Category: Free Agent News

Former NHL First Round Pick Gilbert Brulé Signs In Poland.

Unia Oswiecim continues their string of big moves under new head coach Kevin Constantine. This time it is former 6th overall pick Gilbert Brulé. The 34-year-old Brulé is a physical forward with 299 NHL games, along with 278 KHL games. He joins ECHL top scorer Brett McKenzie and former NHL defensemen Victor Bartley in recent big moves by the club.

Brulé was drafted 6th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2005 NHL entry draft, after a successful junior career with the Vancouver Giants. He made his NHL debut during the 2006 season playing in seven games recording two goals and two assists. After a few years in Columbus, he was traded to Edmonton for Raffi Torres during the 2008 offseason. Struggling with consistency he found himself scratched, injured, or playing in the minors a lot during his time in Edmonton. After a strong start to the 2012 AHL year, he earned a call up to the Oilers. He had to pass through waivers first, which is when the Arizona Coyotes placed a claim. He played the rest of the year in Arizona, along with getting his only NHL post-season action during the Coyotes’ playoff run. The following year, he signed in Switzerland during the lockout. He would request to terminate his contact though after just 14 games with the ZSC Lions. The Edmonton native would return to the Coyotes for the 2014 season, but would retire from professional hockey on January 1st, 2014.

This retirement would not hold as Brulé signed in the Kontinental Hockey League for the 2015 season. He would play the next six seasons in the KHL with six different clubs, most recently with Kunlun Red Star. In 2018, he was named to the Canadian Olympic team that took bronze at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Now in 2020, he signed in Poland with former Kunlun Red Star teammate Victor Bartley.

The expectations were high for Unia Oswiecim after their second place finish in 2020. Injuries and few disappointments among imports led to the team struggling from the start. Things reached a peak when head coach Nik Zupancic resigned from the team after an altercation with an official. The team hired former NHL head coach Kevin Constantine in his place. It appears they are making a quick turn around as well, as the team has made it to the finals of the Polish Cup vs. JKH GKS Jastrzebie.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

Alan Łyszczarczyk Returns to the USA, Signs with Orlando Solar Bears

Alan Łyszczarczyk will be returning to the USA, and back to playing the in the ECHL. The top Polish forward started the year playing in Poland for Podhale Nowy Targ. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the ECHL to delay their season til late 2020. Before the season, Łyszczarczyk’s rights were traded to the Idaho Steelheads by the Fort Wayne Komets. The Steelheads though forfeited his rights, once it was announced they won’t be apart of the of the first ECHL start date. In his lone PHL season, he recorded 10 goals and 10 assists in 23 games. He would often play in the bottom forward lines for Podhale, as the team prepared for a future without him. That future has come as the team announced that Łyszczarczyk was returning to the USA.

Hokej.net is now reporting that his return is to be with the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. It is an interesting move as the Solar Bears is the ECHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that has taken their development in the minor leagues very seriously. The previous year, Alan played with the Fort Wayne Komets putting up 19 goals and 27 assists in 57 games. One of the best seasons among ECHL rookies. Recently some his teammates from that Fort Wayne team signed in Poland. Former Canucks draft pick Brett McKenzie, who played on a line with Łyszczarczyk, signed in Unia Oswiecim, while defensemen Taylor Doherty signed in Krakow.

The Orlando Solar Bears are off to a good start with four wins in their first five games. The team finished fifth in the ECHL last year, but the playoffs were cancelled due to COVID. The team’s head coach and GM is Drake Berehowsky. Berehowsky is a former long time NHL player with over 500 NHL games to his resume. He also has a connection with Łyszczarczyk, as Berehowsky was an associate coach with the Sudbury Wolves from 2015 to 2017, the same years that Alan played for the OHL club.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

Belarus Club Neman Grodno Signs Krystian Dziubiński and Oskar Jaśkiewicz

Two significant contributors to the Polish national team are going to be trying their hand abroad this year in Belarus. Forward Krystian Dziubiński and Defenseman Oskar Jaśkiewicz have both signed one year deals with Neman Grodno.

At 32-years-old, this is the first time that Krystian Dziubiński will be playing abroad in his senior career. He did play high school and junior hockey in the United States. Dziubiński has played in the PHL since 2008, racking up 578 games, and 514 points (243-271-514). The Nowy Targ native has also been an irreplaceable member of the national team, appearing at IIHF senior events for Poland in 12 straight years. Last year, he played with Podhale Nowy Targ recording 60 points (29-31-60) in 53 games, a new career-high. Dziubiński had made his intentions of playing abroad known after the PHL playoffs were canceled.

Per Planetofhockey.com, Oskar Jaśkiewicz will be joining his national teammate for his first trip abroad. The 24-year-old two-way defenseman is one of the best Polish defensemen right now. The Nowy Targ native had spent his entire career with Podhale Nowy Targ, up until he signed with GKS Katowice last season. A big part of his signing in Katowice was experienced head coach Risto Dufva, who controversially left mid-season. Jaśkiewicz recorded 13 points (2-11-13) in 49 games this year with Katowice. He also recorded a goal and two assists at the Olympic qualifiers.

This will be a valuable experience for both players. They will gain more experience against stronger competition regularly. This was also a big deal for former national team forward turned agent Krzysztof Zapała, as these are the first two clients of his to sign a deal with a stronger league outside of Poland.

Neman Grodno is one of the top clubs in Belarus. They have won four championships this decade and finished first or second in the regular season every year since 2016. The team will also be playing in the Champions Hockey League this year. Grodno is also where GKS Katowice captain Grzegorz Pasiut played from 2016 to 2018.

If you want to keep up with all the offseason news, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.

Dawid Zabolotny Moves to New Oberliga Squad

Dawid Zabolotny will be staying in the Oberliga for a fourth straight season. The Polish-German goaltender has signed on with the EC Hannover Indians on a one year deal. Hannover finished fourth last season in the North division of the Oberliga.

The former JKH GKS Jastrzebie starting goalie has played in the third tier of German hockey since 2017. Last year with Deggendorfer SC, he recorded a .879 sv% and 3.46 GAA, while among the leaders for goalies in ice time and shots faced. The 26-year-old goalie has been named to a few non-IIHF Polish senior team rosters but has yet to face in-game action.

In the team’s press release, Head coach Len Soccio commented on the signing, With David we were able to guide our dream player to Hanover for the position of the goalkeeper. We have been watching him for a long time and had it on the slip. I am very happy that he will join our team in August.” (Translated from German).

Hannover had a desperate need for goalies after both of their previous netminders departed this offseason in free agency. The team announced in the same press release they also signed 23-year-old German goaltender Lukas Schaffrath. Schaffrath served as a back up on Herner EV 2007 last season playing nine games.

Zabolotny is the third Polish goaltender that will be playing aboard this season. He joins Ondrej Raszka and Michael Luba. Raszka recently signed with Trinec in the Tipsport Extraliga but is expected to play in the Chance Liga Luba is signed with Cholet in the second tier of French senior hockey.

If you want to keep up with all the offseason news, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.

Ondřej Raszka Signs In Tipsport Extraliga

Polish national team goalie Ondřej Raszka has signed in the Tipsport Extraliga with HC Ocelari Trinec. The 30-year-old goaltender had previously announced he was leaving JKH GKS Jastrzebie. Raszka will most likely be playing with HC Frydek-Mistek in the Chance Liga, the second tier of Czech senior hockey. HC Ocelari Trinec is the same club of Polish star Aron Chmielewski and Polish-born former NHLer Wojtek Wolski

The 30-year-old goalie was born in Trinec Czech Republic, but arrived in Poland with KTH Krynica in 2010-11. He has played in Poland since then, besides being loaned to lower Czech leagues in 2012-13 and part of the 2018 season with Telford Tigers (EPIHL). Raszka gained a Polish passport and has represented Poland at numerous non-IIHF tournaments. The goalie had one of his best years to date in the PHL, leading JKH GKS Jastrzebie, to both a Polish Cup and Visegrad Cup championships. He posted a .926 SV% in 33 regular-season games. Raszka is the first new national team member to go aboard this offseason but could be the first of many. Raszka is the third Polish player under contract in the top Czech league for 2019-20, joining Aron Chmielewski (HC Ocelari Trinec) and Pawel Zygmunt (HC Litvinov).

If you want to keep up with all the offseason news, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.

Noureddine Bettahar Will Not Return to EC Kassel Huskies

The EC Kassel Huskies announced plenty of players departing the club, among them was Polish national team forward Noureddine Bettahar. Bettahar had his best year in the DEL2 to date. The Polish right-winger posted 23 points (3-20-23) in 49 games. In parts of the past three seasons in the DEL2, he posted 29 points in 80 games.

The 6’2 native of Trier made his long-awaited senior IIHF debut for Poland this year at the Olympic Qualifiers, he posted one assist in three games helping Poland advance to the next round of qualification. He was supposed to make his debut the previous year but received a concussion in practice that derailed his entire season. There is currently no word on where the 25-year-old will be suiting up next year.

If you want to keep up with all the offseason news, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.

Four National Team Members Won’t Return to Cracovia Krakow

After a disappointing fifth-place finish in the PHL regular season, Cracovia Krakow came into the playoff as an underdog. However, the team still was able to take JKH GKS Jastrzebie to seven games in a back and forth first-round series. In the end, the green and black would get the better of Krakow in the series. The results are clearly not up to par with what is usually expected from Cracovia, as the 2019-20 season is the first season since  2014-15 that club did not compete for the championship or for bronze. While the rest of the world doesn’t know what to do right now, Cracovia knows they want to reshape their roster.

Per Hokej.net, Adam Domogała, Kamil Kalinowski, Maciej Kruczek, and Mateusz Bepierszcz, all will not be returning to Krakow. Most of these players excelled in the 2018-19 season but struggled as the league improved this year.

Adam Domogala posted 28 points (11-17-28) in 46 games during his fifth season in the red and white. The Katowice native played his junior hockey in Germany, along with spending his first few professional seasons in the DEL2 and Oberliga. He made his senior IIHF debut for Poland at last year’s World Championships and recorded two goals in five games. I have to imagine GKS Katowice could be a likely destination for the soon to be 27-year-old forward.

Kamil Kalinowski recorded 14 points (6-8-14) in 32 games in his first full season with Cracovia Krakow. He joined them in the middle of last year after spending the previous three seasons with GKS Tychy. He made quite the impression in a short time recording 16 points (5-11-16) in 22 games, but could not repeat that success. Kalinowski last represented Poland at a non-IIHF event in 2018. The 28-year-old center is a product of the Torun junior system, and brother Michal plays for Torun. Given KH Torun’s emergence, I wonder if Kamil could return to the program like Bartosz Fraszko did.

Maciej Kruczek posted 16 points (5-11-16) in 44 games during his sixth season with Cracovia Krakow. The defensemen served as captain of Krakow in 2018. Kruczek has represented Poland three times at the World Championships, and most likely would have been four if not for an equipment issue in 2019. The veteran defensemen should have a large number of suitors for his strong two-way game.

Mateusz Bepierszcz posted 23 points (7-16-23) in 52 games with Cracovia this season. This is a far cry from his production last year, where he posted 55 points (24-31-55) 58 games. The 6’3 left winger has bounced around plenty of top teams in the Polish league and will be looking to join his fifth team this offseason. The 28-year-old has only represented Poland at one World Championship but has represented Poland at two Olympic qualifier tournaments, and is a regular at non-IIHF events.

If you want to keep up with all the offseason news, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.

 

David Zabolotny Not Returning To Deggendorfer SC


Deggendorfer SC announced they will not be re-signing Polish goaltender David Zabolotny. He posted a .879 save percentage in 35 games, 17th among goalies in the Oberliga with at least 10 games played.

Zabolotny is most known for his own goalie a few years ago in the PHL, but the soon to be  26-year-old has played in, Germany’s third league, the Oberliga for the past three years. He spent the first two years with EV Lindau, but switched to Deggendorfer SC for the 2019-20 campaign. The season was of course cut short by the coronavirus, but Deggendorfer SC sat third in the Oberliga Süd. The club would have been primed for a long playoff run. There is currently no word on were Zabolotny will head next.

If you want to keep up with all the offseason news, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.

Pawel Zygmunt Re-Signs with HC Litvínov For Two Years

Pawel Zygmunt has re-signed with HC Litvínov for an additional two years. The 20-year-old winger had 4 points (1-3-4) in 20 games. His season ended in February after breaking his hand while representing Poland at the Olympic Qualifiers.

Zygmunt also played 9 games in the Chance Liga, between HC Stadion Litomerice and SK Kadan, recording 3 points (1-2-3). His production ends up mirroring that of fellow Polish star Aron Chmielewski. Chmielewski did fare much better in the Chance Liga though with 17 points (8-9-17) in 26 games. The Spengler Cup all-star did have an advantage in the age department though.

We wrote more about Zygmunt’s debut season before the Olympic Qualifiers. His club HC Litvinov finished twelfth in the Tipsports Extraliga, avoiding relegation by only three points.

If you want to keep up with all the offseason news, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.

2019 ECHL All-Star Polish-American Mike Szmatula To Sign in Poland

GKS Tychy has made a big move today per hokej.net by potentially adding Mike Szmatula as they try to go for three straight championships.

The Polish-American just had his rookie season in the ECHL. He had 27 goals and 21 assists in 60 games with Adrindock Thunder. His strong season earned him a place in the ECHL all-star game and players of the week honors in February. He was also able to earn two call-ups to American Hockey League with Utica Comets and Stockon Heat where he played 5 games. This was his second time playing for the Thunder. After his college season, he joined the Thunder in the finish to their 2017-18 season. He recorded 5 goals and 5 assists in 23 games across the regular season and playoffs.

The 26-year-old center signed in the ECHL after he completed a 4 year NCAA career between Northeastern and Minnesota. He 47 goals and 61 assists in 139 NCAA games.  Szmatula also has quite the trophy case to his name from his college and junior days. He was named to the United States Hockey League (USHL) First All-Star team in 2012-13, the same year he was apart of the USHL champions, Dubuque Fighting Saints. In his college career, he was named an All-Rookie-Team for Hockey East in 2013-14. He later went on to win the 2017-18 NCAA sportsmanship award.

Given his resume and talents, he could have signed in a stronger league for sure. Szmatula is proud of his Polish heritage though, displaying the Polish flag on his social media profile. Maybe a spot on the Polish national team could be a goal for him one day!

If you want to keep up with all the offseason news make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.