Hockey is officially back. GKS Tychy has already played two games in the Champions Hockey League while the first Polish Hockey League regular-season game takes place next week. This is a big year for Polish hockey. There are three national teams that will be playing in foreign leagues including the senior women’s team. Polish players are also playing overseas in the highest numbers since the late 1990s. It certainly seems that it should be a great year for Polish hockey, with that in mind here are five bold predictions
1. GKS Tychy Will Win One Champions Hockey League Game
So far already GKS Tychy has taken Alder Manheim to overtime, and in their game again Stockholm it was 2-1 til a costly third period. The team that GKS Tychy would most likely beat is the Vienna Capitals of the Erste Bank Eishockey League. Last year, Tychy beat HC Bolzano 5-3, then lost their second game 6-4. GKS Tychy should be able to win at least one of the two games against the Capitals. If the win was in regulation it would set a new high in points by a Polish team in the Champions Hockey League competition.
2. Adam Kiedewicz Will Play for Poland
This year is kinda now or never for Adam Kiedewicz in regards to representing team Poland. The talented younger forward is rumored to be gaining interest from the German national team, though he would not be eligible to represent Germany for years to come due to him representing Poland at an earlier U18 Championship. I asked head national team coach Tomek Valtonen, about Kiedewicz and if he would consider giving Kiedewicz a chance to play with the senior team. Valtonen believed it was a possibility and now that he is in Germany, he will be sure to keep an eye on him. Kiedewicz can play for Poland at the U20 World Championships as well, but I would imagine we would most likely see him with the senior team if he does make an appearance.
3. Both Women’s Teams Will Be Promoted
This year both Women’s IIHF tournament that Poland will compete in are going to be hosted in Poland. In front of their home country crowd, both teams will be able to earn promotion. The Women’s U18 team was very young last year and will be only losing a single player. Wiktoria Sikorska recorded ten points last year, and is going to come back even better. Every team should be afraid. Defender Julia Zielinska will be playing in the top level of Women’s hockey in Finland gaining extremely valuable experience that will be well above her competition at the U18s. The team should be in line for their best result in team history. On the senior level, almost the entire team will be playing together in the Elite Women’s Hockey League for the season. They will face tough competition and develop chemistry. The team will be upgrading their bronze medal to a golden one.
4. A Polish Player Will Be Drafted
The long wait for the next Polish NHL draft pick will be over next offseason. There are quite a few players that will be throwing their hat in the ring through performances in top junior leagues around Europe, with the most notable being Jakub Lewandowski. Lewandowski is attempting to make it in the United States Hockey League, the best junior league in the United States. Lewandowski checks plenty of NHL boxes and has the best chance to be the first Polish player drafted since Marcin Kolusz.
5. Risto Dufva will take Charge of the National Team
After this year, Tomek Valtonen will be out as the head of the national team. I believe current GKS Katowice head coach Risto Dufva will take the reigns. It was already unkown coming into this year if Valtonen was going to return to Poland. His first year was filled with controversies both in and out of his control. The back-up plan for Poland seemed to be Risto Dufva, who served as a consultant during Valtonen’s first year. Dufva is a pretty good fall back option given his coaching resume is pretty impressive and quite better than Valtonen’s. While Valtonen is staying for at least one more year, Dufva is also now an assistant rather than a consultant. Dufva should have quite the influence over the national team regardless of Valtonen’s plans for the future.