We are in the top five of the rankings. These five players all found themselves in the top five last year. Despite a solid push by the two players ranked seventh and sixth, I always knew these five would be at the top again. The only hard part was going to be figuring out where they ranked amongst themselves. By the end of the year, it became easy to separate the five, in my opinion.
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 30-21||Players 10-8|
|Players 50-41||Players 20-16||Players 7-6|
|Players 40-31||Players 15-11|
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)
5 – Jakub Lewandowski (F), 21, Bemidji State University, (3, -2)
Jakub Lewandowski made his NCAA debut this year for Bemidji State University. He is only the third Polish player to appear at the world’s top level of college hockey. That on its own is an impressive feat, it is another level you don’t expect to see any Polish players appear at. The NCAA also leads to fantastic opportunities for professional chances. Just this offseason, four of Lewandowski’s teammates made some big moves by signing deals in the AHL, ECHL, and Tipos Extraliga.
For his rookie year, Lewandowski posted two goals and two assists in 19 games while also recording 17 shots and eight blocked shots. His .22 point per game average was 83rd among 20-year-old forwards, it is not uncommon for some pretty low point totals in freshman years. He also did have all four of his points in his first ten games before ending on a 9-game pointless streak. Many first-year students don’t see the ice at all, so I was happy to see him make an impact to begin the year, but he may have been phased out of the lineup after that pointless streak.
Of his production matches, 14.3% have gone on to play 50 NHL games, while the most common outcome was an ECHL career with 42.9% of matches. Lewandowski’s most significant asset for the next level is his size. His skating is only considered average by many scouts I have talked to, and that will be the key sticking point to how far he exceeds in North American hockey. Size and skating could take him far if he continues to improve his skating. We see that in his production matches, who don’t have eye-popping stats but still have strong North American careers. His work ethic and leadership abilities are other things you will see mentioned a lot by coaches and scouts. He made the CCHA All-Academic Team for 2022 as well.
He only turns 21 next year and will be returning to Bemidji. With many big forwards leaving, including seven of the team’s top ten scorers, there should be plenty of opportunities. The big thing will be earning and succeeding in those new opportunities. Consistency issues have been brought up in his past two seasons in the US. I think Lewandowski is at least a guaranteed lock to be a top forward in Poland, which is a good floor. The ceiling will be easier to determine with how his sophomore year goes.
4 – Damian Tyczyński (F), 22, HK Spisska Nova Ves, (2, -2)
What made the separation of the top five easier was something that Lewandowski and Tyczyński both suffered in losing their spot. Tyczyński had been a highlight of HK Spisska Nova Ves in the second Slovak league last year. When the team earned a promotion to the Tipos Extraliga, they brought their young Polish playmaker with them. Unfortunately, during the year, it seems that he and new head coach Miroslav Mosnár were not always on the same page. He left the team in late December after he continued to fall down the lineup, and it appeared to be a pretty unpopular decision among fans.
Richard Rapac, the team general manager, released a statement following his release.
“Unfortunately, Damian was falling out of the lineup in recent matches and there was not long-term satisfaction with his game. Nevertheless, he got the opportunity to fight for his position in the team from the coaching staff. He decided not to take this opportunity, which I personally feel very sorry about. We tried to send Damian to another extra league team, but no one was not interested in his services. In the end, we decided to release him to the first league Dubnica. I wish “Tyčko” only the best in his new place, especially a lot of health. On behalf of the entire club and fans, I thank him for his services and his large parge in the promotion to the Extraliga. The door is open in the future.“
From what I gather, the team was not satisfied with his slow adjustment to the top league in the defensive end. Offensively, while it was not his production in the second league, he was showing well. He posted 15 points (4G-11A-15PTS) in 25 games. That was still good for tenth in points among skaters on HK Spisska Nova Ves to end the year, despite Tyczyński playing 10 to 20 fewer regular-season games. Maybe the release was the wrong choice, as they also fell in the standings from fifth to seventh.
15 points in 25 games is good production for a forward in their 21-year-old season. His .60 points per game were seventh among all U23 players, while the 15 points were 10th among the same group. So it is no surprise that 100% of his matches have gone on to play 250 games or more in the Tipos Extraliga or a stronger league. 12.5 percent of his matches went on to play in a top European league like the KHL or SHL. At the same time, 38% went to play in a mid-euro level league or stronger. Of course, that defensive play will be the largest factor to him advancing, and it seems earlier in the year, no other Tipos Extraliga was interested in taking him on.
I could end the report there, and his 25 games in the top of Slovakia would have been enough to warrant his spot at 4. He didn’t just end his year after being released. He represented Poland at the Baltic Challenge Cup, recording a goal and two assists in three games. He also went back to the second Slovak league with HK Spartak Dubnica. There he posted 28 points (6G-22A-28PTS) in 26 games. His 1.08 point per game average was 11th among all skaters in the league and was second among all U23 players. 71.4% of his production matches there, also have had Tipos Extraliga careers of at least 100 games.
Undoubtedly, he will work his way back to the top league or in another top league around Europe. His drive and determination will continue to open doors for the talented playmaker. For 2023, he has signed a deal in the second level of Slovakia, with an option that automatically converts if the club gets promoted. He is another player where his floor is a PHL star.
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