2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #2

And then there were two. Both of these players have hung around in my top five for a while. This year, an opening for the top spot emerged with the usual number one aging out and Jakub Lewandowski having his season canceled. That left two players outside of Poland competing with the best in the PHL. It was hard to pick as quite a few players in the PHL had great years. In the end, the achievement of these two players made them the clear top two to me. While the difference between them raises the question, what is better to score a lot in a lower-tier league or score a little in a higher-tier league? The national team performances helped be the deciding factor, but that question remains, especially for the 2022 rankings. 

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.

Players 50-41Players 15-11Player #3
Players 40-31Players 10-8
Players 30-21Players 7-6
Players 20-16Players 5-4

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

2 –  Damian Tyczyński (C), 22, HK Spisska Nova Ves (5, +3

The one word I would use to describe the career of Tyczyński is relentless. The young Polish forward has an infamous quote about the NHL and higher European chances he was not afforded due to being a Pole.

 “Of course. It is my dream. But there is one problem – I am a Pole, and they do not want the Poles. When they learn that I am from Poland, they lose interest.” 

That interview line has stuck in my head for a long time as we constantly await the next Pole to impact hockey significantly? What if they’re just not getting the chance they deserve because another country has more credibility in the hockey world. Poles are not the only ones that face this problem either. 

It gives young Poles more reason to potentially give up the sport they love if the PHL does not fulfill their desires. We have recently seen a substantial shift in young Poles getting opportunities abroad in a big part due to a great group of young players and Poland gaining a strong hockey agency led by a former national team forward, Krzysztof Zapała. The change in Poland reminded me of another quote this time about Tyczyński by former national team player Damian Slabon.

Damian Tyczyński has the skill to play, a good chance to play in the national team for many years. I wish him to play abroad. Please God.” 

This is where the word relentless comes into play for the native of Krynica. For years, the young center showed himself to be one of the best players in Slovakia’s top junior leagues. No professional team ever wanted to give the Pole a shot despite all the success and points. So what did he do? With a fire under him, he returned to Poland, posting 35 points in 40 PHL games for PZHL U23 and Zaglebie Sosnowiec. He proved he was ready to be a professional player. This PHL performance finally got him the professional shot in Slovakia that had eluded him. He posted five points in five games in Slovakia’s second league with HK Spisska Nova Ves. 

For the 2021 season, he would return to HK Spisska Nova Ves, this time for the entire year in the senior league. Over the year, he would post 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points in 49 games. His 45 points were the 10th most in the second level of Slovak hockey and the most by a U23 player with a 10 point gap for second place. It was the 13th best season in the history of the Slovak second league for points by a 20-year-old player. A true breakout season for the young Pole. He was especially clutch in the playoffs helping HK Spisska Nova Ves earn promotion to the Tipos Extraliga with 15 points (6G-9A-15PTS) in 15 playoff games. 

Tyczyński Goal vs. HK Martin

Even in a season of such promise and poise, the center had ups and downs. He missed four games early in the year due to an ankle injury. While after going through a rough streak of only one assist in nine matches, he worked with a psychologist, who helped him rediscover his confidence and game. We love to see a player reaching out for help and being open about it in his interview with hokej.net. 

The 2022 season is a big one for Tyczyński, as the 21-year-old will be moving to the Tipos Extraliga with HK Spisska Nova Ves. The promotion giving him a chance to show his skills in a much stronger league. In terms of production matches, 60% of matches went on to have careers in the mid-tier of European hockey. Which bolds well for Tyczyński’s future! I wouldn’t bet against him hitting higher and higher achievements, as he is relentless.

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