2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #40-31

We’re now in the top 40! The players in this part mostly grade out as PHL quality players, appearing in middle six for forwards, top four for defensemen, and split starters for goalies. We also see a few young players taking double-digit jumps, including the biggest riser in the entire ranking. The rankings start to take shape at this point, and all players easily made the top 50 while the gaps widen. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 1st, 2022. 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. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 169 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking.

Players 80-51
Players 50-41

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)

40 – Kacper Macias (D), 19, HC Poruba U20, (NR)

Kacper Macias missed out on being ranked last year after he only played in six Czechia U20 2 games. In 2022, with an entire season, he was able to make a quiet impact on Poruba. It is always a bit hard to judge when a player is playing in a country’s second level of junior hockey, but we have seen plenty of Polish players come out of the Poruba system. In total, the 19-year-old defenseman posted 21 points (7G-14A-21PTS) in 43 games. His 21 points were 15th among defensemen in the league. 

Macias primary assist vs. France U20 D1B

Macias also represented Poland at the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships. In five games, he posted a single assist. It was an interesting year, but not one I got a lot of film to watch. When we turn to point production matches, we don’t see much. Most of his matches played in the third level of Czechia hockey or lower, with only 7% playing in the Chance Liga. Macias will have more substantial chances in Poland to play professionally, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a solid PHL defenseman. 

39 – Jan Krzyżek (F), 21, GKS Tychy (42, +3

In a year with so many significant rises and falls due to COVID, Krzyżek only sees his stock rise by three. He split the year between Tychy’s PHL and MHL squads, as most U23 players do. In the PHL, he set a new career-high in games played with 25. In those 25 games, he did record two assists. It gives him one more point than last year. The big body Krzyżek usually played in low-minute defensive roles for Tychy.

Krzyżek Goal vs. ŁKH Łódź MHL

The German-born forward played a lot bigger role in the MHL. There in just 12 games, he recorded 25 points (14G-11A-25PTS). His 2.1 point per game average was the best of his MHL career. But as a player over 20, I don’t give too much weight to MHL numbers. Krzyżek will be staying with GKS Tychy next year. I think his ceiling is a second line forward in Poland, but his size could open more doors possibly. 

38  – Sebastian Lipiński (G), 22, Peterborough Phantoms 2 (24, -14

Lipiński had long been ranked as the top goalie in my list, but that streak has ended. He comes in as our third-ranked goalie. Lipinski left Poland this year for his first season abroad, ending up in the fourth level of British ice hockey, the NIHL 2. In 20 regular season games, the 6’1 goalie posted a .928 save percentage, and he also put up a .908 save percentage in 3 playoff games. His regular season save percentage was the third best among goalies, just behind former Premier League goalie Petr Cech. 

The league is what it is, and I’m not sure how to judge performances in such a low level. His drop in the ranking is primarily due to the competition being much weaker than the PHL. He did get to play a lot this year, and it led him back to Poland in the end. He signed with Zaglebie Sosnowiec for the 2023 season and beyond. He should be able to compete with Patrick Spensy next year for starts.  

37 – Filip Plonka (G), 19, UKH Unia Oswiecim (45, +8

Before I get into the report, I want to note that Plonka’s rise is mainly due to how I valued goalies versus skaters for the 2022 rankings after I believe they were undervalued in past lists. Plonka has continued to serve as the third goalie in Oswiecim while needing more time against senior competition. His only PHL action this year was in October, when he stopped all six shots he faced against Sosnowiec. He was also left off the Polish U20 team for the U20 D1B World Championship. 

Plonka Savs vs. Zaglebie Sosnowiec PHL

 He mostly performed in the MHL for UKH Unia Oswiecim. There in 12 games, he posted a .866 save percentage, which was 2nd among 19-year-old goalies in the league. In the MHL, he often faced close to 40 shots a game, with his lowest total in a complete game being 27 twice. Plonka did finish the year strong, posting a .903 save percentage in the CLJ finals.  His past seasons are carrying a lot of weight in the ranking.

36 – Blazej Chodor (D), 17, SMS PZHL Katowice (78, +42

Chodor is the biggest riser in this year’s rankings. I usually don’t even rank players in their 15-year-old season who just turned 16 in time to be ranked. Last year though, there was no way to me that Chodor was not in the top 80. After another year of success, he now climbs to the top 40. Chodor has excellent size and is a strong skater who isn’t afraid to get physical. He spent the year playing for various Polish junior teams. For SMS PZHL Katowice in the MHL, he posted 14 points (6G-8A-14PTS) in 21 games. This was second among all 16-year-old defensemen. 

Chodor goal vs. ŁKH Łódź MHL

He then went on to play for Poland Team U16, which competes in Czechia U17 2. There, he posted 10 points (3G-7A-10PTS) in 21 games. His .47 point per game average was 17th among all defenders. He also represented Poland at the U18 Division 1 Group B World Championships going pointless in five games. Chodor has a lot of potential and would be my current pick for the Polish junior player to best succeed in North America. He needs more experience in stronger leagues, especially to improve his defensive awareness.

35 – Mateusz Ubowski (F), 21, GKS Tychy (35, +0) 

Ubowski is one of the trio of young Tychy forwards that continue to fight for a shot at playing time with the top club. This year he earned plenty of more chances than last year. He played in 29 games, recording two assists while most playing on the lower lines. He also recorded 11 points (5G-6A-11PTS) at the MHL level. However, it was age 20 season and lower than his age 19 production. 

Ubowski seems like a great fit to be a middle-six forward in the PHL. It will be a prolonged rise up the lineup if he continues to play for GKS Tychy. We saw one of his teammates, Kacper Gruzla, choose to leave for a more significant chance. That might be what Ubowski needs, as it will be hard to see him getting a lot of opportunities unless put on a loan to another club. 

34 – Stanisalw Drozd-Niekurzak (F), 20, Partille HK J20 (59, +25) 

Drozd-Niekurzak has bounced around several junior leagues, teams, and countries over the past few years. He landed back in Sweden with Partille HK J20 for the 2022 season. The 19-year-old forward put up 13 points (5G-8A-13PTS) in 11 games. He also took some baby steps into senior hockey, playing in 10 games in Sweden’s Division 3, where he recorded two goals and three assists. This was his best year in Sweden and the most production he has shown over the past few seasons. 

He capped off his season as the assistant captain for Poland at the U20 World Championships. There in five games, he recorded one assist. It has been hard to get a proper hold of what Drozd-Niekurzak could develop into with his multiple short stints at quite a few clubs. Right now, I believe his ceiling is his second-line forward in the PHL. His wealth of experience in Germany and Sweden should assist him tremendously. 

33 – Krystian Lisowski (F), 17, Kiekko-Espoo U18 Ch (NR) 

Lisowski makes his debut in the top 40, one of the highest debut rankings of all time. He is a player that could rocket into a top spot next year. Lisowski played in the U18 SM-sarja in 2022, the top level of U18 hockey in Finland. There in 44 games, he recorded 26 goals and 12 assists. His 38 points tied for 38th in the league among all skaters, and it was 7th among 16-year-olds. His 26 goals lead all 16-year-old skaters and are seventh among all skaters. He also played in one game at the U20 level where he scored one goal. He also represented Poland at the U18s, where he went pointless in five games. 

Lisowski has a more significant amount of production comparables and they show a lot of promise. 3.5% of his matches went on to become NHL players. Included in the group are Markus Hännikäinen and Rasmus Kupari. Quite a few of his matches were recent NHL draft picks as well. While the NHL chance is low, it’s still great for Polish players and one of the highest among all Polish skaters this decade in their age 16 seasons. What I find more promising is that 50 percent of his matches went to at least play one entire season in the Liiga or NHL. Even then, 79.3% of his matches played in the Metsis or above. Lisowski appears to have a strong chance at being a very impactful player in Finland or worldwide. 

32 – Jakub Worwa (F), 23, Podhale Nowy Targ (47, +15) 

Jakub Worwa is a player I have watched the past few years, waiting for a season when he finally put it all together. This year, he scored five goals and assisted on six in 31 games. Podhale Nowy Targ was in a rough state for 2022, and his point total was fifth among forwards on the squad. The Italy-born forward posted a point per game average of .36. Which was the highest of his career and the fourth best among U23 skaters in the PHL.

Worwa goal vs. GKS Tychy PHL

When looking at production comparables for the PHL only, most of his matches have gone on to post career point per game averages of around .40 in the PHL. At this point, a middle-six forward in Poland seems to be his ceiling. It will be interesting to see where he ends up for next PHL season.

31 – Miłosz Noworyta (D), 23, Unia Oswiecim, (30, -1

Noworyta has now appeared in the PHL in parts of seven seasons. He has only become a full-time PHL defenseman in the past few seasons. This year was a new career high in games played with 52 games. In his fifty-plus games, he recorded three assists, which is also a career-high in points. The stay-home defenseman plays his role well but still finds himself in Oswiecim’s bottom pairings. The floor is a bottom-six defender in Poland, and he will have a long line of stay-at-home defenders to beat to rise the ranks.

Noworyta primary assist vs. Zagłębie Sosnowiec PHL

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