It could be argued that Mike Szmatula is the biggest North American signing in the history of the PHL. While Wojtek Wolski and Zenon Konopka may have brought more attention to the league due to their NHL background, neither had a long or impactful stint in Poland. Mike Szmatula has a huge chance to make an impact in the PHL after signing a one-year-deal with GKS Tychy.
The 5’9 left winger has an impressive hockey resume. He posted a .78 point per game (PPG) in the NCAA and a .80 PPG in the ECHL. His NCAA PGG is the second highest ever by a player to sign in the PHL within three years of their final NCAA season. His .80 PPG was the highest for an ECHL player within three years of their most recent ECHL season. Most players who come over from these North American leagues have been able to excel in the PHL.
A lot of the players are able to more than double their production in the NCAA. This includes Mike Cichy, the current holder of the PHL scoring record. Cichy came in with a .31 PPG between the University of North Dakota and Western Michigan. The average player from the NCAA has a PPG of .98 in the PHL. The players who have been able to jump to the first level of professional hockey in North America have fared much better with an average PPG of 1.21. No player that has signed in the PHL has been such a recent dominant player like Szmatula was, and that was just his rookie season in professional hockey. The second highest ECHL PPG is Jordan Pietrus with .58.
Based on his background Szmatula would easily be inline to break the record, but let us take at look Cichy’s record breaker season. Cichy was playing for Orlik Opole in 2015-16. It was his second year in the league after playing for KH Sanok the previous year. Teammate wise Cichy had Alex Szczechura on his right side, and on the left multiple wingers including Branislav Fabry and Edgars Cgojevs. Szmatula will be able to match that as he may play on a line with Cichy and Szczechura next year with GKS Tychy. That season Opole was not the strongest club. They were placed in the second group and got to play a lot of lesser competition more frequent. Cichy along with Szczechura would later be loaned to STS Sanok for the playoffs extending their season. There Cichy added 18 points in 13 games.
Szmatula will not have the same luck as being in the second group for a long time as Cichy had. GKS Tychy will be trying for their third straight championship and will remain at the top of the PHL card for the entire year. You also have to add in that PHL scoring, in general, has dropped since Cichy’s season. Only one player has reached the 70 points mark (Patyrk Wronka, 2018-19) since Cichy and Szczechura both broke 90 points.
It will be interesting to watch Szmatula’s season in the PHL. Going by what previous players of his pedigree have done the record seems to be in his reach, but the history of Cichy’s season and the current scoring trends of the PHL tell a different story. Either way, it appears that the former ECHL All-Star should be one of the top scorers in the PHL next year.