Category: Mens Prospects

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.

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.

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #10

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

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

10 – Dominik Jarosz (F), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie (24, +14)

Jarosz has always been among the top forward prospects in Poland, it seemed every season the 6’2 forward was a prime breakout candidate due to his great speed and size. This year he started off hot, immediately scoring three goals at the RT Torax Cup in August. He followed this up with an impressive Visegrad Cup registering five points (3-2-5) in nine games. Then the cherry on the top of his remarkable season was a 23 point (9-14-23) season in 53 games. A new career-high for Jarosz.

Jarosz 1

This was sixth among all u23 skaters in the PHL this year and seventh in points per game among u23 skaters. Though eight points of his points were against Janow and PZHL U23. 15 points versus quality teams is in line with his past years, but for me, I was able to overlook this for quite a few reasons. The PHL was stronger this year, so even keeping consistent with past years is a solid goal for young players, especially as ice time or prime powerplay time might have gone to imports. Next was his performances away from Poland, recording multi-point games versus teams in the Chance Liga and Tipsport Extraliga.

A big part of his of this is his fantastic offensive awareness, he reads defenses really well to make the right play while scoring or setting up teammates. Like a lot of young players, these things need to happen more consistently. His all-around game and better offensive senses put him above a lot of other young Polish forwards. Jarosz has a much higher ceiling than other forwards in a similar situation. Thought his most likely outcome is top-line forward in the PHL, with a middle-six role on the Polish national team.

Jarosz 2

Jarosz is an interesting talent, he seems to have all the tools to be one of the top guys in Poland, but he is overshadowed on his own team by the fantastic young forward depth that Jastrezbie has. While I think his most likely outcome is a top player in Poland, he has the toolset to possibly be a great player outside of Poland. The Rybnik native currently doesn’t stand out above other players though of similar status. Despite how good he is other players outshine him, thus he doesn’t earn as many chances on top lines and top powerplay opportunities. I would love to see him have a chance at being one of the top guys on a team somewhere just to see how he would do. 

Player #9

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. #11

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
Players 20-16

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

11 – Patryk Krężołek (F), 22, GKS Katowice, (21, +10)

Krężołek was the ultimate net-front presence in Polish hockey this season. The 6’1 forward will win any battle for the puck in front of the net and has the art of tipping pucks down. He reminded me of former Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Holmström. This truly should earn him some national team consideration just to help with the powerplay.

Krzelok 1

While his net-front presence was the biggest thing I saw out of him this year, he is not a one-trick pony by any means. If the puck is on his stick and there is even a millimeter of an opening his accurate shot will find a way to bury the puck. He is a goal-scoring machine that has only become more dangerous with each passing season. Krężołek will likely be a consistent 20 goal scorer in the PHL, and maybe hit or at least flirt with 30 goal years.

PK 2

Krężołek posted new career highs this year with GKS Katowice. In 53 games, the former KTH Krynica junior player posted 20 goals and 10 assists. This was the first time he hit 20 goals in a year, which is very impressive when you consider the increased quality of the PHL this year, along with the fact he played six fewer games when compared to 2018-19. This led all U23 players in goals, and he finished fourth in points.  He did seem to struggle in games outside of Poland though, at the Continental Cup and Visegrad Cup tournaments, he would post just one assist in 13 games.

One of his more impressive feats as well was looking at the Janow effect. Janow was so bad this season it inflicted quite a few point totals, but zero of his goals came against Janow. Only one of his goals came against PZHL U23, meaning pretty much all his goals came against quality competition. That is something that has been really hard to find in the PHL this year with how many multi-point games young players posted against Janow and PZHL U23.

His career up to now has been a journey where the goal-scoring machine has faced his fair share of hurdles. He missed a majority of the 2017-18 season, including the U20 World Championships. Missing years like that can be a major blow for a young player as it is so important to their development. It didn’t seem to affect Krężołek at all who came back and did what he did best, ruin goalie’s save percentages.

pk3

He currently faces another hurdle this offseason. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, GKS Katowice released all their players on long term contracts as a cost-cutting maneuver. This means the young forward is now a free agent. He reportedly is being courted by both GKS Tychy and JKH GKS Jastrzebie, while Katowice is still hoping he would return on a new deal. His free agency should be one of the most interesting deals in Poland this offseason. If he goes to somewhere, where he’ll get ice time and powerplay chances I have no doubt he’ll repeat and grow on his success from this season. GKS Katowice put him on their first line and he more than excelled in the role.

His potential is a hard one to chart. Looking at how other players have fared in their age 21 seasons, we only see that nine other players have posted a 20 goal season at that age since 2000-2001. This list is an impressive one featuring Bartlomiej Neupauer, Damian Kapica, Damian Słaboń, Grzegorz Pasiut, and Teddy Da Costa. Of those ten players to record a 20 goal season in their age 21 season, Krężołek has the lowest assist and points per game totals.

pk 5

His points per game total is the 54th highest by an aged 21 player since 2000-2001. He has 29 production matches during this time span, the most popular outcome among these players is a top 6 forward on a PHL team, with national team careers ranging from regular to a bit sporadic, but not accomplishing much outside of Poland. Which is how I would describe Krężołek’s potential. He is going to be a great player in Poland, that should be on the national team in a top-nine role with powerplay time. I feel he has one of the highest floors among any player on this list, but is also the closest to reaching his ceiling. His ceiling isn’t bad at all either, as their not many players who will be able to record the goal numbers he does.

Player #10

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. #12

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
Players 30-21
Players 20-16

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

12 – Klaudiusz Libik (D), 19, Sparta Sarpsborg U21, (11, -1)

Libik has long been one of my favorite Polish players. I think he is immensely talented with exceptional two-way abilities. This is always especially impressive when you consider he didn’t start playing hockey till he was 12 years old. This was only his sixth year of playing hockey. He has a natural talent for the game that is obvious, but it seems a few problems are starting to catch up with him. One is his lack of experience compared to other players. His bumpy junior career in Norway has also seemingly affected his development. In Norway, Libik has bounced between Sparta Sarpsborg and Stjernen Hockey while also being bounced back and forth between playing forward and defensemen. This was the first season in a bit where he was able to really just play defense, only playing one game at forward.

In total this season, he had 13 points (3-10-13) in 41 games. I think his stats are fascinating when you break down the numbers behind them. Libik played for two teams this year. Neither was very good, especially not Stjernen. Stjernen Hockey U21 only had a total of two wins this year in 38 games. Libik had seven points (3-4-7) in 16 games. His seven points would have ended tied for eleventh on the team. This is astonishing when you remember he left the team two months into the season. With Sterjen, he played all 16 of his games on defense. In 14 of them, he was on the team’s second pairing, with the other two being on the third pairing. All his points came on the second pairing. The more striking thing is when you look at the difference between which side he lined up on. When the right-handed defenseman is lined up on the left side, he has two assists in eight matches. Libik playing on the right side has five points (3-2-5) in eight games.

He moved over to Sparta into November and recorded six assists in 25 games. Sparta was not a great team either this year finishing eighth in the league. In his 25 games with Sparta, we saw him line up on the right side only nine times, left side fifteen games, and one game at left wing. He had four assists on the left side, and two assist on the right. When he was on the top pairing, he recorded four assists in eight games, but only two assists in 13 games on the second pairing.

Going through his season game by game this year to try and understand his production was well worth it. It also was needed to try and see how he stacked up versus his competition, as his unique career doesn’t mean comparables can be assumed right away. In regular-season competition, his 11 points (1-10-11) rank thirty-second among all U21 defensemen, and tied for fifteen among U19 defensemen. Among his production matches that stayed active players after the junior-aged 18 season, a lot of them take their baby steps into Norway’s top and second senior leagues. Libik’s inexperience may not see him reach the senior level so quickly, but it appears when given the opportunity to play higher minutes, he excels at them. The right side appears to be where he is more comfortable as well.

Libik has continued to represent Poland at numerous U20 tournaments, including at the IIHF U20 D1B World Championship, where the 6’1 defenseman recorded one assist in four games. One of the big things I noticed about him this year, in my small amount of film, was being more aggressive when it came to shooting the puck. In Poland’s game against Hungary, he fired a shot from the point that Jakub Lewandowski was able to tip and give Poland a 1-0 lead. It appears that was true in his club season as well, firing 88 shots in 41 games, just over two shots a game, which is way up from 30 shots(.77 shots per game), in 39 U21 games last season.

Libik assist

Libik is continuing to get more confident on the defensive end, while also still improving his offensive side. He isn’t lacking on the size end and should continue to get better while gaining more experience. His junior status in Norway also gives him a very unique development and style that no other Polish player really has. I still think Libik is a big part of Poland’s future on defense and don’t imagine his senior debut is that far off if he continues his current development.

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. #15-13

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 40-31

Players 30-21

Players 20-16

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

15 – Igor Smal (F), 20, Lotos PKH Gdansk, (22, +7

Smal continues the steady rise up the ranks of Polish players. Smal originally was playing junior hockey in Sweden but returned to Poland in 2017 to continue his career. This year the center set a new career-high in PHL points with 12 (6-6-12). 2019-20 was also a new career-high in games with 47. He possesses good size, keen offensive awareness, with great hands. The 6’0 Gdansk native has the makings of a promising player. He started off strong but fell off as the season went on. Consistency is the biggest thing about his game that will need to improve. Smal is in an excellent situation for this as well. As he was able to move up and down the Gdansk lineup last year, even getting a go on the top line at times. Gdansk is the exact kind of opportunity that will allow him to play a lot of valuable minutes. Smal was also a valuable part of team Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he recorded six points (3-3-6) in five games.

Igor Smal

14 – Jakub Prokurat (F), 19, Krefelder EV 1981, (40, +26)

A Polish player being one of Krefelder U20’s leading scorers is a very common trend, and that continued with Jakub Prokurat. This season the 18-year-old forward led Krefelder in points after posting 43 points (18-25-43) in 32 games. His production also never dropped off and continued to rise during the year. This was good for fifth in the entire DNL U20, the top U20 league in Germany. It was fourth in points per game, among players with 15 games played. The top-level DNL U20 has been in effect for three seasons, and Prokurat’s year ranks as the 12th best season by an 18-year-old skater for points per game. I like to see how players with similar production faired. There are two matches for Prokurat; German Sebastian Hon and Latvian Patriks Marcinkēvičs. This season, Hon was able to turn pro in the DEL2, while Marcinkēvičs was a top scorer in the American NCDC.

His production in the DNL U20 bolds well for his development. Prokurat also made the Polish U20 squad this year but would go pointless in five games with two shots. I don’t believe he was given a significant role with the team, through the games I was able to stream, but I still would have hoped to see him produce against some lower competition. It will be interesting to see where Prokurat plays next year. I hope he would be able to get some reps in the Oberliga for Kredfleder’s U23 team. His patience with the puck at times is an attribute that should really benefit him at the pro level. His size may be a concern for some senior teams.

13 – Bartłomiej Jeziorski (F), 22, GKS Tychy, (10, -3

Jeziorski has long been one of Poland’s best forward prospects, but as he turns 22, his PHL career has not progressed like I thought it would. Jeziorski has played in the PHL since 2015-16 when he was 17. In the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the forward posted over 20 points. In 2019, he posted 17 points in 55 games. This season, Jeziorski posted 20 points (11-9-20) in 47 games. He really started the year off strong, looking good in the Champions Hockey League, and really an offensive force during the beginning of the PHL season, but fall off after the season went on, which was really a common trend among young Polish players this year. Jeziorski really needs to be able to consistently make an impact. He has a lot of great tools at his disposal, being 6’3, great hands, good skater, and an accurate shot. There are times like this goal here versus GKS Katowice, where you see his skill on display.

Jeziorski

There is just too often where his play like that is nowhere to be found. Often his goals come from his solid net-front presence and bounces going his way. He has the ability to drive plays, so I would like to see that more. Jeziorski definitely has impressed national team head coach Tomek Valtonen though, who included Jeziorksi on all three senior national team rosters this year, including the Olympic qualifiers.

Jeziorski 2

Player #12

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. #20-16

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 40-31

Players 30-21

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

20 – Jakub Blanik (F), 19, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (39, +19)

Blanik took a gamble on himself this offseason when he left JKH GKS Jastrzebie for Zaglebie Sosnowiec in the hope for more chances. JKH GKS Jastrzebie deserves some credit for allowing such a strong junior player to leave as it was best for their development. People in Poland always rave about how hard of a worker that he is. That is what you see on the ice as well. At 5’7 and only 146 lbs, his size will always be his most significant obstacle. But he has tons of playmaking ability. Without a doubt, he probably sets his teammates up as well as any Polish prospect. Blanik was able to play in 30 PHL games this year between PZHL U23 and Zaglebie Sosnowiec, a majority with Zaglebie Sosnowiec. In his 17 games with Zaglebie Sosnowiec, he posted seven points (1-6-7). He was held pointless in 13 games with PZHL U23. He represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, posting one goal and three assists in five games. Blanik also got 19 games in the MHL recording 47 points (12-35-47).

Blanik

19 – Maciej Witan (F), 19, KH 58 Sanok, (15, -4)

Witan is pretty similar to Blanik in a lot of ways, but Witan edges him out in most categories. He is an inch taller than Blanik, and his offensive skills are more well rounded. Witan has a shot that can be lethal, along with being able to make it easy for his teammates with crisp passes, and not to mention a nice set of hands. Witan has stayed a part of Sanok’s team for the past three seasons. This year he recorded 14 points (2-12-14) in 17 games with Sanok. He also posted 44 points (16-28-44) in 18 MHL games, along with five points (3-2-5) in six games for PZHL U23. Given his performance with PZHL U23, I hope to see him getting some more meaningful reps next season. Witan will also be returning to the U20 World Championship squad after a six-point (1-5-6) performance in five games this season. He did fall this year because of the strength of other PHL performances, I also would have liked to see his production in the Slovakia third league reach the heights of his first year, where he recorded 21 points (6-15-21) in 21 games.

Witan

18 – Jan Sołtys (F), 20, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (2, -16)

There is no player that I feel has a better all-around game than Sołtys. He can do it all, he is excellent at both ends of the ice. He will always be hounding the puck and making his presence felt on the ice. It legit almost makes me sad to have him drop in the rankings by so much. This was kinda a lost season for Sołtys as the talented forward had to undergo knee surgery in November. This is a massive disappointment for the Jastrzebie native as he was scheduled to have a much more significant role in the club this year. His season started off strong in exhibition games versus foreign clubs. He did appear in 16 games for JKH GKS Jastrzebie, posting five points (2-3-5). The 5’11 forward did go pointless in five games at the Visegrad Cup, I was hoping the tournament would have been a nice showcase for him. His PHL production was also down compared to the previous year. Losing such a significant development year will be rough for Sołtys, but he is already so talented that he should have no problem bouncing back.

Soltys

17 – Grzegorz Radzieńciak (D), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (20, +3)

Radzieńciak continues to grow into a stronger and stronger defenseman each year. He continues to gain more confidence and better awareness. This year he was even able to jump into the offensive play a bit more and show his offensive traits. The 5’11 defenseman cemented himself as part of the Jastrzebie defense playing in 44 games. In those games, he recorded six points. He also posted both a goal and assist in eight Visegrad Cup games, his first goal at the senior level. In the MHL, he also recorded five points (2-3-5) in four games. The Lublin native really has all the traits to make him not just a solid professional player, but a defenseman that will be able to make an impact on the international stage. I have no doubt that Radzieńciak will continue to improve and become more confident in his play. He got in some national team games last season, and there should be more to come.

Radzieńciak

16 – Olaf Bizacki (D), 21, GKS Tychy, (23, +7)

Bizacki continues to rise up the ranks for Polish defensemen. At 5’7 he can be a bit small for his play at times, but his short stature never stops him from playing an aggressive two-way game. He definitely appeared more confident in the league this season, and that is not surprising given he is now a veteran of almost 150 PHL games and having played in the league since he was 17. This year though, he played primary with GKS Tychy, notching ten points (3-7-10) in 43 games. He also played six games with PZHL U23, where he picked up another assist. His 11 points this year were a career-high, and he only had nine career PHL points coming into this season. The Tychy native recorded one assist in two Champions Hockey League games as well. If Bizacki continues to improve like he has at both ends of the ice, the national team will no doubt follow.

Bizacki

Players 15-13

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