Category: Free Agent News

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.

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Noureddine Bettahar Stays in the DEL2, Oskar Jaskiewicz Moves to Katowice. Weekly Offseason Update

This week in Polish hockey saw GKS Katowice take another former Podhale player, Cracovia invest in some young defensemen, and GKS Tychy getting a lot stronger, while outside the PHL Bettahar has found a DEL 2 club.

Noureddine Bettahar – One year deal with EC Kassel Huskies.¬†Bettahar is going to be extending his stay in the German second league and with his fourth team in 4 years. Bettahar will be reuniting with¬†Tim Kehler, one of his former coaches, in the team announcement of the signing Kehler said, “We are delighted to have signed Noureddine Bettahar for next season.¬†I already know him from my time in Frankfurt in 2014. Noureddine is a young player who has not exhausted his full potential yet.¬†He is a tall guy, but also runs well and also plays physically.¬†I think that with the right environment and a given chance, Noureddine will be playing a strong season in Kassel.” (Translated via Google Translate) Bettahar was set to make his senior team Poland debut last year, til being concussed in a practice prior to the EIHC. This concussion ended up derailing his season as he missed a large chunk of the year and did not produce as well offensively when he returned to the line-up. He was not appointed to any other national team rosters. His national team status is once again up in the air.

Oskar Jaskiewicz – 2 year deal with GKS Katowice. National team defensemen Oskar Jaskiewicz has become the third national team player to switch to Katowice this offseason joining Mateusz Michalski and Patryk Wajda. The soon to be 23-year-old defensemen is one of Poland’s most promising young defensemen. It was rumored he was originally looking at offers in North America. He attributed part of the reason he signed in Katowice was Finnish coach Risto Dufva.

Radoslaw Sawicki Р2 year deal with GKS Katowice. GKS Katowice also extended the contract of Sawicki for 2 more years. The 23-year-old center had 25 points (7G, 18A) in 42 games last season.

Henrich Jabornik – 1 year deal JKH GKS Jastrzebie.¬†The first new import in the PHL is here as Henrich Jabornik inked a one year deal with Jastrzebie. The 28-year-old represented Slovakia at the U18 and U20 IIHF World Championships in his junior career. He has spent in the last 3 years in the Erste Liga most recently with Duna√ļjv√°rosi Ac√©lbik√°k. There he had 10 goals and 27 assists in 44 games.

Mike Cichy and Alex Szczechura to stay with GKS Tychy, and be joined by Jesse Rohtla. It appears that Mike Cichy and Alex Szczechura are close to new deals to stay in GKS Tychy as well is Jess Rohtla. Cichy and Szczechura have been two of the top scorers in the PHL since they arrived in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The two have played together every year since 2015-16. Rohtla arrived in the PHL in 2017-18 and lead the league in points with 53 (13G, 40). He returned to Poland this season and again played with GKS Katowice, where he had 44 points (22G, 22A) in 42 games. Now it appears the playmaking center is joining two of the other top scoring forwards in the PHL.

Patryk Gosztyla and Mateusz Bezwinski training with Cracovia Krakow. It appears Cracovia has invested in injecting some young defensemen in their line up next year. Gosztyla had played in the Slovak juniors system since 2015-16. The 19-year-old played last year for HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas U20 and represented Poland at the U20 World Championship. Mateusz Bezwinski was a standout player at the U18s for Poland. The 17-year-old played mostly with SMS Torun last year, where he had 33 points (21G, 12A) in 22 games. He can move up and down the lineup.

Gdansk may have their goalie in Tomas Fucik. According to hokej.net, the 25-year-old netminder is close to a deal with Gdansk. Fucik previously played in Poland from 2016 to 2018 with JKH GKS Jastrzebie. He posted sv% above .930 in both his seasons where he played a total of 42 games. He spent most of last season in the Tipsort Liga with MsHK Zilina.

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

Patryk Wronka Signs in the EIHL

Patryk Wronka has signed with the Belfast Giants in the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) according to hokej.net.¬† Wronka said on the signing “Moving to the Elite Ice Hockey League is definitely a step forward.¬†I got a nice offer and I want to use it.”¬†Wronka also confirmed that he did have other offers and that he chose Belfast because of how hard General Manager and coached pushed for him.

Wronka is currently one of the best Polish hockey players alive and just finished a solid performance at the World Championships in Group B, where he had 5 points (2G, 3A) in 5 games. Wronka was also named the best forward of the tournament. Wronka has played in the PHL the last two seasons with GKS Katowice, where he able to capture a silver and bronze medal. In 2018-19, he lead the PHL in points with 55 (21 G, 34 A). This is not Wronka’s first time that he will be playing away form Poland either, as he suited up for Orli Znojmo (EBEL) in 2016-17. Before that Wronka spent his entire professional and junior career with Podhale Nowy Targ.

 

The Belfast Giants are one of the premier teams in the EIHL. The Belfast Giants were the best team in the 2018-19 regular season with 45 wins in 60 games. They would make it all the way to the EIHL finals, losing to the Cardiff Devils. Since 2009-10, the Giants have made 4 EIHL final appearances, 3 regular season titles, and one EIHL championship. This offseason the team has lost Colin Shields and Dustin Johner to retirement, as well as Blair Riley and Josh Roach to free agency. It won’t be too long before Polish fans see Wronka face off against a top Polish team again as the Belfast Giants will face Cracovia Krakow in the Continental Cup.

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

David Zabolotny Signs with Deggendorfer SC

David Zabolotny has with Deggendorfer SC of the Oberliga. Earlier reports suggested that Zabolotny would be moving to a different league, but it looks like he will be staying in the Oberliga, with a new team to the league though. Deggendorfer SC was relegated to the Oberliga for this season after going 14-31-5-2 in the DEL 2 last season. It is clear that the team believes Zabolotny will be vital to their success to return to the DEL 2. In their press release, the team called Zabolotny the new number one. Goaltending problems were the downfall for the team as Jason Bacashihua, formerly of Cracovia Krakow, and Cody Brenner both played poorly in net. The team also said that ¬†“David can draw on a lot of experience despite his young age.¬†We are glad that he has chosen us because we also see a lot of potential for him in the future.” (Translated from German via google translate).

Zabolotny had just come off a steller season in the Oberliga. He recorded the second-best save percentage in the league at .916%. He did while playing in 44 games, the 5th most among goalies.

3 Polish National Team Members Leave Their Oberliga Club

The offseason is starting to be in full swing now and that means contract extensions or departures for players. Today, we have news of three Polish players leaving their clubs in the Oberliga. The Oberliga is the third level of hockey in Germany.

Dawid Zabolotny is the biggest player of the three. The 25-year-old goalie signed in Germany last season after five seasons with JKH GKS Jastrzebie in the PHL. He joined the club EV Lindau and would play 20 games. His play was good enough to earn a contract for the 2018-19 season, though Zabolotny had received some higher offers it meant less playing time. His contract did have an opt-out clause if he chose to pursue a stronger challenge. Zabolotny would spend the entirety of the season in the Oberliga and thrive. In 44 games, he would post a .916 sv% that ranked third among all goalies with at least 10 games played. It now appears though, that Zabolotny will be pursuing a new stronger challenge as in their release about his departure they mentioned that Zabolotny will be signing in the DEL2, the second level of German hockey, or the Alps Hockey League, a somewhat new hockey league made up of clubs from Austria, Itlay, and Slovenia. As for his national team career, Zabolotny has played and started for Poland at the U18 and U20 IIHF world championships, as well as being named to multiple national team rosters. He has yet to make his senior national team debut, but at 25-years-old while most of his roster competition in their 30s, we should start to see him more. He was not one of the three goalies selected by Tomek Valtonen to play at the World Championships.

The next player was a teammate of Zabolotny on EV Lindau, Filip Stopinski. Stopinski was in the midst of a career year with Orlik Opole during the 2017-18 season with 17 points (8G, (9A) in 20 games. Unfortunately, an illness would end his season, and a contract dispute would lead to him leaving the PHL altogether. He would return to the Oberliga where he played in 2013-14 with F√ľchse Duisburg. It was a rough season for Stopinski, who failed to carry his previous year success over to the Oberliga only recording 19 points (7G, 12A) in 50 games. “Filip, despite his skating skills and a solid work in the defensive sector, unfortunately, could not meet the expectations set in him,” said Sascha Paul, the team’s sports director. It is unknown of his plans for the next season. Stopinski made his senior team debut in 2016-17 playing one game at a Euro Ice Hockey Challenge. He was not selected to any of Tomek Valtonen’s national teams’ rosters this year.

The final and the most recent release was Thomas Ziolkowski. Ziolkowski kinda came out of nowhere and raised some eyebrows when he was announced as part of Tomek Valtonen’s roster for the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Poland, along with some exhibition games. Ziolkowski a Polish-German defenseman has played in the Oberliga most of his career with a few seasons in the DEL2. This year with the Hannover Indians, he managed 25 points (2G, 23A) in 41 games. In the team’s release, they mentioned that the 30-year-old had signed with an unnamed Oberliga competitor. Despite, Ziolkowksi inclusion on a lot of Valtonen early rosters, mainly thought to be due to the protest of Polish players wanting better conditions, he was left off the roster for the World Championships. It could also be in part due to the fact he by IIHF rules Ziolkowski maybe not eligible to play for Poland. His IIHF status is currently unsure.

Update 4/27. Thomas Ziolkowski new team has been unveiled. Last night,  Herner EV 2007 announced the singing. Herner EV 2007 finished 6th in Oberliga Nord last year.

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

Two Polish Players Considering Playing Aboard.

After an offseason, where the Polish Hockey League(PHL) took a lot of heat as being a part of the problem for Poland’s lack of development and failure. It was a bit of a shock to see not a single member of the national team leave the PHL. Now it appears two Polish players are considering leaving;¬†Dawid Maciejewski and¬†Filip StopiŇĄski.

Update: Stopinski has signed in Germany with EV Lindau of the Oberliga.

Maciejewski is a defensemen, who has never been afraid to play outside of Poland. He played two seasons in Norway’s second league with NES IK and played some games in Sweden’s Division 2 and 3 during his junior years. The 27-year-old presented Poland a lot during his junior years playing in 3 straight U18 World Championships then in 3 straight U20 World Championships. He has yet to make his senior national team debut. His season last year was split between¬†MH Automatyka Gdansk and¬†Unia Oswiecim in the PHL, where he had 11 points in 35 games, along with 3 assists in 6 playoff games. Maciejewski is considering an offer from a team in the Alps Hockey league. The Alps Hockey League is made up of teams from mainly Italy and Austria with two teams from Slovenia.

Filip Stopinski is a forward with a lot of promise. At 23 years old, he was having a breakout season with Orlik Opole recording 17 points in 20 games till he got sick and missed the rest of the season. During the 2016-17 season, he made his senior national team debut playing one game in a Euro Ice Hockey Challenge. The two way forward has also represented Poland twice at the U18 World Championships and the U20 World Championships. Stopinski is currently in a dispute with Opole over wages not paid to him during his sickness. He is considering an offer in Germany. Stopinski, who has German citizenship, played in Germany during the 2013-14 season with Fuschse Duisburg.

 

Oskar Rzekanowski signs with the Bradford Rattlers

Oskar Rzekanowski will be moving over to North America for the 2016-17 season. The 18 year old forward has signed with the Bradford Rattlers of the Greater Metro Hockey League.min

Last season Rzekanowski played in the Czech U18 junior league with AZ Havirov, where he had 3 goals and 2 assist in 16 games. He also had appearances with the AZ Havirovs U20 team, that plays the in 2nd best Czech U20 junior league, and also with JKH GKS Jastrzebie U20 of the Polish U20 league. Rzekanowksi was a part of the Polish U18 team that won gold and promotion at the Division 2A U18s.

Last season the Rattlers finished 29-11 and earned a trip to the playoffs where they were eliminated in the first round. Polish defenseman, Szymon Niedlich was a part of that Rattler‚Äôs team and it’s unknown whether he will be returning to the Rattlers. The GMHL boast alumni playing in the AHL, Czech league, ECHL, KHL, NCAA, and NLA.