Category: Mens Prospects

What Happen to The Last Polish U20 Team to Earn Promotion?

When a junior squad wins IIHF gold and thus promotion to the next level, it can be the start of something great for a national team. It could be a sign that their development system is starting to work, they have the core of their next national team, or they just got lucky.

Luck plays a big part in a team getting promoted as the biggest obstacle to getting promoted is the team that was relegated from the higher division the previous year. For Poland this has been their achilles heel at times. As seen when, one of the best Polish U20 teams in a long time felt short to Norway. It is amazing that teams with players like Alan Lyszczarczyk, Dominik Pas, Jan Soltys, and Patryk Wronka failed to earn promotion.

Poland recently released their first roster of the year for an upcoming grouping in Warsaw, this team features a lot of new players for the initial camp.  These fresh faces may be the key to Poland finally earning promotion after so many silver medals. With that in mind, today I decided to look back at the team that last moved Poland up to Group A. Did Poland get their future core, or did they just get lucky.

Goalies

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Dawid Zabolotny – The starting goalie was Polish-German Dawid Zabolotny. In five games, he recorded a .933 SV%. Zabolotny served as a starter and split starter over the next four years with JKH GKS Jastrzebie. He would eventually be pushed out of the role by the Ondrej Raszka and Tomas Fucik pairing. The 5’11 goalie has served as a starting goalie for various German teams in the Oberliga since 2017. He also continues to make sporadic national team appearances usually in a back-up role. He remains a large part of the national team’s future.

Mateusz Skrabalak – The back up goalie made two IIHF rosters, but never played a game. He had show flashes of potential with Sanok, but was always way too inconsistent. He did not play anywhere in 2020, after spending the last two seasons with KH 58 Sanok in the third Slovak league.

Defensemen

Arkadiusz Kostek – One of the finest player from Opole made his first appearance for the Polish U20 squad at 2013 tournament. He would play the next six years with Opole, until financial reasons eventually made him leave the club. Since joining JKH GKS Jastrzebie, he has gained a lot of momentum. He is now starting to make consistent national team appearances, including at the past Olympic qualifiers.

Dariusz Gaczoł – A product of the Podhale system, he made his only U20 appearance in 2013. He played one year with the senior club in 2014. Gaczoł retired in 2016, after two years with PPWSZ Podhale Nowy Targ.

Jakub Gimiński – The 5’11 defensemen made his second appearance for the U20 squad. He would captain the U20 team the following season. He bounced around between Krynica and Torun before setting in nicely with Jastrzebie. Jastrzebie has been his home for the last five seasons, and he has re-signed for the 2021 season. The stay at home defensemen has made a few senior team appearances at non-IIHF events.

Łukasz Bułanowski – The big 6-5 Warsaw native seemed to have a bright future. He had the size and was developing a strong two-way game. Early in the 2016 season, he was given a doping suspension that ended his year. Upon his return to training in 2017, he suffered major injury and retired from hockey.

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Łukasz Sznotala – Another Opole product that made the squad, which seems so weird  to say in 2020. Sznotala had switched over to Cracovia Krakow playing full time in the PHL. This led to a three assist performance at the U20s, which was enough to lead Polish defensemen in points. He would later return to Opole in 2015 and played there until 2019, when he retired.

Marcin Kołodziej – This was the Zaglebie Sosnowiec’s product first appearance for Poland U20, and his last as he would retire after the season.

Piotr Huzarski – The Torun born defensemen was making his second appearance for the Polish team recording a goal and assist at the tournament. He later would help Torun earn promotion to the PHL. He played one season with KS Torun in the PHL, but then mostly left hockey besides a handful of games with Ponzan in the second league from 2016 to 2018.

Forwards

Adam Domogala – The Polish forward with German heritage appeared to have quite the ceiling. He had 41 points with 47 games in Germany’s third league the Oberliga as a 19-year-old. He finished tied for second on team Poland in points with eight. Since then the forward has yet to reach his potential, but spent two years in the DEL2, along with five years with Cracovia Krakow. He would win two PHL championships with Krakow. He made his senior IIHF debut at last year’s World Championships recording two goals.

Damian Zarotynski – Zarotynski was making his second appearance on the U20 squad and did quite well recording five points. He followed this up with a 24 point 2014 PHL season with Podhale, but retired after the srong year.

Dawid Majoch – The Zaglebie Sosnowiec forward was making his second appearance for the Polish U20 squad. He recorded one point in five games. Since then he bounced around the PHL in bottom six roles. He spent the 2019 season in the Slovak third league, but didn’t play anywhere in 2020.

Filip Starzyński – Another of the big three forward trio, Starzyński was the team’s captain and coming off a strong rookie year in the NAHL. He recorded eight points at the tournament. The following year he doubled his NAHL point total. and committed to the University of Alabama-Huntsville. He ended up transferring to Northern Michigan. In three years at Northern Michigan, he posted 12 points in 101 games. He returned to Poland after college, and played with GKS Katowice the past couple years. He is solid in the face off circle and defensively, but his offensive skill set just isn’t there. He was a member of team Poland at the 2019 World Championships, and at last year’s Olympic qualifiers.

Filip Stopiński – Stopiński has remained a polarizing player to this day. This was his first U20 appreance. The following year, he would play in Germany’s Oberliga and with Opole. He served as the U20 team’s assisant captain when the team was relegated from division 1A. He would spend the next four seasons with Opole. He was really putting together a break out 2018 season til a injury ended it. He returned to the Oberliga the following season and has played there since, besides one game for Janow in the PHL. This year with ERC Sonthofen he recorded 40 points in 46 games. I still believe Stopiński could be a late developer, but injuries and inconsistency have hampered him a lot.

Jakub Stasiewicz – Stasiewicz made his one and only apperance for the U20 team recording an assist. Since the the tournament, he has bounced around the bottom lines for a few PHL teams, mostly staying close to Gdansk. He spent last year with Lotos PKH Gdansk recording 12 points in 44 games. He is one of the few players from PKH Gdansk to sign with Stoczniowiec Gdansk for the 2021 season.

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Kacper Guzik – Guzik is the final part of the big three forward trio on the team that never really reached their expected ceiling. He spent most of his career in American junior leagues, even reaching the NAHL. He went professional right away after returning to Poland. He became a key part of GKS Tychy over the next two seasons, including a point per game regular season. He led team Poland at the event with 11 points. Since then Guzuk has always struggled with injuries and inconsistency. He spent the 2020 season in Podhale, recording two goals and an assist in 14 games.

Karol Szaniawski – Szaniawski served as the assistant captain for the U20 squad in his second run with the team. He would retire in 2015 after a couple of seasons with Legia Warszawa.

Łukasz Nalewajka and Radosław Nalewajka – The Jastrzebie twins are both a valuable part of JKH GKS Jastrzebie playing crucial roles in the line up at times, along with both serving as captain for the team. Both have received sporadic national team chances since their U20 team days, but neither have developed into top PHL players.

Martin Pawelski – Pawelski has spent his entire career in Slovakia with HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas. He still plays for their B team. The B team currently plays in the fourth level of Slovak hockey.

Michał Kalinowski – Kalinowski is the one of the best players recently to come out of Torun. In 2013, he played for Katowice, Polonia, and Tourn. He also recorded three points at U20s.  Since the 2013 season, he has spent six of the seven seasons with KH Torun. He also has recorded three 20 goal seasons in the PHL during that time, including a career-high 25 goal season last year. This was second among all Polish players in the PHL.

Patryk Malicki – Malicki was one of the youngest players on team and making his first of three appearances for the U20 squad. A strong two-way game and decent size made him an intriguing prospect. The 24-year-old has spent his entire career with Unia Oswiecim, besides a short loan to Janow. He remains a valuable part of the team’s bottom six forward group contributing around just over ten points a year.

The Conclusion

It is not a great sign for the future when you can only call a couple players on this team national team regulars. There is kinda a shocking amount of them who no longer play hockey at all. I did some quick checking around for similar teams and country, and while quite a few players do retire young each time. This Polish squad definitely had quite a few above the average.

For Poland, this class of young players didn’t live up to their potential. There is also still a lot of time for players in the class to make or break it. Arkadiusz Kostek, Adam Domogala, David Zabolotny, Filip Starzyński, Filip Stopiński, Jakub Gimiński, and Michał Kalinowski all appear to at least be great national team depth or have a chance to be a solid contributor to Poland. The team had a lot of players in junior and pro leagues that young Polish players struggle to get into now. They also are the only Polish team to win gold and promotion to Group A. With that amount of talent and accomplishment, you would have hoped to get a few key national pieces.

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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #1

We have now reached the top five of the list. When making the list, I had about three tiers of players divided by what I believe the player was most likely capable of. The top five are their own tier of players that I would label as the definitive players that are the future of Polish hockey. These five players have the potential to elevate Polish hockey to a new level. They’re all more than capable of being top players in Poland, or key players outside the country. Poland reaching the elite division and staying there relies a lot on these players reaching their full potential.

Players 50-41Players 15-13Player 9Player 5
Players 40-31Player 12Player 8Player 4
Players 30-21Player 11Player 7Player 3
Players 20-16Player 10Player 6Player 2

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in rankings

1 – Alan Łyszczarczyk (F), 23, Fort Wayne Komets, (1,0)

One of the my favorite things about doing this list is tracking the movement of players, seeing whose rised and fell. Since I started the list when it was only a top 10 list with U20 players, one player has always held the top spot. That is Łyszczarczyk who is without a doubt on track to be the best Polish forward of this century. The number one spot in this list has always been obvious because of that.

Łyszczarczyk officially kicked off his professional hockey career this year, after signing with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. Łyszczarczyk was coming off his best junior hockey season to date after his overage season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Along with playing for the Komets, he was invited to the training camp of the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League. With the Wolves he appeared in one preseason game. The Podhale native showed everyone what a force he could be when early in training camp one his shots broke the glass on the boards.

He quickly became a fan-favorite for the team as he flourished on the ice. In his rookie ECHL season, the six foot Polish forward recorded 19 goals and 27 assist for 46 points in 57 games. His point total was tied for 46th overall in the league. Among U23 players his points ranked ninth in the league. It was also fifth among rookies in the ECHL this year. It earned him rookie of the year honors on the Komets team.

This tweet really stuck out to me, as it something that has always rung true about Łyszczarczyk. He seems to have the statistics that others players who get drafted or receive big chances do. At the time of writing a few years ago, only three players that matched Łyszczarczyk’s OHL rookie year production did not get drafted. Of the top 10 U23 players for points in the ECHL, Łyszczarczyk is one of the only two to not receive any kind of American Hockey League call-up during the season. One of the issues that hurt his OHL years was consistent production. It wasn’t a problem this year in the ECHL.

Points vs. Date

The reason may lie in something that has nothing to do with his offensive game though. “He’s got vision that you can’t teach, He can see the open ice. He skates extremely well. He can make those skill plays. He places the puck where he wants to. Offensively, he’s really gifted. The only thing keeping him out of the next level is his defensive awareness. That’s why he’s here, to learn that. I think he’s getting better at that,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau told the Journal Gazette.

During the year Łyszczarczyk was able to earn the trust of the coaching staff in defensive situations. This is just showing another evolution in his game. Everything I could tell you about him as a player is the same as the quotes from Boudreau. Łyszczarczyk is a like firework show on offense, you just have to sit back and enjoy. Offensively he can shoot with the best of them, break any defenders’ ankles, and set up his teammates for the easiest goals of their lives. His all-around game is really starting to come together and that is going to open a lot of doors at the next level.

Next season is all mystery still in the COVID-19 world. The Komets did initially make Łyszczarczyk a restricted free agent, but Łyszczarczyk returned to Europe and joined fellow young national team forward Pawel Zygmunt on HC Litvinov. HC Litvinov plays in the top level of Czechia hockey the Tipsport Extraliga. Club director Pavel Hynek commented on the signing saying, “Alan is a player who records progress every year. He achieved excellent results in the youth categories in the Czech Republic and was able to confirm them both in the Canadian junior and in the first season among men.” As of right now, the deal is only a one-month tryout.

Right after he agreed to his try-out in Czechia, more news broke on his future. The Idaho Steelheads traded for his ECHL rights. Their head coach Everett Sheen offered a lot of praise, “Alan is a tremendous young talent and had a very productive rookie season. We are excited to add a young offensive talent like him.” As of writing the ECHL has not announced any return to play plans.

This was Łyszczarczyk’s last year on the list. It has been interesting to follow his U23 career since he was 16, and I have talked to plenty of coaches, staff, and other writers in that time. One thing everyone will tell you about Łyszczarczyk is that he is an amazing person. He likes to keep things lose and is always smiling. On top of that, no one works harder than him. That hard work has taken him from Poland to Czechia to Canada for junior hockey and now professional hockey in Czechia and the United States. He makes progress every single season, and with his work ethic, the sky is the limit.

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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #2

We have now reached the top five of the list. When making the list, I had about three tiers of players divided by what I believe the player was most likely capable of. The top five are their own tier of players that I would label as the definitive players that are the future of Polish hockey. These five players have the potential to elevate Polish hockey to a new level. They’re all more than capable of being top players in Poland, or key players outside the country. Poland reaching the elite division and staying there relies a lot on these players reaching their full potential.

Players 50-41Players 15-13Player 9Player 5
Players 40-31Player 12Player 8Player 4
Players 30-21Player 11Player 7Player 3
Players 20-16Player 10Player 6

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in rankings

2 – Jakub Lewandowski (F), 19, Sioux Falls Stampede, (3, +1)

When Alan Łyszczarczyk was ranked by NHL central scouting just a couple years ago it was seen as a miracle in Polish hockey. It was something that wouldn’t be done again in probably another decade. Then Jakub Lewandowski just went and did it just like that, like it was easy.

I am going to state at times in this article it may seem like I’m being more critical of Lewandowski then I am of other players. That comes from grading Lewandowski as a potential NHLer. He is high and far above every other U20 Polish player on this list, and he was easily the number two U23 player.

The year started off with a big suprise in the Polish hockey world, when it was announced that Lewandowski was in camp with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League (USHL). The USHL is the top junior hockey league in America, and comparable with the big three junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League. Lewandowski would make the team out of camp, setting the course for a promising but up and down season.

The 6’2 forward was coming off a strong year in the top Czechia junior league with 48 points (22g-26A) in 48 games, along with being what will go down as one of the worst roster decisions in history, when he was left off Poland U20. The Stampede didn’t really know what they had in Jakub Lewandowski. They knew one thing though.

After that, well, Owens (Scott Owens, GM/Head Coach of the Stampede) is still figuring out who’s best at doing what. He knows Jakub Lewandowski, a 6-foot-2 forward from Poland, can score. 

Stampede starting over with new roster in defense of Clark Cup championship – Matt Zimmer (Argus Leader)

Lewandowski started hot out of the gate with seven points (4g-3a-7pts) in seven games. This was good enough to earn him a C rank on the NHL Central Scouting preliminary list. A C rank equals a player being considered a fourth round or lower selection in the NHL entry draft. Lewandowski would start to slow down and wouldn’t record another point in the next 10 games. He still was ranked a C player on the November 11th edition of the NHL Central Scouting’s updated list. This would be his last appearance on the list for the season.

Lewandowski finished the year with 20 points (11g-9a-20pts) in 42 games. It was the tied for the 65th most points by a U19 player in the USHL, and was tied for 22th among USHL rookies. It was also tied for fourth on the Stampede overall, the Stampede were starved for offense overall finishing second to last in goals for.

In total there were 93 production matches for Lewandowski’s season. Only 4.3% of his matches went on to play 100 NHL games. A majority matches played no professional hockey or very low leagues after their college careers. That is the big thing to consider with USHL matches, as a majority of players go on to play division 1 college hockey for four years, and did not try their hand at professional hockey. The second highest category was players with 100 games in the AHL or a top league in Europe with 25.8%.

Lewandowski has few things working for him. He has got size, the shot, and net front presence to make an impact on offense. The rest of his game needs a lot of work though, and he has to be more consistent. He can too often completely disappear on the ice. The lack of consistency is the biggest thing that killed his chances of being drafted

The Torun native seemed a bit awkward with his size at times, gaining strength will be key for him during this off season. He doesn’t have the same advantage with his size as he did in Czechia and Poland. Improving skating, hands, and offensive awareness will all do wonders for the young Polish forward.

As of right now I don’t see Lewandowski getting drafted, I just don’t see that as his most likely outcome. He can definitely reach the NHL level, but he is going to have to make some quick developments. That could happen, this was only his fourth season outside of Poland. I think Poland is guranteed to have another gem on their hands though, who is going to be able to play in the top leagues of Europe like the KHL, NL, or SHL. The exact thing that Poland needs. Lewandowski is definitely the second largest part of the future core in Poland.

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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #4

We have now reached the top five of the list. When making the list, I had about three tiers of players divided by what I believe the player was most likely capable of. The top five are their own tier of players that I would label as the definitive players that are the future of Polish hockey. These five players have the potential to elevate Polish hockey to a new level. They’re all more than capable of being top players in Poland, or key players outside the country. Poland reaching the elite division and staying there relies a lot on these players reaching their full potential.

Players 50-41 Players 15-13 Player 9 Player 5
Players 40-31 Player 12 Player 8
Players 30-21 Player 11 Player 7
Players 20-16 Player 10 Player 6

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in rankings

4 – Dominik Paś (F), 21, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (4, 0)

Paś is the most complete young forward in Polish hockey. He has a great two-way game that makes him the most crucial player going forward for Poland. Last season, he finally had his true offensive breakout year, despite him only be 20-years-old. His year was so impressive he has started to generate some interest outside Poland.

This year for JKH GKS Jastrzebie, Paś posted 39 points (17-22-39) in 52 games. This set new career highs in games played, goals, assists, and points. It was 25th overall in the PHL and sixth on Jastrzebie. The 5’10 forward was also very impressive at the Visegrad Cup, where he posted five points (3-2-5) in nine games. Eleven of his points did come against Janow or PZHL U23, which is just above the league average for his production. That would leave him with 28 points though against quality competition, which is nothing to scoff at. It also would still be a career-high.

pas goal 1

Since 1999-2000, his year was tied for sixth-most points by a U20 player, his points per game ranking 14th. That is quite the impressive season by him, giving the amount of young talent, especially recently, to put up substantial numbers in the PHL. It is the 26th best year in points by a U23 player overall. Given the strength of the PHL this year, his season is definitely something that should be putting him on the radar for teams in stronger leagues all over Europe.

 

His season comes with just three points per game comparables that performed the same, age-wise. This list includes Grzegorz Pasiut, Teddy Da Costa, and Tobiasz Bernat. Obviously, Pursuit and Da Costa went on to have great careers in Poland and outside the PHL. Pasiut, before his national team retirement, was one of the top forwards for team Poland, while Da Costa is a valuable part of the French national team. Bernat, the outlier of the two, was a solid player in the PHL, but nothing special.

The Jastrzebie native also made his senior IIHF-debut for team Poland at the Olympic qualifiers. He was the second-youngest player on team Poland, after Pawel Zygmunt. He would put up a goal and assist versus the Netherlands on day one of the tournament. He would play just above 13 minutes in the final game against Kazakhstan, being entrusted in must-win situations by Tomek Valtonen. He also finished fourth on the team in shots.

pas goal 2

Moving out from the statistics, Paś is an excellent leader and has a great two-way game. Staff and teammates that I have talked to praise those abilities of his. He is a brilliant player, and that is at both ends of the ice. He could be stronger in the faceoff circle, but that is a very minor critique.  I think Paś is a lock to be at least a middle-six forward for Poland in the future. His floor is higher than most, while his ceiling is incredibly high.

It was reported earlier this offseason that Paś was considering an offer to play in the top league of France. While the league may be a minor step up on Poland overall in my opinion, it is generally held in a higher regard. It seems that as of right now, Paś will be staying in Poland. While I may too often suggest that players should leave Poland, I think he is in an excellent place in Jastrzebie this year.

pas goal 3

He will be under the guidance of national team head coach Robert Kalaber for another year, with a chance to increase his role again in the team. The national team will be an excellent stage for Paś to show off his game while getting another year of top-line experience under his belt. Paś should definitely leave Poland for a stronger league eventually before he gets too old. There is nothing wrong with staying in Poland this year. Rub shoulders with Marek Hovorka, and get that national team spotlight. Paś is the glue for Poland’s top lines that will help evaluate them to another level.

Player 3

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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #5

We have now reached the top five of the list. When making the list, I had about three tiers of players divided by what I believe the player was most likely capable of. The top five are their own tier of players that I would label as the definitive players that are the future of Polish hockey. These five players have the potential to elevate Polish hockey to a new level. They’re all more than capable of being top players in Poland, or key players outside the country. Poland reaching the elite division and staying there relies a lot on these players reaching their full potential.

Players 50-41 Players 15-13 Player 9
Players 40-31 Player 12 Player 8
Players 30-21 Player 11 Player 7
Players 20-16 Player 10 Player 6

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking

5 – Damian Tyczyński (F), 20, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (8, +3)

Tyczyński proved this year he has what it takes to make it in professional hockey. He returned to Poland after always being overlooked in Slovakia due to his status as an import. HK Poprad’s loss was Zaglebie Sosnowiec’s gain though.

The former KTH Krynica did not sign anywhere in the offseason and began his year playing with PZHL U23. After a handful of games with the Polish u23 squad, he would sign with Zaglebie Sosnowiec for the remainder of the season. In total, between PZHL U23 and Zaglebie Sosnowiec, he recorded 34 points (12-22-34) in 40 games. This was the most among U20 players in both points and points per game.

More impressive, it is the best season by a U20 player in the PHL since Aron Chmielewski recorded a 1.36 PPG during the 2011 season. He has three production matches in Damian Kapica, Grzegorz Pasiut, and Jarosław Dołęga. Kapica and Pasiut are national team stars that can play and succeed outside of Poland. Dołęga is the outliner of the two. He was a constant top-line player in the PHL with sporadic national team appearances. You also have to factor in how much better the PHL was this season, making his rookie year in pro hockey all the more impressive.

giphy (5)

Ten of his points did come against Janow or PZHL U23. Which is around about more than average compared to other PHL players. The 5’10 forward didn’t get much help from his team either this year, as Zaglebie Sosnowiec finished third last in the league, along with in third last in goals for. Sosnowiec didn’t qualify for the PHL playoffs, which led to Tyczyński returning to Slovakia to continue his season. He returned to HK Spisska Nova Ves, the first Slovak junior team that he played for. The team plays in the second level of Slovak hockey. There in 9 games, he would add 11 assists to his year.

Tyczyński also represented team Poland at the U20 World Championships. With the Polish U20 team, he recorded one goal and five assists in five games. This was fifth in points on team Poland.

No matter where Tyczyński goes, he produces at a high rate. He led the Slovak U20 league in scoring by six points during the 2019 season with 70 points (22-48-70) in 47 games. This was after he missed the playoffs with an injury. Despite that, he was never given a chance to play at the senior level in Slovakia. He returned to Poland this year and proved he is more than ready to tackle professional hockey.

giphy (6)

There are not many players that have a better offensive IQ than Tyczyński in all of Polish hockey. He is a real quarterback when on the attack. He is setting up plays and hitting crips and powerful passes to set his teammates up. He will never be a prolific goalscorer, but defensemen should never leave him unguarded. He is easily Poland’s most productive playmaker of the future. He has already been named a reserved for Kalaber’s upcoming national team grouping in August.

In his interview about his retirement, Polish hockey legend Damian Slabon talked about how the future of hockey in Poland. In the interview by Hokej.net, he was asked about who he saw as a big part of the future. One of the players he mentioned was Tyczynski.

Damian Tyczyński has the papers to play, a good predisposition to play in the national team for many years. I wish him to play abroad. Please God.

That is going to be crucial for the future of Tyczyński’s development. While he could improve his all-around game by staying in Poland, a player with his hockey IQ and playmaking skills needs to test his skills and make mistakes against stronger players. There is a ceiling to his potential in Poland, but that ceiling is much higher if he goes abroad.

Player #4

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

Poland Shakes Up Men’s Junior Coaching Staff

With a new head coach installed for the Men’s senior team, it is not the biggest surprise that Poland has made some changes on the junior level as well. Jarosław Morawiecki (U16 head coach) and Piotr Sarnak (U20 head coach) are out. Artur Ślusarczyk, who was in charge of the U18 squad last season, will now take over as the head coach for the Polish U20 team. Łukasz Sokół is taking over as the U18 squad leader, while Tobiasz Bigos is now at the helm of the U16 staff. These coaches will all work closely with Robert Kalaber.

The 42-year-old Artur Ślusarczyk was a long time GKS Tychy and Zaglebie Sosnowiec forward, with over 600 PHL games to his resume, along with representing Poland at eight World Championships. From 2017 to 2019, he served as the assistant coach for the Polish U18 squad and was the head coach for the 2020 season. During this time, he was also a coach with SMS PZHL Katowice and the Polish U16 team that plays in the Czech Republic. The former national team forward was also an assistant coach on Zaglebie Sosnowiec in 2016 and 2019.

38-year-old Łukasz Sokół is now at the helm of the U18 squad after a long playing career. He played in over 600 PHL games, mostly with GKS Tychy. The former defenseman represented Poland at five World Championships. Since his retirement, he has worked as an assistant coach on both the U16 and U18 men’s national team squads.

The youngest new coach is 34-year-old Tobiasz Bigos. Bigos is a former long-time JKH GKS Jastrzebie defenseman. He was named an assistant captain under Robert Kalaber from 2017 to 2019 when he retired. With 400 plus PHL games under his belt, Bigos is a new coach. He assisted the Jastrzebie youth teams, along with as an assistant on the U16 squad.

In the PHL release of the news, PZHL president Miroslaw Minkina commented,

“We have made changes, but it is an evolution, because each of the three mentioned trainers recently worked with our youth, but in different positions. The training staff has been rejuvenated and the trainers will work closely with coach Robert Kalaber. All teams have to play by a single system and thus it will be easier for young players to go to the senior staff .”

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

 

 

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #6

This year was a pivotal year for Polish hockey. For many players that frequented the list last year or in the years past it was onto full-time professional hockey in Poland or testing their skills in another countries highest junior league, while plenty of players arose to challenge and cemented themselves as future pillars of the national team plenty of players couldn’t live up to their expectations causing drastic changes to the rankings.

This is not the time I wanted to start the list, as the World Championship and U18 World Championship are a great way for players to improve their stock, the U18 World Championship being the first significant exposure for a lot of players. Due to the coronavirus, there are no more tournaments, and hockey is done for the year. Polish hockey itself faces an uncertain future as the virus will leave a lasting effect for years to come.

The real world is a very dark and scary place right now, but I want to look forward to the future while stuck at home. The future of the Polish national team is something that fans should be excited about. I have maintained for years that Poland has more young talent right now then it did any other time this century. I still stand by that opinion today. Poland saw their ace prospect prove himself in professional North American hockey, another NHL draft prospect rise, and a vast increase in depth. Today we start our ranking of the top 50 Men’s U23 players in Poland.

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on March 27th, 2020. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While a majority of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. 140 players were considered for the list and scouted. 80 players received a ranking, players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a scouting report.

Players 50-41 Players 15-13 Player 9
Players 40-31 Player 12 Player 8
Players 30-21 Player 11 Player 7
Players 20-16 Player 10

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking

6 – Kamil Wałęga (F), 20, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (9, +3)

Wałęga has long been apart of one of the most impactful junior duos in Polish hockey. He and Jan Sołtys tore up IIHF junior tournaments, while leading PZHL u23 to actually be a viable team versus bottom tier PHL teams. This year both Sołtys and Wałęga we’re set to be a significant part of the JKH GKS Jastrzebie offense. Sołtys would be out most of the year, leaving Wałęga all the spotlight, and he definitely took it all in.

This year Wałęga posted career highs in points and assists. In 43 games, he posted 28 points (8-20-28). This was the second-most by any U20 player in the PHL. It was also the fifth-best Draft plus two season for points by a player in the PHL since 2000. The PHL was a stronger league overall this year, and seeing his statistical growth is such a great sign for the future of Poland. He also battled a knee injury early on in the season.

It was only a five-point jump overall, but the bigger deal was playing in the JKH GKS Jastrzebie lineup for pretty much the entire season. Only two of his games came with PZHL U23. Another great sign from his production is only six of his points were recorded against Janow or PZHL U23, giving him a much higher percentage of points against quality competition compared to other young players. 

walega 1

The Cieszyn native has five production comparables in Aron Chmielewski, Bartłomiej Jeziorski, Maciej Szewczyk, Patryk Kogut, and Patryk Wronka. That is quite a different selection of players with some of the most dominant forwards in Polish hockey right now, along with a couple that have never made it out of the bottom six on PHL teams despite some good production at times. Overall, it bolds very well for Wałęga. It would be interesting to see how Wałęga would fare outside of Poland like comparables Chmiewlewski and Wronka.

This year at the Visegrad Cup, Wałęga had the chance to test his skills against some teams outside of Poland. He would only record one assist in six games. I was hoping for a larger showing in the tournament from him. He did more than make up for it though at the U20 World Championships, where he recorded 11 points (6-5-11) in five games. This was second on team Poland and in the entire tournament for points. His six goals were tied for second in the tournament. As a result of his play, he was named the top player on team Poland at the competition.

walegta 2

Wałęga possesses all-around great offensive ability no matter it be firing the puck with a sniper-like accurate shot or setting up his teammates for an easy goal. He is a quality skater with great vision on the ice. The 5’10 forward is not the biggest player and will never likely be a strong two-way player. In Wałęga, Poland has a forward that is already a top 6 forward in the PHL and should reach the same role on the senior team as his national team career progresses. He is someone who, in the right situation, would be able to make it outside of Poland as well.

Coming into this next season, Jastrzebie should be a top team in the PHL. Although they are likely to be losing top import talents like Artem Iossafov and Jesse Rohtla. These openings in the line up are the next opportunity that Wałęga should quickly fill. A larger role will only help him continue to grow on his fantastic 2020 season. After this season though, it is up in the air.

“In the upcoming season I will still be associated with the Jastrzębie Hockey Club, but after that I end my contract. If I am doing well, I would like to try my hand abroad as much as possible” –  Kamil Wałęga to wiadomosci.ox.pl

I was curious how Wałęga would do without Sołtys alongside him in the line-up. I pretty much have always linked the two forwards together, with Sołtys all-around game often giving him the edge over his often linemate. Wałęga more than proved he isn’t a robin to batman, he is his own star.

Player #5

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

 

 

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #7

This year was a pivotal year for Polish hockey. For many players that frequented the list last year or in the years past it was onto full-time professional hockey in Poland or testing their skills in another countries highest junior league, while plenty of players arose to challenge and cemented themselves as future pillars of the national team plenty of players couldn’t live up to their expectations causing drastic changes to the rankings.

This is not the time I wanted to start the list, as the World Championship and U18 World Championship are a great way for players to improve their stock, the U18 World Championship being the first significant exposure for a lot of players. Due to the coronavirus, there are no more tournaments, and hockey is done for the year. Polish hockey itself faces an uncertain future as the virus will leave a lasting effect for years to come.

The real world is a very dark and scary place right now, but I want to look forward to the future while stuck at home. The future of the Polish national team is something that fans should be excited about. I have maintained for years that Poland has more young talent right now then it did any other time this century. I still stand by that opinion today. Poland saw their ace prospect prove himself in professional North American hockey, another NHL draft prospect rise, and a vast increase in depth. Today we start our ranking of the top 50 Men’s U23 players in Poland.

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on March 27th, 2020. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While a majority of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. 140 players were considered for the list and scouted. 80 players received a ranking, players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a scouting report.

Players 50-41 Players 15-13 Player 9
Players 40-31 Player 12 Player 8
Players 30-21 Player 11
Players 20-16 Player 10

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking

7 – Szymon Bieniek (D), 19, Arizona Bobcats 18U, (7, 0)

Bieniek takes the spot as the top defensemen this year in my list. The promising two-way defensemen took a chance on himself this year going to America to play in the NAPHL 18U for the Arizona Bobcats. The Bobcats are most famously the junior club that Auston Matthews played in before moving over to the U.S. national development team. With the Bobcats this year, the accolades ranked up for Bieniek, and he made a move to a stronger club in the offseason.

The 6’0 Opole native recorded 10 points (4-6-10) in 16 games for the Bobcats. He added two assists in four playoff games. In addition, he played in plenty of tournaments and exhibition games with Arizona. His regular-season point total was good for fourth on the Bobcats in points among all skaters, and first among all defensemen. It was 17th among all defensemen in the league. In November he was named the defensemen of the month,

“Arizona Bobcats 18U defenseman Szymon Bieniek, 18, had a breakout event in Texas. The 6’0/210 lbs. native of Opole, Poland had eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) in four games during the event. That included three assists in a 5-4 loss against Thunder Bay and a goal and two assists in a 7-1 win over Ontario. Up until the weekend in Texas, Bieniek had one assist in eight games played.” From NAPHL.com 

Later in the year, he made the NAPHL all-star team, but would not attend due to representing Poland at the U20 World Championships. At the end of the season, he was named to the All-NAPHL 18U Team – Elite Division.

As mentioned earlier, he represented Poland at the U20 World Championships. He posted three points (1-2-3) in five games. He also posted nine shots, which was second among Polish defensemen. In Poland’s game against Estonia, he was named Poland’s top player.

He now moves on to the Philadelphia Hockey Club, who play in the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC). The NCDC is a newer junior league towards the top end of the American junior hockey system. The league’s first season was in 2017. This makes it hard to stay how strong of a development path the league has been, but many players have been able to move onto a stronger junior league like the BCHL, NAHL, or USHL. A lot have also made an NCAA division 1 commitment, with some recent imports in the league being able to turn professional in the top leagues of Europe.

I wish there was more I could say about Bieniek as I do believe he is one of the most talented defensemen Poland has. He is in line to be the most essential defenseman of the future for Poland. Still, he is a player I really didn’t get to see play much this year. His sample size of games isn’t enough to track production and find comparables as well. By all accounts from coaches and staff in his league, he is considered one of the top defensemen there. He continues to earn the trust and praise of Polish coaches as well, despite not being available to them often. Gaining that trust can be hard for young Polish players who play abroad.

Going off what I saw last year and in small bits this season, I still stand by ranking Bieniek as my top defensemen and seventh player overall. He is a strong skater with excellent puck skills. He can read players in the offensive zone really well to create scoring chances. When he is playing with confidence, like in games at U18s, he was patient with the puck waiting for his opposition to make a mistake. He continues to work his way up the hockey ladder, gaining a lot of valuable experience that will only continue his growth.

Player #6

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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #8

This year was a pivotal year for Polish hockey. For many players that frequented the list last year or in the years past it was onto full-time professional hockey in Poland or testing their skills in another countries highest junior league, while plenty of players arose to challenge and cemented themselves as future pillars of the national team plenty of players couldn’t live up to their expectations causing drastic changes to the rankings.

This is not the time I wanted to start the list, as the World Championship and U18 World Championship are a great way for players to improve their stock, the U18 World Championship being the first significant exposure for a lot of players. Due to the coronavirus, there are no more tournaments, and hockey is done for the year. Polish hockey itself faces an uncertain future as the virus will leave a lasting effect for years to come.

The real world is a very dark and scary place right now, but I want to look forward to the future while stuck at home. The future of the Polish national team is something that fans should be excited about. I have maintained for years that Poland has more young talent right now then it did any other time this century. I still stand by that opinion today. Poland saw their ace prospect prove himself in professional North American hockey, another NHL draft prospect rise, and a vast increase in depth. Today we start our ranking of the top 50 Men’s U23 players in Poland.

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on March 27th, 2020. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While a majority of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. 140 players were considered for the list and scouted. 80 players received a ranking, players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a scouting report.

Players 50-41 Players 15-13 Player 9
Players 40-31 Player 12
Players 30-21 Player 11
Players 20-16 Player 10

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking

8 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 19, Cracovia Krakow, (14, +6

Krakow has always been a bit of a controversial team in the PHL when it comes to young players, as some have accused them of being too reliant on imports. On the other hand, Aron Chmielewski and Paweł Zygmunt have been able to secure Tipsport Extraliga deals after spending a few years of their early professional careers with Krakow. Brynkus could be the next to follow in their footsteps.

For the past two years, Brynkus has been one of Poland’s most vital forward’s at junior international events. Last season, he posted 20 points in 10 games between the U20 and U18 World Championships. This season he posted seven points (4-3-7) in five games at the U20 World Championship. He ranked third on team Poland for goals and points. He also made his senior international team debut playing in three games at a Euro Ice Hockey Challenge.

 

Brynkus 1
Byrnkus backhanded goal vs. Oświęcim

 

His club season was also quite impressive, with Krakow this year he posted 12 points (6-6-12) in 40 games. This was tied for third, with Igor Smal, for all U20 players. It was first among players under 19 by five points. It is the 24th best season by a u19 player in the PHL since 2000. There is one major concern though. Eight of his points came against Janow or PZHL u23. This is a significant concern for me, as it means just four of his points came against quality competition. His strong international performance and play on the ice is why I will overlook it in my rankings, but it is definitely a concern for the future. He was stuck mostly on the fourth line besides these matches vs. Janow and PZHL u23. Next year, he will likely see a more substantial role meaning more minutes versus stronger clubs. Hopefully, his production against stronger clubs will follow.

His production provides five matches. Damian Kapica, Michał Rybak, Paweł Zygmunt, Patryk Krężołek, and Szymon Skrodziuk. Kapica and Zygmunt are outstanding players capable of playing outside of Poland, while Patryk Krężołek came in at 11th on my ranking and is already a 20 goal scorer in the PHL. Rybak has shown some potential, but never stepped up his game to the next level, while Szymon Skrodziuk had a strong U20 season, but has often been stuck on poor Opole and Janow teams further hurting his development. The matches bold very well for his future projection.

 

brynkus 2
Brynkus goal vs. Janow

 

Brynkus brings a lot to the table, with good size, strong playmaking ability, and a good skater. He really makes the most out of his opportunities at the offensive end. He has the creativity and vision that a lot of Polish players lack. He hasn’t shown it much at the professional level, though part of that is in his deployment. It also may be harder for his game to thrive at the next level as defenders improve and make fewer mistakes. He also proved to be a solid net-front presence this year for Krakow. He still has a bit to go before he can be a top contributor on a PHL team, but based on his play at only 19, I have no doubt he’ll reach that level.

Brynkus could have a huge role next year in the Krakow line up as the team has been hurt by the COVID-19 outbreak. While it appears Krakow has brought back Kapica and is close to deals with Kasper Bryniczka and Mateusz Rompkowski. The team will mostly be comprised of young players. Outside of those three veterans, Cracovia has Antoni Dziurdzia, Dawid Musioł Igor Augustyniak, Łukasz Hebda, Łukasz Kamiński, Mateusz Bezwiński, Patryk Gosztyła, Robert Kowalówka, and Sebastian Brynkus under contract. These young players are going to make up the core of Cracovia Krakow this year. Brynkus will really have a chance to have a shining role in the line-up, which is something most other players didn’t get or won’t at such a young age.

Player #7

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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #9

This year was a pivotal year for Polish hockey. For many players that frequented the list last year or in the years past it was onto full-time professional hockey in Poland or testing their skills in another countries highest junior league, while plenty of players arose to challenge and cemented themselves as future pillars of the national team plenty of players couldn’t live up to their expectations causing drastic changes to the rankings.

This is not the time I wanted to start the list, as the World Championship and U18 World Championship are a great way for players to improve their stock, the U18 World Championship being the first significant exposure for a lot of players. Due to the coronavirus, there are no more tournaments, and hockey is done for the year. Polish hockey itself faces an uncertain future as the virus will leave a lasting effect for years to come.

The real world is a very dark and scary place right now, but I want to look forward to the future while stuck at home. The future of the Polish national team is something that fans should be excited about. I have maintained for years that Poland has more young talent right now then it did any other time this century. I still stand by that opinion today. Poland saw their ace prospect prove himself in professional North American hockey, another NHL draft prospect rise, and a vast increase in depth. Today we start our ranking of the top 50 Men’s U23 players in Poland.

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on March 27th, 2020. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While a majority of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. 140 players were considered for the list and scouted. 80 players received a ranking, players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a scouting report.

Players 50-41 Players 15-13
Players 40-31 Player 12
Players 30-21 Player 11
Players 20-16 Player 10

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking

9 – Jakub Michałowski (D), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (25, +16)

The son of a boxer was already guaranteed a substantial rise in the rankings this year after continuing to cement himself on the Jastrezbie back end. He is a very talented defensive first guy that will give forwards trouble as they try to rush to the net.  His rise on my list only became bigger with his late appointment to team Poland at the Olympic qualifiers. Poland had their back against the wall when national team regulars Kamil Górny and Mateusz Bryk both dropped out of the tournament so close to the first match. Poland went into the tournament naming only one replacement in Jakub Michałowski. The red and white eagles only had a total of six defensemen at the tournament, there were no backups at all.

jakub goal
Jakub Michałowski goal vs. Tychy

Facing a KHL team in your IIHF senior debut is quite the task for a young player. Michałowski had already been starting to become a frequent player on the Polish men’s team with appearances at non-IIHF events. Still, now he had to make his senior IIHF debut on a large stage with almost zero room for any mistakes. In the first two games, when Poland faced lesser competition in the Netherlands and Ukraine. Michałowski really did well and held his own. You saw why even at such a young age, he already has over 150 PHL games, but in the final game against Kazakhstan, as the speed was ramped up, you saw the creeks in his game start to form, as he takes part of the blame on both of the blue and yellow’s goals.

On the first Kazakhstan goal, the speed of another Kazakhstan forward beat Michalowksi in a footrace around that net. He was then able to again get a pass past him, which resulted in an easy tap in. Though on that goal, his partner should have the scorer tied up, I’m not really sure what is going on in the slot.

kazak goal 2

Later the speed of the Kazak forwards pushed the Polish defensemen into an awkward situation. Michałowski tried to play the middle and then get low to try and block any pass that was going to potentially come through, but the pass beat him, and he fell in a desperate attempt to stop it. Kazakhstan failed to score on the initial play, but both Polish defenders were now vastly out of positions, and Kazakhstan banged in an easy rebound. Either way, it became clear watching that game, that Michałowski was pretty overwhelmed at times.

kazak goal 3

Valtonen still relied on Michałowski heavily. He finished fourth on team Poland in ice time with just under 18 minutes a game. On the boxscore, he recorded one assist and four shots at the tournament.

The 6’2 Jastrzebie native recorded seven points (2-5-7) in 48 games this season with JKH GKS Jastrzebie. He also had two assists in nine games at the Visegrad Cup. As he has continued to gradually improve his skills, the shutdown defensemen has earned his spot on team Poland. When pushed to his extremes against a literal KHL team in Kazakhstan, there were cracks in his game, but I would expect that from any young defensemen. Despite the plays, I pointed out there were plenty of strong moments in those games as well.

assist jakub
Jakub Michałowski assist vs. Janow

He also more than held his own in the PHL this year. He has the size, is a good skater, and has good awareness. His offensive skills have also come a long way, though it will never be a significant part of his game as of the shutdown role he is usually given. The more experience he gets versus top opponents, the better he will be. This was really the first season he had numerous tests against stronger opponents outside of Poland. Michalowski has the potential to be deployed against other team’s top lines, but still has ways to go to reach that spot.

Player 8

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