of confidence that I am closer and closer on my dream playing for the national team. I learned a lot from Tommi Satosaari the goalie coach there and know what to work on to get even better.” Luba will most likely be on the shortlist with a few other goaltenders for national team games next year.
Now though what is next for Luba? “I don’t have any contracts now. I am open for any offers we will see what will happen.” Luba definitely has the skills to play in a higher league or be a starter in the PHL in my opinion. He is a victim of a young player not getting enough chances in the PHL. His resume looks a bit bare after playing so little games his first three years in the PHL. He may have to play in the PHL again next year. I think the best situation would be in GKS Katowice. There he and fellow young goaltender Michal Kieler could split starts. Hokej.net recently reported that Luba was in negotiations with Naprzod Janow and a Metsis club.
Luba has been chasing the dream of playing in the national team for a long time and despite some bumps along the way it appears next year may be his chance to finally start a game for Poland. He needs to find a club though first. His chance to go aboard, the small sample size in the PHL, and former junior success; make him one of the most interesting Polish free agents.