The final day of 2019 is here, and it has been up and down and down year for Polish hockey. The great signs have been on the women’s side, young talent, and the PHL becoming a much more competitive league. The downsides have been on the Men’s senior team and continued backstage messes and drama. We will have an article on New Year’s day looking at who needs to improve in 2020, but today lets look at who had the best 2019.
Honorable Mentions: Bartlomiej Neupauer, Filip Stopinski, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, Kamila Wieczorek, KH Torun, Noureddine Bettahar, and Radoslaw Sawicki.
10. Damian Kapica
Kapica was a dominant offensive force at the top of the Cracovia Krakow line up in 2019. The Nowy Targ native currently sits 5th in PHL scoring for the 2019-20 season. He added in an explosive performance at the World Championship, including a five-goal game against Ukraine. It was one of the best performances by a Polish player in World Championship history.
9. Kamil Walega
Kamil Walega just capped off his 2019 with a superb performance at the 2019 Division 1B U20 World Championship with 11 points (6-5-11) in 5 games. He was also able to make his senior national team debut in 2019. In the PHL, Walega had become a significant part of the JKH GKS Jastrzebie offense with 17 points (5-12-17) in 20 games.
8. Wiktoria Sikorska
Sikorska has continued to cement herself as the future face of women’s hockey in Poland. In 2019, she was the best forward at the D1B U18s with seven goals and three assists in five games. She then went on to make her senior IIHF debut at just 16-years-old. The sky is the limit for Sikorska, and her season in the top Czech women’s league has proved that as she sits ninth in league scoring with nine points (1-8-9) in four games.
7. Unia Oswiecim
The 2018-19 season saw a rough start for the blue and white. The team finished eighth in the league, their worst finish since 2009-10. This year though, they were back with a vengeance. The team was one of the most skilled teams the PHL has seen in a while, all spearheaded by new Slovenian head coach Nik Zupancic. The club currently sits fourth in the PHL and made it to the finals of the Polish Cup after defeating GKS Tychy in the opening round.
6. Julia Zielinska
Julia Zielinska is one of the most active Polish players on social media, and she definitely has a career worth following. The talented 15-year-old defensemen became the first female Polish player to play at a top senior level in Finland and the second male or female. She has spent most of the season with Kiekko-Espoo Akatemia in the Metsis recording one assist in tens games. Zielinska is on a quick path to being the best female defenseman in Polish hockey history.
5. Pawel Zygmunt
The big 6’3 forward took a big step in his hockey career after a successful try-out with HC Litvinov of the Tipsports Extraliga. He and Aron Chmielewski are the only two Polish players in the league. Zygmunt was able to score in his debut match and also recorded three points in the second Czech league. Zygmunt has also been a member of various Polish senior teams and could be in line to make his senior IIHF debut this year. He also scored the game-winning double-overtime goal last season to send Cracovia Krakow to the PHL finals.
4. GKS Tychy
The big dog of Polish hockey has continued their strong reign with back to back PHL championships. Not to mention they are once again at the top of the table for the 2019-20 season with 70 points. They have appeared to find another stud North American with Polish roots in Christian Mroczkowski. They set a new record for points by a Polish club in the Champions Hockey League with 4. This includes a victory over Austria’s Viena Capitals and taking Alder Mannheim of the DEL to overtime. The PHL continues to improve, and GKS Tychy is the team leading the charge. They also won the first-ever Champions Hockey League marketing award. Props to the team behind the team.
3. Alan Łyszczarczyk
The Ontario Hockey League belonged to Alan Łyszczarczyk after his midseason trade to the Missauaga Steelheads. Despite the Steelheads trading away many of their top players, Łyszczarczyk was one of the players that stepped up to get the Steelheads to the postseason. He finished the season with 82 points (39-42-82), setting new career highs in every category and finishing 19th in the league for points. Łyszczarczyk put up a goal and three assists for Poland at the World Championships as well. His strong play during the 2018-19 season earned a deal with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL, as well as an invite to training camp with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League (AHL). Łyszczarczyk has been a star for the Komets posting 27 points (11-16-27) in 28 games, which is third among rookies in the ECHL. There is a strong chance his first AHL call-up should be coming soon.
2. Women’s Hockey in Poland
It has been a big year for the growth of women’s hockey in Poland. Both the senior and U18 team played very well at their international tournaments with promotion being a possible goal for both 2020 tournaments. Those 2020 tournaments will also both be hosted in Poland. On top of that, the team continues to make more strides and there is a goal of an official U16 squad. The most significant addition to Polish women’s hockey this year was the women’s national team joining the Elite Women’s Hockey League. The club currently has a 3-6-1 record. The Silesia Brackens have stayed competitive in every game. The future of women’s hockey in Poland is very bright.
1. Jakub Lewandowski
The prospect of the year for Poland is easily Jakub Lewandowski after being a controversial late cut from Poland U20’s team in 2018, he continued his offensive excellence in the top Czech junior league finishing with 48 points (22-26-48) in 44 games. He was able to turn that into a chance to play in the top junior league in the United States. Lewandowski got off to a scorching start in the United States Hockey League (USHL) but has cooled down a bit since. He currently has five goals and five assists in 22 games. This earned him a C ranking, meaning a player viewed as a late-round NHL draft pick, on the NHL preliminary players to watch list. Lewandowski has a great chance to become the first Polish player drafted since Marcin Kolusz was taken by the Minnesota Wild in 2003.