2022 Top 50 Women’s U20 Players. #2

The number two spot in this ranking has always been a battle between 2A and 2B, as Sass and Zielińska broke barriers at different positions. Now the number two spot to me is no longer the place for 2A but the spot for 1B.

Players had to be under the age of 20 and at least 13 years old on September 12th, 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. 113 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Fifty players received a ranking.

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

2 – Julia Zielińska (D), 18, Kiekko-Espoo, (2,0)

Number two on our list is our top defender in the rankings, and they may be the top defensemen in Poland. Zielińska has reached heights as a player that only one other Polish player can lay claim to and has only added a few unique ones as well. The two-way defender is a full-time player in Finland’s top women league. The defensive poise and strong instincts in her own zone and opposing make her the perfect defenseman to lead team Poland. One of the best skaters in all of Poland. When she is on the ice, you instantly notice a player on a different level than the rest of her Polish teammates. Developing defensemen is hard, and I think Zielińska has a chance to be the Polish defenseman that makes the most impact in both men’s and women’s hockey.

Zielińska plays for Kiekko-Espoo in both the top two levels of Finnish hockey. She was a force in both leagues in her split season between the clubs. In the second level, Mestis, she recorded 32 points (15G-17A-32PTS) in 24 games. Her 24 points in the Mestis qualifying round were tied for the eleventh most by any skater and the most by any defenseman. Her foot stayed on the gas in the top league, Naisten Liiga. There she recorded 11 points (7G-4A-11PTS) in 22 games. Her seven goals were tied for the sixth most by any defenseman in the league, despite just playing half the season in the top level. She proved to be one of the most productive defensemen in the Finnish league. She was a substantial part of Kiekko-Espoo winning their second straight Naisten Liiga championship.

Julia Zielińska Goal vs. Karpat. Naisten Liiga

Given her success in Finland, it should be no surprise that she slid right into one of the top spots on the Polish national team. Zielińska was a top defenseman for Poland at both the Olympic qualifiers and World Championships. In eleven games, she recorded seven points (3G-4A-7PTS) between the two events. A top-five scorer at both events for team Poland. The Sanok native also made her third appearance for the Polish U18 squad, where she scored one goal and had a team-leading 23 shots.

Her career is only getting started, while the rankings were only based on 2022. We can’t look past that Zielińska has made an NCAA commitment to Bemidji State University for the 2024-25 season. The former Janow youth player will become the first Polish women’s player to step on NCAA ice. From developing in Finland to North America now, it would be foolish to put a ceiling on Zielińska’s potential. I have no doubt she will be one of the best defensemen to ever come out of Poland. Her national team career is just starting, and Poland will have a top defenseman as long as she plays.

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