We are now at the lucky seven. The last ranking featured a few players that had run into some unfortunate career developments or had a season cut short due to covid. That is not the case with our following two players. Both in Poland or abroad, these players went into a senior league and crushed it. These are the kinds of players that make me so excited for Poland’s future, especially when a lot of things seem bleak for hockey in the country. What is so great about it is well is both players have such different paths and still became fantastic players.
Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty 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 report.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)
7 – Patryk Krężołek (F), 23, KH GKS Katowice, (11, +4)
Krężołek ends his tenure on the list with a fantastic season. The Krynica native has established himself as one of the best goal scorers in the PHL. Even though he suffered a late injury to miss the end of the season and playoffs, Krężołek posted a new career-high of 18 goals in 36 games, .5 goals per game average. Over the past two years, his 38 goals are the eighth-most by any player in Poland. The players above him all having had success outside Poland. His 38 goals during that span are also 11 more than the next U23 player.
Krężołek is a pure goal scorer with great offensive instincts and is extremely smart and dangerous in front of an opponent’s goal. He proved that it wasn’t just a lucky case of the right time and place in 2020 by increasing his goal count in 2021. It wasn’t just in the goal-scoring department either, as the 6’1 forward recorded 15 assists for a new career-high in helpers. It was also a new career-high in points with 33, finishing first among Polish U23 players. Unfortunately, the year would end on a low point as Krężołek would injure his collarbone and it required surgery.
Krężołek was also able to earn more chances with the national team as he played in two games during a Euro Ice Hockey Challenge tournament. He was also named to the three seas roster but could not play. For the 2021 season, the talented forward has already re-upped with GKS Katowice. He should continue to be a crucial part of Katowice and a growing presence on the Polish national team.
6 – Jakub Prokurat (F), 20, Krefelder EV 1981 U23, (14, +8)
The most significant way in my book to show you’re a legit top prospect is to move to a senior league before you turn 20 and rank up strong production. That is precisely what Jakub Prokurat did in 2021. The 19-year-old forward has played in Germany since 2019. After proving himself in Germany’s top U20 league, he earned a spot on Krefelder EV 1981 U23. As the name suggests, they are a U23 team that plays in Germany’s third league, the Oberliga. The Oberliga is a common place for Polish players and PHL free-agent additions, and the league regularly transition wells to the PHL in terms of production.
Prokurat showed he was good enough to play there with a great year, posting 23 points (3G-20A-PTS) in 41 games. His 20 assists were the second-most by a U20 in the Oberliga, while his 23 points were the fifth most. His season is unique, and there are only 12 production matches for him. The good news is that 100% of them went on to play in a league comparable to the PHL, and 25% played at least 50 games in a mid-level European league. While it may not suggest that Prokurat is going to be playing for a top European club, it looks he is guaranteed to be a solid professional with a great chance of doing that in a league stronger than the PHL.
Speaking of the PHL, that is where the product of the Torun junior system will be heading next season as the Warszawa native had a successful tryout with Katowice. Playing for a lower-standing Oberliga team is probably not as good as playing for a top PHL team. GKS Katowice head coach Jacek Płachta is coming off coaching Obelriga squad Crocodiles Hamburg to three straight top-five finishes. It is an excellent chance for Prokurat to develop his skills and patch up the rest of his game. He has surpassed the junior ranks and is already a pro-ready player.