2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #7-6

Now to the final two that just missed out on the top five. These two players had insane breakout seasons and are two of the biggest risers in my rankings. One took a second giant jump after being the biggest riser in 2021. The top five players were all established before this season, and I didn’t expect anyone to disrupt the top five. These two forwards came very close to making the top five with historical seasons. 

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 80-51Players 30-21Players 10-8
Players 50-41Players 20-16
Players 40-31Players 15-11

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

7 – Jakub Bukowski (F), 22, STS Sanok (25, +18)

The elder Bukowski brother had an excellent PHL rookie year in 2021. He had 11 points in 36 games, which was considered a pleasant surprise. Jakub Bukowski had a weird junior career and mostly played in the second level of the Czechia junior system, then spent a year in the third level of Switzerland. That background is not one that usually suggests a solid professional career. So the rookie year was a good surprise and suggested he may be able to play a middle-six role in the PHL. 

Instead, Bukowski proved he might be one of the best goal scorers in the PHL. In 45 games this season, he scored 29 goals and assisted on 15. He led the regular season in goals with 27. Even in overall totals, he still finished third despite Sanok being eliminated in round one of the playoffs. His 27 goals are the most in the regular season since Krystian Dziubinski scored 28 in 2020, and it is tied for the 27th most goals in the regular season since 2010. 

This was a fantastic year for a PHL player, regardless of age. But remember, Bukowski was only 21 this season. He led all U23 skaters in goals by five and all Polish U23 skaters in goals by 19. His 44 points also led all U23 skaters. His 29 total goals are the most by a U23 player since Damian Kapica scored 31 as a 22-year-old in 2015. His goal total is also tied for the second-most by a 21-year-old, and his 44 points make it the sixth-best season ever in the PHL by a 21-year-old. 

Alright, that is enough posting numbers on how historical his season was. Bukowski was just unstoppable this year. I have no idea if it is sustainable, but he battled hard and earned every goal. Bukowski was rewarded with his first senior team appearances, representing Poland at the Baltic Challenge Cup, recording one goal and three assists in four games. He also made his IIHF debut playing for Poland at the Division 1 Group B World Championships. The dominant season resulted in him making the jump to GKS Tychy this offseason. He will have to reprove himself in a very loaded offense. 

6 – Krzysztof Macias (F), 18, HC Vitkovice U20, (39, +33

When Alan Lyszczarczyk finished atop the Cezch U18 league and became an NHL draft prospect after a strong rookie year in the OHL, it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Polish hockey. Then only a few years later, Jakub Lewandowski dominated in Czechia, moved over to the USHL, and was ranked in the pre-season as a draft prospect. Again it felt like such a rare moment for Polish hockey. This year, Krzysztof Maciaś posted a strong year in the top Czech U20 league, and I believe he just missed out on that NHL draft prospect status. 

So why did Macias miss out? The 17-year-old forward had a great year at Czechia’s top level of junior hockey. He finished with 14 goals and 22 assists in 48 games. Among players in their draft-eligible season, his 36 points were tied for 17th in the league. His season was not always consistent though. 

Graph showing Macias points per date.

After a strong start, he had an awful December and January and a nine-game pointless streak during the months. If you take his poor stretch out from December 3rd to January 25th, he instead finishes with a .94 point per game average instead of a .75. That inconsistency at times and final number cost him. 

Macias also represented Poland at both the IIHF U18 and U20 World Championships. At the U20 World Championships, he was one of Poland’s best forwards at only 17. In five games, the left winger assisted on two goals. At the U18s, he was a different animal and put in what has to be one of Poland’s best performances in U18 history. He put the team on his back, forming an electric line with Kolat and Kusak. He scored two goals and assisted on five. The U18 captained was involved in seven goals on a team that scored only 11 the entire tournament. He was among the best forwards at the event regardless of country. 

Macias Goal vs. Italy IIHF D1B U18s
Macias Goal vs. Italy IIHF D1B U18s

That idea of Macias being an NHL prospect is a dream he is chasing and will sacrifice for. In an interview with hokej.cz, he talked about his idol Alan Lyszczarzyk. “He’s from my town. I followed him even when I was still in Poland. I went to his matches. He has an interesting career path and I think he will go far.” When asked about other professionals like Aron Chmiewlewski, he replied, “respect to him and others, because they are really excellent hockey players. But as I said, the greatest inspiration for me is Alan’s journey.” Łyszczarczyk went from Czechia to Canada’s top junior league and then a professional in the ECHL and Czechia.

I feel Macias has a solid chance to duplicate that journey and become a strong professional in leagues better than Poland. It feels almost wrong having Macias this low on the rankings, as he was easily the Polish junior player of the year, in my opinion. He is returning to the Czechia U20 league next year, but I hope to see him earn some chances at the pro level. If he improves on his Czechia U20 season and gets those small professional chances, I could see that NHL prospect door opening up. 

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