2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #1

There have only been three players in my rankings to grace the number 1 spot. Wiktoria Sikorska has always held the women’s number 1 spot, while Alan Łyszczarczyk and Paweł Zygmunt finished first on the men’s side. This year that number will remain the same as Zygmunt has retained his top spot. 

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 10-8Player 3
Players 50-41Players 20-16Players 7-6Player 2
Players 40-31Players 15-11Players 5-4

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

1 – Paweł Zygmunt (F), 23, HC Litvínov, (1, 0) 

Paweł Zygmunt continues to slowly evolve his game and carve out a more permanent role in the HC Litvinov lineup. It seems he and the team are committed to his future in Czechia. Zygmunt has taken to the Extraliga much quicker than expected, and the results are strong. He has quickly found himself in a middle-six forward role contributing to the penalty kill. The offensive numbers are not jumping off the page yet, but he is driving a lot of chances. 

This year in 45 games, he posted seven goals and two assists. The seven goals are a new career high for him during the Tipsport Extraliga regular season. They were all scored at even strength putting him fifth on his team for even strength goals. It was also tied for twelfth in even-strength goals among U23 skaters. His nine points were 30th among the same age group.

Thanks to hokej.cz, we can take a closer look at this game and how he grades out as a player. Individually Zygmunt generated a lot of chances, and his 3.70 chances per 60 were fifth on HC Litvínov and 20th among U24 skaters. With only an average TOI of 11:31 per game and just over a minute and a half, that came on the penalty kill. Zygmunt found a way to maximize his offensive ability in limited minutes this season. With 98 shots attempts, he placed 23rd among U24 skaters. 

Zygmunt Goal vs. Estonia IIHF Senior D1B

He is finding his way defensively as well. Over the last two seasons, he played a crucial part in the team’s penalty kill, which is great to see him trusted with a role like that so quickly. He finished seventh among U24 skaters in Corsi For Percent with 53.5%. His shots against per 60 were also the fourth lowest on his team. By all accounts, Zygmunt is finding his way, and the team invested in his future, which paid off for them. 

Take his size and early success, and I have no doubt we will see him in the Extraliga for a long time to come. Looking at production matches for a player three seasons into a professional league can be a bit redundant, as we already see they have played almost enough games for a long career. That is exactly what his production matches show, with 93.9% playing in 200 Extraliga games. What I enjoy seeing, though, is if players can step up to a stronger league. We see 2% of his matches playing at least 50 NHL games and 12.2% playing 50 games in a top European league like the KHL or SHL. 

Zygmunt was a key contributor to the Polish national team. He represented the senior team at three events. He posted 7 points (4G-3A-7PTS) at the Baltic Challenge Cup and another 3 points (1G-2A-3PTS) at the senior World Championships. He also represented Poland in the final round of Olympic Qualification. 

Zygmunt has cemented himself as a good player outside of Poland in stronger leagues. He is already one of the leaders of the national team, all at just 22 years old. It is incredible how fast he blew up and the leaps he took professionally. Seeing how far he goes in the Extraliga and his peak will be exciting.

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