While this is not the time when I initially wanted to start this list, as I was hoping to have the Women’s World Championships to help distinguish some players at the top of the list. The coronavirus outbreak has effectively canceled or postponed all tournaments for the year.
This really is a bummer for Polish hockey with the amount of young talent they have at their disposal. It definitely seemed liked Poland had a chance to earn promotion at this year’s senior world championship. Women’s hockey in Poland is vastly on the rise with more players each year and a quick ability to develop players that are able to compete outside of Poland in stronger leagues. The talent pool has evolved so quickly that we have doubled our list size from last year. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, but the future is bright. Today we continue our 2020 ranking of the top 30 U20 Women’s players in Poland.
A player has to be 20 or younger on March 13th, 2020. There is no minimum age to make the list. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking)
3 – Julia Zielińska (D), 16, Kiekko-Espoo, (3, 0)
It feels wrong to rank Zielińska at three. Her accomplishments deserve the top spot, but that is just how strong the top of the prospect pool is for Poland. Zielińska moved to Finland this season after spending the previous year in Slovakia. She joined Kiekko-Espoo and played across five teams in the top three women’s leagues in Finland and with their u16 squad.
Most of her time was spent with Kiekko-Espoo’ Metsis team, where the 15-year-old defensemen played ten games recording one assist. Her best production came in the third-tier league, where she posted six points (4-2-6) in six games. This was tied for sixth among U18 players in Suomi-sarja. The Sanok native would play six games in the Naisten Liiga, the top women’s league in Finland. In the Liiga, she played five games with RoKi, while on loan, and then returned to Kiekko-Espoo for one playoff game. On the junior side, she posted four points (1-3-4) in five games while captaining Kiekko-Espoo U16 in the Jr. C SM-turnaus. Her making it to these levels is impressive enough for any Polish player, but doing it at just 15-years-old is extremely impressive.
Zielińska also represented Poland this year at a senior non-IIHF event and the U18s. She held her own on the senior level, and was the defensive leader for Poland at the U18s. At the U18s, she recorded one goal on eleven shots. This was the lead among Polish defensemen. I was thrilled to see the former Janow player shoot more in this tournament. While her defensive side is the highlight of her game, she is a very capable two-way player. She hasn’t been able to show that much with a higher quality of competition she goes against.
Zielińska can already stake claim to being apart of Poland’s senior team defense and still has tremendous upside. The promise Poland has on this defense is a massive part of why I believe the women’s team and program have such a bright future, and Zielińska is the future face of that defense.