This year was a pivotal year for Polish hockey. For many players that frequented the list last year or in the years past it was onto full-time professional hockey in Poland or testing their skills in another countries highest junior league, while plenty of players arose to challenge and cemented themselves as future pillars of the national team plenty of players couldn’t live up to their expectations causing drastic changes to the rankings.
This is not the time I wanted to start the list, as the World Championship and U18 World Championship are a great way for players to improve their stock, the U18 World Championship being the first significant exposure for a lot of players. Due to the coronavirus, there are no more tournaments, and hockey is done for the year. Polish hockey itself faces an uncertain future as the virus will leave a lasting effect for years to come.
The real world is a very dark and scary place right now, but I want to look forward to the future while stuck at home. The future of the Polish national team is something that fans should be excited about. I have maintained for years that Poland has more young talent right now then it did any other time this century. I still stand by that opinion today. Poland saw their ace prospect prove himself in professional North American hockey, another NHL draft prospect rise, and a vast increase in depth. Today we start our ranking of the top 50 Men’s U23 players in Poland.
Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on March 27th, 2020. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While a majority of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. 140 players were considered for the list and scouted. 80 players received a ranking, players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a scouting report.
Honorable Mentions (In No Order): Adrian Gromadzki (Not eligible due to age, but would have made top 50 if old enough), Bartosz Woloszyk, Adrian Duszak, Wiktor Bochnak, and Patryk Gosztyla
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking)
50 – Patryk Wysocki (D), 21, Antwerp Phantoms, (16, -34)
We start this year’s list off with a major fall. Wysocki started the year in the top Russian junior league with ORG Junior Beijing. The promising stay at home defensemen finished last season with the Chinese junior team that plays in the top Russia junior league after being recruited by Andrei Parfenov, the former head coach of the Polish junior program. Parfenov took a job in the VHL for the 2020 season. While new head coach Yevgeni Yesaulov gave him a chance, in the beginning, the 5’11 Gdansk product eventually disappeared from the lineup. He played his last game for the team on October 10th, where he played just under six minutes. In early December, he showed up in the Belgium league, recording four assists in 14 games for the Antwerp Phantoms. A step back year for a defenseman that is good enough to be at the top level, but not enough to secure a permanent spot.
49 – Kacper Gruzla (F), 20, MOSM Tychy (Unranked)
Gruzla makes his debut on the list after a promising performance at the U20 World Championship and solid junior league season. Gruzla posted two goals for Poland, one an empty netter, at the U20 World Championship. He also made his senior debut for GKS Tychy, along with playing in the PHL for PZHL U23. In 15 PHL games, he posted both a goal and assist. His best offensive success came with Mosm Tychy, where he recorded 22 goals and 19 assists in 26 games in Poland’s MHL, which was eighth in the league. Lots of flashes of potential, but he is someone who needs to play against stronger talent more.
48 – Szymon Radzieńciak (D), 20, HC Ocelari Trinec U20, (66, +18)
Radzieńciak is mirroring the development of his brother Grzegorz Radzieńciak. While his brother Grzegorz has flashed more of a two-way game, Radzieńciak is more one dimensional with defensive being his specialty. The 6’2 defensemen represented Poland at the 2018 U18s and was under consideration for a spot on this year’s U20 squad. The long time HC Ocelari Trinec junior player had two assists in 30 DHL games, along with appearing in two games for the PZHL U23 squad.
47 – Mateusz Zieliński (D), 23, KH Torun, (70, +23)
Zieliński took a big jump this year, becoming a larger part of the KH Torun defense. Coming into this season, Zieliński had 11 points in his previous 125 PHL games, this year in 50 games, the 6’0 defensemen had 12 points (3-9-12). This was second among all U23 defensemen for points. He played more and more than handled that challenge, especially as Torun tested plenty of import defensemen that he was able to outplay.
46 – Igor Augustyniak (F), 19, Cracovia Kraków, (59, +13)
Augustyniak moved to the Krakow program this year after spending his entire junior career with Polonia Bytom. In his first year with Krakow, he was able to play more in the PHL, recording six games with Krakow, along with playing nine games for PZHL U23, where he recorded a goal and an assist. This came on top of a great junior league season, where Augustyniak posted 34 points (21-13-34) in 21 games, tied for twelfth in the league. The 5’9 forward should have a strong chance at making Poland’s U20 squad next year.
45 – Szymon Dobosz (F), 18, UKS Sanok, (43, -2)
Dobosz is one of the players that probably suffered the most from the cancellation of the U18s, as he would have no doubt been a leader on that squad. At an earlier U18 tournament in Hungary, he recorded four points (1-3-4) in three games. This year his season was split between PZHL U23, along with both Sanok’s U20 team and their Sovak second Liga team. In the PZHL U23, he recorded one assist in seven games. In Slovakia, he recorded eight points (4-4-8) in 16 games, down from 14 points last year. In limited U20 action, the career Sanok junior player recorded 15 points (8-7-15) in nine games. Dobosz already received U20 squad consideration this year, so I would say he has an outside chance at making it next year.
44 – Marcel Kotuła (G), 19, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (79, +35)
Last year I feel I didn’t give enough credit to goaltenders on the list, and I wanted to change that for this year. Statistics really don’t paint young goalies in a good light in Poland, given they face 40 plus shots in PZHL U23 games. Kotuła was a victim of that posting a .829 sv% in eight games with PZHL U23. When not on loan to the Polish U23 squad, he was much better. He saved 16 out of 17 shots against Janow in his lone PHL game for Sosnowiec this year and posted a .912 sv% in 18 U20 league games. His .912 sv% was the best among goalies with at least ten matches. He received some U20 squad consideration this season and most likely will have a spot on the squad in 2020.
43 – Michał Zając (F), 19, Polonia Bytom, (67, +24)
Zając had a great year despite not being able to log minutes for a club in the PHL. In ten games with PZHL U23, he posted 4 points (2-2-4). In a season where PZHL U23 didn’t have many consistent offensive options, this was tied for third on the team in scoring. He also appeared on the Poland U18 team that plays in the Czech third-tier u20 league, where he posted eight points (5-3-8) in seven games. He also played for Polonia Bytom in Poland’s MHL recording another eight points (3-5-8) in ten games. He had some early U20 consideration and should be a strong candidate for next season. He is a good goal scorer, but a lot of his game needs refinement.
42 – Maciej Miarka (G), 19, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (51, +9)
The main reason why Miarka is rising this year is me wanting to give goalies more credit, but I would call this a season Miarka might just want to bury and forget. It seemed no matter where the Lodz native went, he was lit up with not much help. He posted a .847 sv% for PZHL U23 in ten games as the team’s main goalie. Then at the U20 World Championship, in back-up duty, Miarka posted a .775 SV%, Poland needed a third-string with how bad he and Lipinski performed. In his two junior games, he posted a .891 sv% allowing 8 goals in two games. His lone bright spot came in five third-tier Czech U20 league games, where he posted .092 GAA. A season to forget for a very young and talented goalie who showed how promising they are at the U18 level previously.
41 – Armen Khoperia (D), 20, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (32, -9)
Armen Khoperia dropped in the rankings through nothing of his own fault, just the inject of new talent and players making larger jumps. Khoperia had a great year becoming a full-time PHL defenseman at just 19-years-old. In 38 games between PZHL U23 and Zaglebie Sosnowiec, with a majority coming with Sosnowiec, the 6’2 defensemen posted four points (1-3-4). Khoperia is really developing well and should start working his way towards becoming a member of the senior national team. He represented Poland at the U20 World Championships this year, posting two assists in five games.