Category: Mens Prospects

Poland U16 Win 2023 U16 Riga Cup

In May of this year, the Polish U16 squad finished their incredible year by winning one of the biggest U16 tournaments in Europe, the Riga Cup. The Polish team has been working their way up the tournament and was determined to take home gold after finishing with Silver last year. The Polish team finished with an almost perfect record winning six games and drawing in two matches. They would advance to the goal medal game versus the Swedish Top Speed Hockey Program. Poland would defeat them 3-0 with the gaming-winning goal from Olaf Zachariasz, while Kacper Michalski pitched the shutout.


Goalies: Bartosz Brynczka, Juliusz Cegliński, & Kacper Michalski

Defensemen: Filip Wojciechowski, Jan Matera, Igor Antolak, Maciej Tuszkowski, Miłosz Bąk, Patryk Zubek, Paweł Słomian, & Wojciech Wilczok.

Forwards: Adam Leśniok, Adrian Ziober, Filip Piątkowski, Jakub Janik, Jacek Juchniewicz, Jakub Skrzypski, Maksymilian Rusnak, Marcin Sroka, Matuesz Biały, Mateusz Majkowski, Mikołaj Osiadły, Olaf Zachariasz, Szymon Gumiński, Wiktor Makuła, Wiktor Zając


Game 1: Falkons vs. Poland U16 – 2:2. Poland Goals: Jakub Janik & Jan Matera

Game 2: Poland U16 vs. Baltu Vilki/BHC37 – 3:0. Poland Goals: Wojciech Wilczok, Olaf Zachariasz, Igor Antolak

Game 3: Lithuania U16 Selects vs. Poland U16 – 1:3. Poland Goals: Filip Wojciechowski, Mikołaj Osiadły, & Wojciech Wilczok

Game 4: Poland U16 vs. Jelgavas LSS – 6:0. Poland Goals: Szymon Gumiński, Wojciech Wilczok, Mikołaj Osiadły, Maksymilian Rusnak, Adrian Ziober, & Jacek Juchniewicz.

Game 5: HS Rīga 2007 vs. Poland U16 – 1:2. Poland Goals: Wiktor Zając & Patryk Zubek

Game 6: Strömsbro HC vs. Poland U16 – 1:1. Poland Goal: Mateusz Majkowski

Semi-Final: Poland U16 vs. HS Kurbads 2007/08 – 4:1. Poland Goals: Olaf Zachariasz, Jakub Skrzypski, Mateusz Majkowski, & Marcin Sroka

Final: Top Speed Hockey vs. Poland U16 – 1:3. Poland Goals: Olaf Zachariasz, Wiktor Zając, & Jacek Juchniewicz

Final Thoughts

At Polish Puck, we don’t start covering players until they turn 16. The Riga Cup has become the first time we look at many players regarding their future and potential for the U18 squad. The defense and offense did much of the heavy lifting for Poland regarding puck control, as the U16 squad often limited their opponents to under ten shots a game. Still, Poland did so well at this tournament, partly thanks to their trio of goalies. Juliusz Cegliński, who plays in the Czech junior system, took home the honor of being the best goalie in the tournament. In three games, he finished with a .938 save percentage and one shutout. Kacper Michalski had a great final game against Top Speed with a ten-save shutout. Bartosz Brynczka finished with one shutout in his two appearances.

The offense saw a lot of great performances from the defense. Wojciech Wilczok scored three goals and collected some assists as while. Patryk Zubek also had a strong tournament piling up assists and flashing solid defensive skills. Seven of the goals in the tournament were scored by Polish defensemen, a possible good sign with the country needing some firepower from the point. Among forwards, Olaf Zachariasz, Mateusz Majkowski, and Mikołaj Osiadły stood out in driving plays and producing.

It is good to see Poland succeeding at this level and another sign of the growing sport in the country. While there is nothing to immediately be excited about for the national team. We see Poland will continue to have some strong prospects in stronger junior leagues abroad, while others will be stepping into playing full-time MHL hockey next year. It is a good sign for the Poland U18 squad, as they will have a few appointments from this cup-winning roster.

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Poland Finishes Fifth at 2023 University Hockey World Cup

April is the busiest time of the year for international hockey, with three IIHF teams in play and some non-IIHF action. We’re a bit late due to the April national team action, but I still wanted to recap those other events. One of the big tournaments going on was the World Cup of University Hockey. Academic teams from around the world gathered to play together in Romania. This was the first World Cup of Hockey held with each country having one academic team. Previously the tournament was held with regions having all-star squads. This year the tournament included eight teams in two groups. In Group A were Hungary, Slovakia, Sweden, and the USA. Group B was comprised of Canada, Czechia, Poland, and Romania. For my curious American and Canadian followers, their squads were all-star teams made up of players from the ACHA level of college hockey.

Poland entered the tournament with somewhat of an all-star team from Poland. While there was a lot of talent from within Polish junior leagues and a few who played outside Poland. Many of the group came from UHT Sabres Oswiecim, who play in the European University Hockey League. There should be many familiar names for Polish fans as quite a few players appeared at international events for Polish junior teams or have ranked in our men’s top 80 rankings. The Polish university squad came in with the smallest and second youngest team in the tournament, and it would take a lot for them to overcome some tough opponents. Players in italics are from UHT Sabres Oswiecim.

Goalies: Dominik Buczek, Filip Płonka, & Gabriel Kaczkowski

Defenesmen: Dawid Tynka, Kacper Łukawski, Jakub Najsarek, Marek Augustyniak, Michał Kokoszewski, Michał Jaracz, Michał Proczek, & Piotr Kot

Forwards: Dominik Kasprzyk, Filip Sienkiewicz, Karol Moś, Jakub Musioł, Jakub Ślusarczyk, Mateusz Bezwiński, Michał Kusak, Oliwier Ksiondz, Oliwier Tumidalski,Patryk Kusak, Szymon Fus, & Vasili Yerasov.

Game 1: Czechia vs. Poland

Czechia – Poland 4:3

Poland Goals: Vasili Yerassov (2x), & Jakub Slusarczyk

The Czechs were a top team coming into this tournament, led by one of the top scorers in the Oberliga, Jakub Cizek. It was a back-and-forth battle on the score sheet, but Poland was often stuck in their own zone. Despite that, they would open the scoring late in the first, with Yerassov grabbing his first of the tournament. The two sides would exchange goals in the second resulting in a tied game at two apiece. With six minutes to go in the third, Poland grabbed their third lead, but Czechia would quickly tie it again before taking the lead with under two minutes. Poland failed to take back their lead this time, and Czechia would take the win on day one. Poland was outshot 44-27 in this game; they held off the Czech siege for as long as possible but eventually fell to it.

Game 2: Canada vs. Poland

Canada – Poland 10:3

Poland Goals: Mateusz Bezwinski (2x), & Jakub Najsarek

Seeing Poland playing Canada is always a weird thing to see at any level. Never forget Poland beat Canada at the 2001 Nagano Cup! Still, this game went as about as you would expect. Poland did keep a somewhat even pace with Canada early on. After two periods, the score was only 4-2, and it often was a one-goal game. Canada would break through and score six in the third. The Eagles got one back but dropped their second tournament game with a 10-3 final.

Game 3: Romania vs. Poland

Romania – Poland 4:5

Poland Goals: Jakub Ślusarczyk (2x), Vasili Yerasov, Mateusz Bezwinski, & Michal Proczek

Poland would take on the host at the end of the group stage. Looking to not walk away with three losses in group play, the red and white got off to a hot start with a two-goal first period. Romania would find their way back into the game during the second period with some clutch saves and two goals. Poland would reclaim their lead four minutes into the third period, before adding two more goals, including one shorthanded by Ślusarczyk. Romania would get two back, but it would not matter as Poland held on to their victory.

Game 4: Hungary vs. Poland

Hungary – Poland: 2:3

Poland Goals: Jakub Ślusarczyk, Vasili Yerasov, & Filip Sienkiewicz

With group play behind them and finishing with a 1-2 record, Poland looked to hopefully go home with better results in the placement games. They got matched up with eternal rival Hungary, who would open up the scoring early. Vasili Yerasov would continue his great tournament by tying the game shortly after. These two countries would keep it scoreless in the second, but less than a minute into the third, Poland would regain the lead thanks to Ślusarczyk. Hungary would tie it again at the halfway mark of the third. With just over a minute left, Filip Sienkiewicz would score his first of the tournament to become the hero.

Game 5: Sweden vs. Poland

Sweden – Poland: 2-4

Poland Goals: Jakub Ślusarczyk (3x) & Michal Kusak

The red and white were set to end the tournament with a game for fifth place versus Sweden. A formidable and top rival, it would be a big game for the Poles, and their nerves might have got the best of them at first. Sweden jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second, with both coming from former HockeyEttan forward Max Wedjesjö. When the game reached its halfway point, the switch flipped for Poland. Ślusarczyk would score once in the second to make it a one-goal game. The third period would be all Poland, as they capitalized twice on two powerplays. With less than ten seconds left, Ślusarczyk would finish the game and his hat trick, doubling the lead on an empty net.

Final Thoughts

This was a fun tournament. We saw young Polish talent against ACHA and low-tier European league competition. Poland had the second youngest average age in Romania, with 19.83. They were one of only two teams, Hungry the other, with an average age below 21.75. Given the overall level of competition and the first year of this format, it is hard to take away much from the event. With that in mind, Jakub Ślusarczyk was the best player there. He led the tournament in scoring by four points with seven goals and five assists. It was impressive from one of Poland’s best prospects, especially as the 19-year-old was up against more senior players. Vasili Yerasov performed well in the tournament, coming in second on Poland in points with three goals and four assists. It also appears the Kazakhstan native has acquired Polish citizenship. University hockey is an excellent way for Polish players to get more playing time and eyes on their game, which can be hard to come by in the current Polish structure. Quite a few Poles had great showings in the tournament, and I am curious if there will be anything to come from it.

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_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

Mission Impossible No More. 2023 Men’s Division 1 Group A World Championships 5 Thoughts

A former head coach of Poland once described Polish hockey as mission impossible. Another former national team head coach said Poland was far, far away from reaching the Elite. Polish hockey is no longer mission impossible, and they’re right back in the Elite now. The dark times of the sport appear to be behind the country once again, and the future is very bright. This team only raised expectations throughout the year and then smashed them out of the park each time.

Poland came into the tournament with something to prove, and they immediately did just that. Poland opened the tournament with a dominant performance over Lithuania, putting up seven while shutting them out. The red and white did lose their next game to Great Britain. In the loss, they battled so hard and came back down from a two-goal deficit, and would later once again would overcome a second lead change after some bad luck. They never gave up and forced overtime. Sure, they lost 5-4 in overtime, but the determination and ability to change up the pace of the game so late was impressive. The next day Poland would play their best game in recent history. A devasting forechecking attack left Italy helpless, and Poland beat the tournament favorites 4-2, never once trailing. Even in a game that made me nervous against South Korea, Poland once again proved they were too good for division one with their second 7-0 shutout win. Poland would finish the tournament with a 6-2 win over Romania. Romania is the team that upset Poland back in 2019, stranding the Eagles in Group B for a few years. Poland won promotion to the Elite Division for the first time since 2002. It’s time to celebrate Poland!

The Forecheck

Usually, for years we have seen Poland be the team that tries to play defensively and safely. It is often the best course for teams to take when out-matched. Allow less dangerous shots and just hope to generate some odd-man rushes or powerplay opportunities. Instead, in this tournament, Poland played with confidence and put the message on the ice that they were the better team. The Polish forecheck was too much for any team to contain, and once Poland turned it on, teams would just be forced to easily surrender the puck. When it was clicking, Poland felt like the best team on the planet. I don’t know if that style will work in the Elite division, but it will certainly make Poland annoying to play against for any top country.

The Young Core Is Here To Lead

There was a lot made at times of Poland’s age at the tournament from new spectators seeing the squad. While Poland will certainly have some players departing the national team soon, it should not worry fans. First, Poland has some great prospect depth that is coming, and we will get more into that this offseason. Second is look who were some really key forwards for this team. Alan Łyszczarczyk (25), Bartłomiej Jeziorski (25), Dominik Paś (23), Kamil Wałęga (22), Pawel Zygmunt (23) are all in the top nine, and all are 25 years old or younger. 12 of Poland’s 28 goals came from those five young forwards. Only two members of Poland’s top nine forwards group are older than 30. Poland is a great spot talent-wise, and that core has taken the step from the future of the team to the leaders of the team.

A Career Gap

In his post-game comments after Poland’s win over Romania, captain Krystian Dziubinski remarked how a lot of guys saw this as their last shot to reach the Elite. 22 years between chances at the Elite Division is more than just one career, but most likely the average of multiple players’ careers in Poland. It sets up a very interesting choice for Poland to make next year. Do you reward the long-standing national team members who fought to get here, or do you use it as a chance to promote some younger talent, for example, Jakub Lewandowski or Krzysztof Macias? Playing at the Elite Division is the biggest scouting chance a lot of Polish players will receive. Just go back to a few years ago for proof, when Hungarian goalie Adam Vay received an NHL entry-level deal after a few strong games. Whomever Poland takes will have a tough challenge ahead of them. We can only hope that the next time Poland is in the Elite after 2024 is not another long career away.

King Kalaber and Staff

Robert Kalaber did not come to the Polish national team with the same flash and excitement as past coaches. He has proved that he is the best to come through when it comes to getting the job done. Poland has done nothing but excel under the leadership of Kalaber and general manager Leszek Laszkiewicz. Whoever worked on the powerplay is a genius after an abysmal performance the previous year in Group B. The powerplay set Division 1 Group A records for the most amount of goals (11) and efficiency (64.7%). Lastly, credit as well to goaltending coach Marek Batkiewicz who had young goalie Maciej Miarka ready for an almost emergency start in place of Murray.

What is Next?

I always end 5 Thoughts with what is next. I don’t really want to think about next anymore. Today we need to just take a chance to enjoy what has taken place. Poland has done what we were all told and probably thought would be impossible. In just two short years, they went from Division 1 Group B to the Elite Division of the IIHF. That is an insane rise that I’m not sure will be replicated any time soon. The one thought that I will offer on what is next. This feels like a massive moment for the sport in Poland. There is so much interest in the sport, and the tv numbers are strong. The tournament next year is close to Poland in Czechia. This could be the major change that helps Poland grow their number of youth players and helps the level of hockey to rise for years to come.

Quick Thoughts

  • Maciej Miarka got his first IIHF start on Friday after Murray went down close to game time. After letting in a goal on the first shot he faced, he settled in very nicely and got Poland the win. A great appearance from such a young goalie playing for such high stakes.
  • Alan Lyszczarczyk showed that he is the prince of Poland, one of the best to come out of the country in a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if every club or scout at the event is trying to see if they can pry him away from Cracovia.
  • Bartlomiej Jeziorski had an amazing tournament. It was the best I’ve ever seen him play. He is another piece in Poland’s bright future.
  • Patryk Wronka is one of the most fun players to watch in hockey. While he is fun, that comes from how smart he is with the puck offensively.
  • Thank you all for following this year. We hit more record highs, and I’m sad another hockey season has come to a close.

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_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

This Could Be The Year. 2023 Men’s National Team Roster Review and Predictions

This is a piece that most years I dread writing. We usually come to the preview to the end of the Polish hockey year to recap a disappointing and exhausting year of Polish hockey. From ghost coaches, equipment not being delivered to players, national team players protesting, and overall frustrating results from the national team. Plus, we had a global pandemic, and I always think back to a conversation I had with another hockey writer about the possibility of Polish hockey dying during that pandemic due to financial problems. This year is different. There is no enormous controversy for me to talk about. There is no more significant problem casting a shadow on the event. There is a lot of optimism and hope that Poland can not only compete in Division 1 Group A. They might have a solid chance to win in the tournament and earn a promotion to the Elite Division for the first time since 2002.

This is what everything has been building to, the return to Division 1 Group A. A place Poland last competed in during the 2019 World Championship cycle. That isn’t that long ago, but it feels like a different time. That 2019 team has many of the same players competing on the 2023 squad. Is this team different enough to win? Is the competition lowered enough for Poland to win? I keep asking these questions when comparing the two groups. This is a significant opportunity for Polish hockey. The momentum of fan support and excitement is there. The players are there. If they win here, it could be a major turning point for the sport in Poland.

2022 World Championship Recap

When Poland fell to Group B in 2019, it was disappointing. It felt like a dam waiting to burst had finally hit its limit. The team failed, but it was time to win Group B and be promoted back up to the top group. That didn’t happen as Poland finished second and watched Romania climb up. Another country had passed Poland in the men’s hockey world. The following two tournaments were canceled, building up more pressure for Poland to be promoted quickly. Success at the Olympic qualifiers proved what this team could do; they just needed to do it at the Worlds.

Poland hosted the five-team tournament in Tychy. I felt nervous about every game, and it didn’t feel like Poland was better than their rivals. They started the tournament strong picking up a 3-0 win over Estonia and a 10-2 win over Serbia. It showed Poland was one of the best teams, but the powerplay struggled. Mistakes you couldn’t make against Ukraine or Japan needed to be erased. Poland vs. Ukraine had me on the edge of my seat in a close battle that went into a shootout. In the shootout, Poland was up 2-1 going into the final round. They shoot first and miss. The match was now John Murray vs. former GKS Tychy teammate and Ukrainian captain Andri Mikhnov. Murray would make the save and give Poland the overtime win. This was a hard fight, which came down to a shootout, which is always a little bit of luck.

Ukraine wasn’t even the final boss. That was Japan. Japan was a team that had mirrored Poland in many ways historically. With Yushiroh Hirano leading the charge, this Japan team looked deadly. Their offense was the best in the tournament, and in their three games, Japan scored 23 goals. Poland only scored 16. Both were too good for the group, but only one could take gold this year. A scoreless first period would kick the game off both teams as equal as can be. An unlikely hero would emerge early in the second as Arkadiusz Kostek scored to give Poland the lead. That gold would hold and be by itself until Alan Lyszczarczyk added an insurance goal with under two minutes to go. Murray and Poland would shut out Japan’s high-powered offense to win gold and promotion.

2023 Preparations

The gold made some noise in Poland, and it felt like Polish hockey had officially emerged from its dark place. They were not in the light yet, but progress was being made. All focus was put into Poland staying in Division 1 Group A and if that was feasible. The red and white were set to have a long year of exhibition matches that would give us an idea of how Poland might perform. While never getting a full-strength Poland or opponent, these games were still essential to see where the bar should be set. I tried to keep my expectations low, but Poland blew past them this year after the exhibition season.

It started in October with the Baltic Cup Challenge. Poland would start the year with their day-one opponent for the worlds in Lithuania. Poland would down them a 4-2 victory, in the perfect way to start this year. Poland would play Latvia B next and convincingly won 9-0. They ended the tournament with a 5-3 win over former D1B foe Estonia. One tournament down with Poland as the winner and a great start to the year.

The national team got together next for two matches, one against Ukraine and the other against France in December. Poland would have another close battle with Ukraine but come out on top with a 4-3 win. The France game was all action and no defense, as Poland won the thrilling contest 7-4. It is not the France squad that plays in the Elite, but against a strong group, they showed the offensive potential of this team. The second set was done, and my expectations grew more.

Poland’s biggest test to date would come in February. A Euro Ice Hockey Challenge hosted by England saw the best of Group A meet with Group B. Great Britain, Japan, Poland, and Romania faced off at the final international break before playoff season. On day one, Poland made a statement by destroying Romania 8-0. A game that felt like vengeance for that 2019 Group B tournament. The next two games would sour me a bit. Poland fell to Japan in overtime with a 4-3 loss, while Great Britain took care of Poland easily, winning 4-1. It started to really make me wonder what Poland was in for. Was staying possible, but promotion not?

In the lead-up to the Worlds, Poland packed their training camp with honestly the best teams Poland might face all year. Two exhibition games against Latvia, two against Slovenia, and two more against Hungary. Three opponents all preparing for their tournament at the Elite Division. None of them had their entire roster, but they had some strong teams that would be better than Poland will see this next week. I went into these games just wanting Poland to be competitive. Poland did more than compete. They showed they belonged in the Elite Division. Poland would split the series with Latvia, winning 5-3 in game one and losing 2-0 in game two. They went to Slovenia and played hard again, taking both games to overtime. Wronka would be a hero in round one to give Poland the 4-3 win. In game two, they would lose in extra time.

Going 2-2 in those games versus Latvia and Slovenia was terrific to watch, and it started to send my hype through the roof. I was ready for Hungary to send those hopes crashing down in the final two exhibition games. Instead, Poland would defeat their rivals in front of two hot Polish crowds. The first game was a 4-2 victory where Poland controlled the game only to lose the lead late. They didn’t panic; they regrouped and scored twice more on Hungary to reclaim their double-goal lead. In game two, they would win 3-2. They found themselves down 2-1 late into the second period, but they pulled off the comeback. This team was real. My expectations were set, and they’re at a medal with promotion.

2023 National Team Roster


John Murray

Maciej Miarka

Poland has always had to rely on their goalies. John Murray has been the savior this Polish team desperately needed. There is one thing I left out about all those exhibition games. Murray only played in three of them. One game against France, one against Slovenia, and the other against Hungary. Poland pulled off this exhibition season without having Murray bail them out with a 50-save game. Both Maciej Miarka and David Zabolotny showed out. They surprised me and showed me Poland has more depth in goal than I thought. Kamil Lewartowski was impressive in his games. Poland has goalies that can hold their own outside of Murray. Murray’s ability to steal matches helped raise my expectations even more. Check out what he did in the Champions Hockey League if you have any doubts about that.


Paweł Dronia – Patryk Wajda

Maciej Kruczek – Bartosz Ciura

Marcin Kolusz – Kamil Gorny

Oskar Jaśkiewicz – Arkadiusz Kostek

Poland’s defense is not the area I would call its strength, and they need to start looking at the future of it soon. They have held their own against strong competition and performed above what I expected. This group is also getting a big boost with the return of Paweł Dronia. The DEL2 defender will make his first IIHF appearance for Poland since 2019 and first international appearance in two years. I’m curious where he will slot into the lineup. The veteterns are all here for Poland, Bartosz Ciura, Kamil Gorny. Maciej Kruczek, Marcin Kolusz, and Patryk Wajda have held it down defensively for nearly a decade. Arkadiusz Kostek and Oskar Jaśkiewicz have quickly become vital contributors to the team. This group will have its hands full with Great Britain and Italy. Dronia and Kolusz will likely be able to assist and boost the powerplay.


Patryk Wronka – Grzegorz Pasiut – Bartosz Fraszko

Bartłomiej Jeziorski – Krystian Dziubiński – Alan Łyszczarczyk

Dominik Paś – Kamil Wałęga – Paweł Zygmunt

Radosław Galant – Filip Starzyński- Mateusz Michalski

Poland only takes 12 forwards to the tournament with no Aron Chmielewski coming. This is the group Poland rides with no matter the circumstance. There are some top-end skill players, but the two significant factors are skating and two-way game. If you don’t excel in both areas, you’re not what Kalaber seeks. The top nine all feel really balanced to me and poised to make an impact in both ends. All three lines can be counted on to push the offense and generate scoring chances. The fourth is the grind line, which will make their presence felt defensively on the special team units. Alan Łyszczarczyk and Krystian Dziubiński have shown a lot of chemistry and will undoubtedly be who Poland will give the puck to when they need a goal. Bartosz Fraszko will make his well-earned IIHF senior debut after another great year in the PHL. I have a lot of trust and faith that this group can win Poland the tournament.


Head Coach: Robert Kalaber

Assistant Coach: Grzegorz Klich

Goalie Coach: Marek Batkiewicz

Video Coach: Ireneusz Jarosz

General Manager: Leszek Laszkiewicz

I have disagreed with roster choices and other decisions a few times from Kalaber. Each time so far, I have been wrong. Kalaber is the coach for Poland. He gets what the task is and how to accomplish it. I have complete faith in him as the leader of the men’s squad. Klich joins this year as the new assistant coach. He has previously served in several different national team and PHL roles. I think he is an excellent addition to the staff. Marek Batkiewicz deserves a lot of praise for the performance of Polish goalies this year. Having them all ready for tough international opponents is a huge task, especially with their lack of playing time in the PHL. Poland has built what I think is a winning staff.


I can have all the expectations of the world, but when it comes to making my final predictions, there is still plenty of doubt. You look at the roster on paper and try not to let bias get in the way. I think Poland looks and has played like a team that can win gold, but I don’t think they are the clear favorite to do that. All these teams are going to be competitive with each other. Just because Poland doesn’t go 5-0 or 4-1 does not mean they failed.

Game 1: Lithunia vs. Poland. Key Players (LTU): Mantas Armalis (G), Emilijus Krakauskas (F), Arnoldas Bosas (F)

Lithuania took the bronze medal last year in group A. It is a scary opening match, as goaltender Mantas Armlais is a top goalie in the SHL. This gives them a player who can steal any matchup, more so than Murray. Krakuaskas plays in Switzerland’s National League. His health coming into the tournament is unknown, but he will be the offensive MVP for his country. Outside some stars, the roster is pretty weak. This game is probably more even than most fans will think, but I still mark this as a Polish Victory.

Game 2: Great Britain vs. Poland. Key Players (GBR): Ben Bowns (G), Liam Kirk (F), Ben O’Connor (D)

Great Britain returns to D1A after three years in the Elite Division. This squad is much different than the one Poland knew at the IIHF level. Ben Bowns has proven himself a great international goalie and not one easy to beat. Arizona Coyotes prospect Liam Kirk made hokey history by being drafted and has already created a solid professional career quickly. He had seven goals at the Elite tournament just a couple years ago, and that ability should scare Poland. Poland and Great Britain is a game I give a toss-up rating to. I am giving Poland the win since Murray didn’t play the first time these two teams met this year.

Game 3: Italy vs. Poland. Key Players (ITA): Alex Petan (F), Thomas Larkin (D), Dante Hannoun (F)

Poland has their most challenging tasks back to back. A team that is loading up for the Winter Olympics they’ll be hosting. Italy features eight North American imports with a North American coaching staff as well. Giving them slightly more Team Olive Garden vibes than Team Italy. Italy is the favorite in this tournament. They find themselves in D1A after being relegated from the Elite Division last year. I am willing to bet that they make it back in one try. I don’t see Poland overcoming such a strong opponent in this game. This is a loss for the Eagles. Maybe you win this one out of ten times.

Game 4: South Korea vs. Poland. Key Players (KOR): Matt Dalton (G), Sang Hoon Shin (F), Sang Wook Kim (F)

Games versus South Korea are always so hard to judge. You don’t get much hockey news about what is going on in the country. They shocked Poland and Italy and upset the Women’s Worlds earlier this month. The biggest name I see still there is Matt Dalton. The import goalie has been the leader of South Korea for the past few years, putting on fantastic performances against the best of the hockey world. Sang Hoon Shin posted a 50-point ECHL season, which makes him a significant threat in this division. Sang Wook Kim has long been this team’s captain and is still going at 35. Korea finished fourth last year, and I can see Poland outplaying them with Kalaber’s structure. This is another win for Poland.

Game 5: Romania vs. Poland. Key Players (ROU): Zoltán-László Tõke (G), Yevgeni Skachkov (F), Balázs-Szabolcs Péter (F)

Poland gets to the final day with just one loss. That would probably see a bunch of scenarios for gold, silver, and promotion on the table. Romania was saved from relegation last year by no one being relegated, and they went 0-4 with just eight goals. This team beat out Poland years ago, and it appeared they passed Poland. I don’t think that is true. I think Poland is the much better squad, and this is the game I most confidently pick as a win for Poland.

Final Record: 4-1 Silver Medal and Promotion

I did the thing I hate doing the most, predicting a lot of wins for Poland. I feel it always comes back wrong, and I have egg on my face. This year I’m just too excited and optimistic about the men’s team. I’m so happy to watch them play in Group A again with such high stakes. I also want to say that the goal is staying in Group A. Not achieving a medal shouldn’t be seen as a failure. Poland has proved it can compete with the top of Group A and the back of the Elite. It is going to be a great week of hockey.

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One Big Thrill. 2023 Men’s Division 1 Group B U18s 5 Thoughts

The Polish U18 squad was given a second chance at Division 1 after initially being relegated last year. This is due to the IIHF suspensions of Belarus and Russia. A new head coach was installed to lead the U18 squad as longtime PHL and Belarus national team coach Andrei Gusov took the reins just before the hockey season began. Last year felt like a golden opportunity to make some noise with so many good young stars who played abroad, but that team failed to gain any traction defensively or in net. Now the 2023 squad was almost 100% talent playing with Polish clubs. Could this new combination find a way to melt together and keep Poland in Division 1?

Poland started off the tournament with a strong foe in gold contender Austria. Poland played very well in this game, and I was more than impressed as they took down Austria with a final score of 3-1. Austria was the much better team on paper, but Poland played the game perfectly to cause the upset. They drove their opponent to take bad-angle shots and not give them much up in middle. On offense, Poland could draw penalties, capitalize on the powerplay, and generate a few odd-man rushes for scoring chances. Simply put, if Poland wanted to do well in the tournament, it would come down to their ability to do just what they did against Austria. Poland instead went out and did almost the opposite in their next few games. Slovenia overmatched and dispatched them with a 6-2 final score. A strong performance versus Italy only resulted in a 1-0 shutout loss. Then against the two opponents promoted from Division 2, Poland played their worst with another 6-2 loss, this time to South Korea, before ending the tournament with late heartbreak and a 2-1 loss to Estonia. They started the tournament with one big thrill, but it was all downhill from there.

Inconsistent Performances

The games against Austria and Slovenia are very similar on paper. In both games, Poland scored 3 goals while allowing exactly 42 shots. The big difference between the two is the opponent’s goal total. Austria scored once, while Slovenia scored six times. Was one game just a great start from Tyczyński, and the other a dud from him?

There are the two shot charts back-to-back. Austria is on the left, and the Slovenia game is on the right. In the game against Austria, Poland forced a lot more bad angle or far-away shots that were much easier to save. Against Slovenia, the opposing team could just do whatever they wanted in front of the net. I’m not sure how Poland played these two games back-to-back so differently. Especially in the end, Austria was the team that took home gold.

The Italian Game

The game against Italy is a really interesting piece of hockey to me. On the surface, it is easy to say Poland was the better team and just couldn’t finish. They controlled the puck more and led in the shot department by a decent margin of ten shots, 33-23 total. Poland just ran into the brick wall that is Italian goalie and NHL draft prospect Damain Clara. I think it paints the larger issue this group had thought-out the tournament with their inability to finish and generate high dangerous scoring chances. They had a large reliance on the powerplay, and odd-man rushes for goals, which is a lot of hockey. But against weaker opponents, you want to see their ability to gain the zone, cycle the puck, and produce on five-on-five. Poland was the worst scoring team at the tournament shooting just 7.2% on 125 shots. I think this is the result of Poland not developing many dynamic or creative offensive players.

Must-See Tyczynski

Undoubtedly, the MVP of the tournament for Poland was goaltender Igor Tyczyński. In his first IIHF appearance, he carried team Poland and was a stud in the net. His 41-save performance against Austria was head-turning. He carried that strong play throughout the tournament and finished with a .918 save percentage. He followed this up with great matches against Italy and Estonia. Now there was the matter of the Slovenia and South Korea games, where Poland allowed 8 goals between the two with him in the net. I don’t put that on him in the Slovenia game, as Poland gave him no help, and Slovenia could just walk to the front of the net whenever they wanted. Versus South Korea, he did let in two quick goals and got the early pull after less than 10 minutes of action. They were not great goals to let in, but Poland didn’t offer him much help in the lead-up. Overall, the young goalie was a bright spot for Poland in a dark tournament. He has quickly become Poland’s top goaltending prospect, in my opinion.

Maksymilian on the Map

Poland’s best forward in the tournament to me was Maksymilian Dawid. He led the team in points with four. He was especially effective in the game against Austria, where he was named player of the game, scoring twice and assisting on one. He later had a nice goal in the game versus Slovenia. He showed a lot of confidence with the puck and a good ability to rush up the ice. His play in the neutral zone was especially impressive, and he gained the offensive zone pretty easily. He had a lot of chemistry with the Hofmann brothers. There were a few defensive lapses, but overall, it was a great tournament.

What is next?

This was the first year under Gusov, and it’s a mixed bag for a grade. The team is being relegated to Division 2 and will have to fight its way back up. It will be interesting to see if Poland retains Gusov for the following season. We saw both the high of what Gusov and his style can do and the team’s larger problems. The U18 squad desperately needs some stability, and it takes over a year to build it up. The Austria game was one of the strongest games I have seen a Polish team play at any level. Italy and Estonia were solid games as well, despite the lack of finishing. The Slovenia and South Korea games were beyond ugly, and the team appeared to have fallen apart. This was a veteran team, and 12 players were born in 2005 and will be aged off the roster. The only major returning player is Igor Tyczynski. There could be reinforcements, with Hubert Szarzynski, Matthew McGovern, and Patryk Zubek all being eligible.

Quick Thoughts

  • Jakub Hofman had a good tourney and was great with Dawid. He led the squad with 14 shots, recording a goal and two assists. He got unlucky with some shots I thought were sure goals.
  • Karol Sobecki had a really solid tournament and worked well as the leading defenseman on the powerplay.
  • Poland allowed 30 goals at the tournament last year, which was cut down to just 16 this year. They also somehow scored two fewer goals, finishing with nine after scoring 11 in 2022.
  • Krystian Lisowski showed a lot of good flashes in this tournament, but I was hoping to see more. He finished second on the team in shots with 13.
  • Former PHL defensemen and current Toruń assistant coach Łukasz Podsiadło made his IIHF coaching debut serving in the same role.

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8 Players to Watch on Poland at the 2023 U18s

My favorite month of the year is here! Why is it April? Three of Poland’s national teams are in IIHF action, the sport’s busiest time of the year. With that, getting lost in the hockey action can be easy. So we wanted to list who we will keep an eye on this year at the U18s. I don’t know how I feel about the team this year, but one thing for sure is that they will be quite a different team. This year the team is being led by Belarusian head coach Andrei Gusov. Gusov needs no introduction to Polish fans, previously winning a PHL championship with GKS Tyhcy. On his resume, you’ll also see he is formerly a KHL head coach and member of the Belarus national team staff. Will the new coach and some standout talent be able to keep Poland in Divison 1 Group B?

Igor Tyczyński & Maksymilian Kura

Igor Tyczyński may be the future of the Polish national team in the net. After a strong season in the MHL with Cracovia in 2022, he spent most of the 2023 season with Team Poland U16 in the Czech U17 second league. When we go back to exhibition games in December, he played in both, stopping 38 out of the 41 shots he faced and four out of five shooters in the shootout vs. Hungary. I have a lot of excitement for what is to come with him. He only played in two MHL games this year, one with Janow and one with SMS PZHL Katowice.

Igor Tyczyński saves vs. Hungary. International Exhibition

The starter of SMS PZHL Katowice was last year’s U18 backup Maksymilian Kura, who is also returning to the squad. Kura led the MHL in save percentage with .939 in 15 games and stayed strong in the playoffs. His fantastic MHL performance puts Kura in the lead role for the starter spot. When we look at previous U18 starters, they have all been either the starter or split starter for SMS PZHL Katowice at the past few events.

Maybe a new coach would change that philosophy of thinking. At the most recent tournament in Bytom, Kura started once, posting an 18-save game with 4 goals allowed versus Lithuania. He would back up Tyczyński in the next two games, who pitched a 32-save shutout versus Hungary and a 24-save performance with two allowed versus Estonia. I think these are the two for Poland, and it will be fascinating to see who gets the start. Based on how both have played, I feel Poland is in good hands.

Karol Sobecki

Sobcecki Goal vs. Ukraine. 2022 U18s

Now that we know the net is in good hands, let’s look at the first line of defense. One of the leading defenders that will be returning is Karol Sobecki. Last year at the event, he scored twice and added an assist. His three points tied for third on Poland. This year, he made a jump I didn’t anticipate in turning professional with GKS Tychy. He spent most of the year with the top club, playing in 18 PHL games. That senior experience in such a great club did wonders for his development, and I’m super interested to see him back this year.

Blazej Chodor

Chodor Goal vs. Lodz. 2022 MHL season

Our next defender is also blazing quite a few trails as well. Chodor has good size and can do just about everything on the ice. It was not too much of a surprise when he made the Polish U20 team this year, and that should also make him an automatic lock for a U18 return. Chodor is a player that just needs a breakout moment and is someone I could see strong clubs abroad loving, especially those in North America. This tournament could be it! Of course, Chodor had a strong year at home for SMS PZHL Katowice. In the MHL, he led all defensemen with 30 points (13G-17A-30PTS) in 35 games. Another U18 team defender, Michal Starosciak from Sanok, was behind him with 26 points (10G-16A-26PTS). It seems like Poland will have some solid two-way options at the event.

Tomasz Marzec

Now we go to a player I am watching because I know very little about them, probably like you. Marzec is a defenseman with both Polish and Swedish citizenship. He developed in the Södertälje SK youth system before moving to Järna SK J18 in 2021. He has done well in Sweden’s J18 Div1 with 19 points (4G-15A-19PTS) in 22 games. He also appeared in the year’s first five U18 exhibition matches but did not appear in Bytom during early February. It is hard to know what Poland has in him, but growing up in such a different development system has me more than intrigued.

Krystian Lisowski

Lisowski was one of the Polish forwards we were the most excited to follow this year. In 2022, had a great year in the top level of U18 hockey in Finland, with 38 points in 44 games. This year that production saw a bit of a drop, with nine goals and ten assists for 19 points in 38 games. Now a significant factor was moving from Kiekko-Espoo’s challenger squad to their primary team. That puts him up on another level with some better coaching and teammates. His performance at the U18s could be a good way for him to put a cherry on top of a strong season.

The Suite Life of Jakub and Jonasz

Jakub Hofamn Goal Assisted by Maksymilian Dawid and Jonasz Hofman.

Poland might be looking for twin magic at the upcoming event, as twins Jakub and Jonasz Hofman will likely make their IIHF debuts. The 17-year-old brothers have good size and were a solid scoring threat on SMS PZHL Katowice in the MHL and with Janow in the U18 league. Jakub Hofman finished with 18 points (10G-8A-18PTS) in 24 games. Jonasz just edged out his brother with 20 points (13G-7A-20PTS) in 27 games. The brothers finished sixth and seventh in MHL scoring among U18 skaters. Their Janow and Katowice teammate Maksymilian Dawid was able to edge them out in MHL scoring with 26 points. Given the trio’s chemistry, I imagine they might be a line for Poland at the U18s. Other forward options for Poland include Dawid Lojas, Rafał Drabik, and Sebastian Wojciechowski, who have all performed well for Poland at non-IIHF events.

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At Least It Had a Happy Ending? 2022 Men’s U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships 5 Thoughts

Poland lucked into being back in the Division 1 Group B U20 World Championships. By lucked in, I mean that Belarus and Russia invaded Ukraine and were thus suspended from IIHF competition. This meant instead of being relegated to Division 2, Poland was once again at the bottom of Division 1. So now, with a second chance at life, could Poland correct their mistakes and return to the top of the division for a chance at promotion?

Poland started off the tournament with Estonia. The same team that embarrassed Poland last year in overtime in a game they 100% should have won. Estonia came in with a better roster and once again took Poland to overtime. This time though, Poland would prevail victoriously and win 4-3. The next contest was against Ukraine, who Poland had just played in two pre-tournament exhibition games. While in the exhibition games, Poland appeared to be the better team, in IIHF action Ukraine dominated Poland and won 5-2. Poland’s third test with promotion on the line came against Japan. I hate to say it because this is a squad of teenagers, but this game was the worst performance I have ever seen from any Polish IIHF squad at any level, and the score would reflect that with a 7-3 loss. Poland would then lose a deflating game against Italy, taking them out of the race for third place. Italy allowed the most goals in the tournament going into the game, and Poland only found the back of the net once and lost 2-1. Poland needed a win on the tournament’s final day to avoid relegation for a second straight year. They would get more than just a win as they put their foot to the pedal and never took it off, beating South Korea 11-2. Compared to last year, Poland looked better against the teams below them but somehow worse against the teams considered better. It took two teams getting promoted for Poland to stay in Division 1, which is far from ideal.

No Structure + No Displcine = Awful Hockey

Last year I was shocked by the lack of discipline and structure in the U20 squad. I don’t know how it was even worse this year. Poland was doing things that would be not accepted at the U14 level, let alone the U20 level. There are serious issues when it comes to junior coaching in Poland. Polish defenders looked lost on the ice and had no idea how to recover when the slightest things would go wrong. Players would just collide with each other like little kids. It was so frustrating to watch. Let alone the lack of any defensive awareness was Poland just being stupid and letting their emotions get the best of them. Poland took 29 penalties in the tournament, tied for the second most. A lot of these came at crucial times as well. The worst part was with poor defensive play; Poland couldn’t recover from their mistakes and finished with the second worst penalty kill by penalty killing percentage and was tied for first in goals allowed shorthanded. Poland desperately needs to fix these issues. As if this continues, it is a bad sign for the future of the national team and PHL.

Who is Next in Net?

Given everything said in the last part, it should not be surprising that Polish goalies didn’t have the greatest tournament. Mikołaj Szczepkowski was the team’s primary starter, and I believe he had a better tournament than his stats say. He recorded a .883 save percentage in 3.66 games and faced the third most shots in the tournament. There were quite a few goals were there was nothing he could do, as the Polish defense left an opposing forward wide-open. Szymon Klimowski saw limited action in the tournament, starting one game and finishing the game against South Korea. He struggled at times when in, especially with a rough early start versus Ukraine. These were not performances that sparked much hope about the position’s future in Poland.

The Leader

It should be no surprise that Poland’s offensive leader in the tournament was Krzysztof Macias. The Nowy Targ native finished with seven goals and three assists for ten points. His ten points tied for first, with Japan’s Kotaro Murase, for the lead in the tournament. He led all players in goals by two with his seven. He also easily led Poland in the shot department with 25, eight more than the next Polish skater. All of this combined to earn him the best player of team Poland honors as selected by the coaches. While it was impressive, it also came in mainly two games. Against South Korea, Macias scored four goals and assisted on three; he also had a two-goal performance against Estonia. Macias only managed a lone goal against Italy and was held pointless versus Japan and Ukraine. The 18-year-old will still be eligible for Poland next season, and I hope to see his scoring against Estonia and Korea versus Poland’s top opponents.

Klutch Kusak

Patryk Kusak was a forward I did not expect much of in this tournament. He was penciled in on the third line coming in and had not been having the best club season in the top Czech junior level. Kusak blew past my expectations and was one of Poland’s most impactful and hardest-working forwards. He managed the third most points on the team with five (3G-2A-5PTS). This included two goals and one assist against Japan. That three-point performance earned him player of the game honors for Poland. He had a really solid showing for Poland at the tournament, no matter the opponent’s strength.

What is Next?

Poland was tied for the third oldest team at the tournament. 13 players will not be eligible for next year’s squad. They had one of the oldest squads and still came up short. Poland went from four straight silver medals and battling with the likes of France, Norway, and Slovenia for the promotion to fighting to stay in Division 1 against Estonia and South Korea. For Poland to stay in Division 1, they had to beat a team with only two regulation wins in the previous year’s Division 2 tournament. The last three team’s performances are more than concerning for Poland, which paints a grim future for the national team. While there have been some significant forward prospects, goaltending and defense have looked bare. Poland can either get a new coach to coach up the talent, or they need to revamp the junior system to bring up the talent level as a whole.

Quick Hits

  • Defensemen Kacper Macias served as captain and was Poland’s best defender in the tournament and second-leading scorer. He recorded an impressive seven assists at the tournament. Five of the assists came in the match against South Korea, where he earned player of the game honors.
  • The Super Macias Brothers, Kacper and Krzysztof Macias, were first and second on team Poland in scoring. The elder brother often assisting on his younger brother’s goals
  • Kurnicki would be my pick for Poland’s second-best defender. He stood out on quite a few penalty kill shifts, where he was not afraid to put his body on the line.
  • Adrian Gromadzki had a solid tournament and is another player that will be a key player next year.

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Polish Men’s U20: Preview, Roster Breakdown, and Predictions

The 2023 IIHF international season will kick off for Poland as they host the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships in Bytom. Poland will be competing in their group for the ninth straight season. They are only competing in Group B for a ninth straight year as Belarus and Russia were suspended from IIHF play for the 2023 season. Their suspensions resulted in Poland staying in the group despite being relegated last year. So what happened last year, and can this team avoid the same pitfall?

2022 was a tournament ground for sounding alarms that Polish junior hockey might be in deep trouble. Poland lost all five games they played, including blowout defeats to France and Japan, while also getting embarrassed late and beaten in overtime by Estonia. Both Poland’s offense and goaltending were non-existent in the tournament. Poland also showed an incredibly undisciplined brand of hockey that saw them average a period per game shorthanded. The performance left me calling for jobs and significant lineup changes. Player wise we will see a lot of changes this year, but the staff remains the same.

The Staff 

SMS PZHL Katowice coach Artur Ślusarczyk remains behind the bench as head coach for the Polish U20 squad. This will be his second IIHF tournament for Poland as a head coach. Along with leading the U20 team last year, Ślusarczyk was an assistant coach for the men’s senior team at the Division 1 Group B World Championships, where the team won gold and promotion. He was also a part of the Polish staff that won gold and promotion with the U18 team in division two. I hope to see a much better performance from his roster this time around. 

Arkadiusz Burnat and Bartłomiej Nowak will return as assistant coaches, Nowak liking serving as the goaltending coach. Both served with Ślusarczyk on Poland U18 but are still very young in their coaching careers. Nowak briefly served as goaltending coach with GKS Katowice in 2022 but was relieved of his duties three months into the year. Burnat previously worked as a player coach with UKH Debica in the second league. Marta Zawalska will once again serve as team manager. It will be her fifth time in the role for Poland IIHF teams.


Poland brought in four goalies to camp this year. Mikołaj Szczepkowski is the only goalie returning from last year’s team. He had some highlights against Slovenia but struggled greatly at times. He has spent the entire season in the MHL with UKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec posting a .888 SV%. He did start one of Poland’s pre-tournament games against Ukraine, stopping 33 shots and allowing two goals in the 4-2 win. I expect him to be the main starter for Poland at the tournament. 

The starter for Poland’s other friendly match was Szymon Klimowski. In the pre-tournament match, Klimowski stopped 30 shots in a 2-1 loss. This year he played in four matches for Podhale Nowy Targ, posting a .863 SV%, which is up from his numbers in seven games last year. He also owns a .852 SV% in 7 MHL games. I expect him to splint starts with Szczepkowski. 

Filip Wiszyński and Tomasz Grobelkiewicz also attended camp but only served as backups against Ukraine. To me, that was the sign of who Poland will take as their goalies for their tournament. I thought Grobelkiewicz would grab the starting spot this year. He has the best stats in the MHL with a .902 SV% in 9 games for Polonia Bytom. He was also great last year for SMS PZHL Katowice. Plus, if you’re a goalie-size person, he is the tallest goalie by two inches. Wiszyński also had a solid season with UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, posting a .897 SV% in 9 games.. A really tough choice for Poland, with all goalies being in their final year of eligibility.


The defense comes in with ten skaters, so I expect three cuts from the group. Only two players will be returning from last year. Kacper Maciaś is going to be the defensive leader on this team. The 19-year-old will be making his final appearance for the U20 squad and has played in 22 PHL games this year with GKS Katowice. Young promising defenseman Eryk Schafer will also be returning. At only 18, Schafer will already play in his second U20 IIHF tournament. He was a ball of energy last year, and I’m excited to see how he has developed.

The remaining eight can be split into the 19-year-olds and the young players looking to make their mark early. Outside of the two returning locks, Marlon Wróbel seems like a lock to make it. Wróbel played in 15 games this year in the PHL with STS Sanok. He also has 12 points (1-11-12) in 15 MHL games. He spent both games against Ukraine on the top pairing with Kacper Maciaś. Jakub Wilk, Jan Stępień, & Szymon Gurzyński from Polonia Bytom are all trying to make the squad in their final year of eligibility as well. Stępień and Wilk seem likely to make the team as Poland’s third defensive pairing, as they played in the spot in both games against Ukraine. Both have been a steady presence for Bytom this year, with Wilk leading defensemen in points on the team. Gurzyński appeared in only one friendly game and took two minor penalties on the fourth pairing. 

In the group of young players, Oliwier Kurnicki has cemented himself on the second pairing with Torun teammate Eryk Schafer. Kurnicki scored against Ukraine in Poland’s 4-2 win in their first exhibition match. He has had a great club season with two assists in 15 PHL games on KH Torun, along with 14 points in 15 games at the MHL level. Karol Sobecki is someone I thought would challenge to make the roster at 17 like Schafer did last year. Sobecki has appeared in 12 games for GKS Tychy, along with scoring twice in nine MHL games. He would be my pick for the seventh defenseman. Blazej Chodor also had his shot at making the team. The 17-year-old has a lot of potential, but I’m not sure if he will be ready this year for the U20 squad. Kacper Łukawski has an outside chance at grabbing the final spot on the team, given his familiarity with head coach Ślusarczyk. Chodor, Sobecki, and Łukawski only appeared in one game in the fourth pairing during friendly matches. It seems Poland came in pretty set with their defense. 


The biggest thing about the offense is Krzysztof Macias. Not since Alan Łyszczarczyk has Poland had such an all-star player in their squad, and Macias might even be better. This year already, he has made his debut with the senior national team and at the top level of hockey in Czechia. Macias might be the best prospect to come out of Poland in the past decade. Poland will no doubt be hoping he can carry this team to gold. 

He won’t be alone in that quest, as Poland has a decent supporting cast. Poland brought 15 forwards to camp, and about eight players seem to have their spots secured. Still expect two cuts from this group. On the top line, he is likely to be joined by Jakub Ślusarczyk, his teammate at HC Vitkovice U20. Ślusarczyk has been one of Poland’s best performers on the international stage and is starting to prove himself on the club level in Czechia. They will not be the only players from the Czech U20 league as Adrian Gromadzki (HC Dynamo Pardubice U20), Aleks Menc (HC Karlovy Vary U20), Michał Kusak (HC Karlovy Vary U20), and Patryk Kusak (HC Olomouc U20) have all likely locked their place on the roster. Six forwards in Czechia’s top U20 level is a rare sight for Poland and will give them some solid options up and down the lineup. 

Outside Poland’s junior prospects in Czechia, Karol Sterbenz and Szymon Maćkowski have locked spots. Sterbenz plays for HK Poprad U20 in Slovakia’s top U20 league and has seen a decent production increase compared to last season. He spent both exhibition games on the top line with Macias and Ślusarczyk. Szymon Maćkowski made it to the PHL this year and has two goals and two assists with KH Torun in 17 games. That leads all U20 skaters in the PHL by two points. Paweł Wybiral should also be safe, given he is returning from last year’s team, where he recorded a goal and assist in five games. 

This leaves six players for the four remaining spots, who will be the fourth line and the extra skater. Arkadiusz Karasiński, David Wawrzkiewicz, Filip Sienkiewicz, Marcin Dulęba, Mikołaj Kociszewski, and Piotr Ciepielewski. Only one of the players from this group played in both exhibition games against Ukraine, which seemed to set the lineup for the tournament, especially in the top six and on defense. Arkadiusz Karasiński playing in both games makes me think he is safe, and I would be very happy to see the Lodz hockey product make it. Mikołaj Kociszewski has experience with the head coach and has been a top scorer in the MHL. Piotr Ciepielewski has PHL experience and substantial MHL numbers. Filip Sienkiewicz spent most of his year in the PHL with one goal in 18 games. David Wawrzkiewicz plays in the USA in the USPHL Premier, a league in which quite a few opponents also have players from. Marcin Dulęba is one of the best playmakers in the MHL and records some of the best U20 assist numbers in the league. You can argue for each player to appear on the final line. 

Projected Lineup

Krzysztof Macias – Karol Sterbenz – Jakub Ślusarczyk

Aleks Menc – Adrian Gromadzki – Michał Kusak

Patryk Kusak – Szymon Maćkowski – Paweł Wybiral

Mikołaj Kociszewski – Piotr Ciepielewski – Arkadiusz Karasiński

Filip Sienkiewicz

Kacper Maciaś – Marlon Wróbel

Eryk Schafer – Oliwier Kurnicki

Jakub Wilk – Jan Stępień

Karol Sobecki

Mikołaj Szczepkowski

Szymon Klimowski

Can this lineup compete better than last year in the group? It is hard to say; I feel very shaky about the goaltending with how they played last year. The defensive group should have a lot more chemistry this season, thanks to players that already play on the same paring in their club seasons. Still, it is not the best group Poland has ever taken to this tournament and has never really been the vital part. Offensively there is a lot of talent in this group, but its key players are also very young. Still another group that knows each other well, and that should help with chemistry. I overall feel better about this team thanks to the true star power it might have at the top. If the offense falters like last year, I don’t think the defense can recover. 


Poland will start the tournament on Sunday, Dec. 11, vs. Estonia. Estonia survived relegation last year by beating Poland in overtime. The goaltending on this team looks unknown, and together have played four total club games in 2022-23. Klaus Kaspar Jõgi will lead the team offensively, and he plays in the second level of US junior hockey, the NAHL. Deniss Kontseus and Nikita Stepanov, who play with Krefelder EV 1981 U20 (DNLU20), should also be considered scoring threats. Marek Potšinok is also doing well in the top level of Finnish junior hockey. A young potent offense will be scary, but they have questions on the defensive end and in the net. Estonia is much like Poland. Still, I like what I see here for Poland, and I predict a win. 

Poland’s second game will be on Monday, Dec. 12, vs. Ukraine. It is great to see Ukraine at this tournament. We also know how this match should go based on Poland’s pre-tournament matches. I like Poland’s chances as long as the offense can capitalize. I predict a second Poland win. 

Poland’s third game will be taking on Japan on Wednesday, Dec. 14.  Games vs. Japan are always hard to tell, given the lack of information about the junior level in the country. Still, they will have five players coming to the team that played in US junior leagues last year. The top name to watch is Yusaku Ando, who finished with nine points in five games last year. Japan only lost one of their top scorers from last year, while 6’5 goalie Ryuto Nakamoto will be joining this year after an impressive start to his USPHL season. I don’t see Poland finding a way to win this one. The Japan offense was too strong last year and only came back more experienced. 

Poland’s fourth contest will come against Italy on Friday, Dec 16. Poland will face off with likely the best player in the tournament, Tommy Purdeller, who currently plays in the Ontario Hockey League for the Peterborough Petes. Damian Clara should be a force in the net, possibly as well for the Italians. There are a lot of big names in big leagues on this squad, but a lack of depth. I don’t think Poland will be able to stop their rise. There is just too much talent and experience for Poland to overcome. 

Poland’s last match will be on Saturday, Dec 17, vs. South Korea. South Korea is the true wildcard of this tournament, as like Japan, there is little information about their team. They were promoted to Division 1 Group B due to the Belarus and Russia suspensions. The team looks to be hurting due to players aging out. South Korea will lose all five top scorers from last year, along with their starting goalie. I will give Poland a win here, but it is hard to say until the tournament begins. 

Final Record: 3-2. Good for Bronze


After a disastrous tournament last year, I do see Poland getting on track, but that is more due to the drop in talent for the division than it is the change in the team. Poland is lucky to be back in Division 1 Group B and can’t waste a golden opportunity to possibly get a promotion or at least stay in the group. Maybe there is a chance that Macias can carry Poland to gold with his strong offensive supporting cast, but it is just as likely that this young Polish team crumbles to their opponent’s star players like last year.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. Stats and Notes

The Men’s top 80 list has officially concluded for the year. It is now time to look at just some random notes for the list, like which team had the most players or which player had the highest rise. This year’s goal was to give more credit to goaltenders again, but it is hard to rank them in Poland, given the sparse opportunities available for them. Still, they almost tied defensemen in representation on the list. The defensive group will likely be the next position group I evaluate and change how I rank.

All Articles

Players 80-51Players 30-21Players 10-8Player 3
Players 50-41Players 20-16Players 7-6Player 2
Players 40-31Players 15-11Players 5-4Player 1

Entire Top 80 Board

Biggest Risers

  1. Blazej Chodor +42
  2. Michał Kusak +39
  3. Krzyzstof Macias +33
  4. Jakub Ślusarczyk +29
  5. Oliwier Kasperek +28

Biggest Drops

  1. Jakub Blanik -22
  2. Kacper Gruzla -21
  3. Marcel Kotula & Michal Cychowski -19
  4. Bartosz Florczak -18
  5. Jakub Wenker -16

Highest List Debuts

  1. Eryk Schafer (23)
  2. Dominik Kolat (24)
  3. Krystian Lisowski (33)
  4. Kacper Macias (40)
  5. Filip Sienkiewicz (42)

Player I Wish I Ranked Higher

Michał Proczek – Really solid defenseman, and the more I reviewed film and statistics on players above him the more I thought I made a mistake in rating him so low.

Player I Wish Ranked Lower

Szymon Bieniek – The player I have the least amount of film on over the past three years. But he is one that coaches love and statistics favor. Those big stats often come at lower US junior levels. His offseason ending with him signing in Division 3 of Sweden is not really inspiring.

Filip Plonka – Still a lot to love in him as a goalie. Just other goalies had better years and better numbers. The limited amount of games is going to potentially really hurt long-term development.

Players By Team

Players By Position

County By Country


  • Every year the player ranked #2 has been different and featured 4 different players.
  • With only one player, this is the least amount of JKH GKS Jastrzebie players on the list.
  • The highest amount of players playing in Sweden to be ranked.
  • The lowest amount of players playing in Germany to be ranked.
  • The highest amount of goalies to be ranked.
  • The lowest amount of forwards to be ranked.
  • Defensemen are up 3 versus last year.

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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, 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.

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_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!