This year the U20 team was packed with plenty of offensive talent highlighted by NHL Draft hopeful Jakub Lewandowski. The team possessed a very young defense that had a lot of returning players. The goaltending duo had impressed last year and even if they did half as well Poland looked have promotion secured on paper. Of the three units, only one of them was able to live up to their expectations. The offense did great while the defense and goaltending suffered. As a disclaimer, I was only able to watch a handful of games, which brings us right to the first thought.
Sorry Excuse for Streams
About a month before this tournament, Ukraine hosted a four-nation U20 tournament. All of those games were streamed on Youtube in okay quality. This year Ukraine originally only planned to stream Ukraine games on Facebook. In the end, random select games received very poor quality streams that appeared to be shot on a camera from the early 1990s. This comes at a time when there is a lot of criticism the IIHF has received for the lack of quality streams.
I'm so glad that whilst World Juniors and the Spengler Cup are on every TSN, we get the great privilege of watching U18 Women's Worlds online through a glorified doorbell cam pic.twitter.com/lSS4paqvt8
Streams for tournaments are decided by the host federation and them alone for most tournaments. IIHF senior world championships seem to be the only exception for that. It should be a requirement though for hosting a tournament that the host is able to provide quality streams for the tournament. For these junior players especially this is the most exposure they will get and a great chance to gain film. In a perfect world, these streams would be handled by the IIHF and streamed on their Youtube channel.
Put In The Third String
Poland’s goaltending was very disappointing in this tournament. The duo of Sebastian Lipinski and Maciej Miarka both played poor in their appearances. Of goaltenders to appear in at least 40% of their teams total minutes, Lipinski finished dead last with a .819 save percentage. Back up goalie Miarka posted a .775 save percentage in his limited time. While one tournament is not the end-all for everything, Poland’s goaltending future does not seem as secure as once believed.
An NHL Draft Worthy Performance
Jakub Lewandowski was a stud in this tournament and put in the performance one would hope with his resume. This tournament was his and he put up 13 points to lead the entire tournament in scoring. Lewandowski proved he is a step above all other Polish talents. He was off to a hot start in the United States Hockey League, but cooled off. Hopefully, the U20 World Championship will help bring back his early-season production.
In my limited viewing, Szymon Bieniek was Poland’s most impressive defenseman. He has the two-way game to thrive at both ends. I think he has a very good chance to be Poland’s best defensemen since Pawel Dronia. He has excelled in the states being named both a player of the month and to the NAPHL all-star game.
Poland’s U20 team head coaches usually have two to three years reigns. Jaroslaw Morawiecki had three seasons at the helm, Andrei Parfenov lasted two years at the top, Torbjörn Johansson led the team for three, then David Leger just had one year. This was Sarnik’s second chance at leading the team and he now has led them to their worse finish this century. The U20 team needs a new coach and Poland should bring in a foreign coach to aid with that development. I don’t believe Poland currently has a coach that can develop talent to higher levels and produce results.
– Klaudiusz Libik’s lack of experience seems to be catching up with him in his development. He remains one of Poland’s best defensive prospects though.
– Kamil Walega maybe the best offensively talented player developed in Poland in the last few years
– There were plenty of special offensive players in this tournament. All of Damian Tyczynski, Igor Smal, Jakub Blanik, Maciej Witan, and Sebastian Brynkus deserve a lot of praise.
– As is custom for almost every tournament. Too many penalties. Poland ranked second in the tournament with 75.
Recently the U20 National team revealed their roster for the final grouping before the U20 World Championship in Ukraine from December 12th to the 18th. This year the U20 team has had an interesting journey to the World Championship. Poland U20 is going to be very young this year and has tried out a few combinations for lines and rosters. In the past few years, Poland has not been able to earn promotion despite talents like Alan Łyszczarczyk, Bartomiej Jeziorski, Dominik Pas, and others leading the team. This year Poland u20 may have their biggest star in a while as potential NHL draft pick Jakub Lewandowski could represent the team. Adam Kiedewicz is not listed on the roster, and this cast doubt on him ever representing Poland again in his career. Today we make our picks though on what players will be on the ice in red and white for the U20 World Championship.
Kamil Walega- Jan Soltys – Jakub Lewandowski
Damian Tyczynski – Igor Smal – Ernest Bochnak
Jakub Prokurat – Konrad Filipek – Maciej Witan
Jan Krzyzek – Kacper Gruzla – Mateusz Ubowski
Extra: Mateusz Bezwinski
This offense has a lot of talent. The top line could honestly rival the Alan Łyszczarczyk, Bartomiej Jeziorski, and Dominik Pas line that torn up the U20 World Championships a couple years ago. Walega and Lewandowski may be a bit one dimensional at times, but Soltys plays a complete game that will really benefit the line. It won’t be needed much, though, as this line will continuously be driving offense. The second line brings a lot of unique experiences and offensive potential. All three players have excelled in different places, Tyczynski tore up junior leagues in Slovakia, Igor Smal has been impressive at the senior level in Poland, while Bochnak has earned professional chances in the Czech Republic. The bottom lines still provide a lot of solid depth, size, and a chance at production. Bottom six production is something that Poland has been missing for a long time.
Szymon Bieniek – Klaudiusz Libik
Patryk Gosztyla – Armen Khoperia
Adrian Duszak- Michal Narog
Extra: Bartosz Florczak
There were not too many tough choices here, and there are four returners to the roster on defense. The defense lacked two big things experience and production last year. Everyone is now a year older and should have gained plenty of experience. While the production remains to be seen. Bieniek, Libik, and Narog can all make a significant impact on the offensive end. Florczak is included as my extra because of that. The 16-year-old is very talented and could provide offensively if needed. Libik and Bieniek have a chance to be two of the best defensemen ever for Poland, though the bar is pretty low. Poland has never had outstanding offensive defensemen, with Pawel Dronia being the highlight of this decade. Libik and Bieniek could change that.
The same goaltending duo as last year and no need to change it. Lipinski is the best junior goalie that Poland has, and Miarka isn’t far behind. Lipinski had a great showing at the U20 World Championship last year, while Miarka put on a show at the U18 World Championships. I would expect Lipinski to play four of the games, but Miarka to get at least one.
This team has a lot of potential. They could be the team that earns Poland promotion after four straight silver medals. The group has a lot of speed and skill. They are going to be able to outsmart their opponent and dictate how the game is played. This is a very young squad, and if the defense falters, it could be disastrous for the team. Lipinski posted a .938% last year for Poland and that still wasn’t enough. Poland really needs the defense to stop opponents from getting high danger chances and providing some help on offense.
Poland’s top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft has improved his chances quite a bit by making a move to the United States Hockey League (USHL).
The Sioux Falls Stampede announced their training camp roster on Tuesday and included on the list was Polish forward Jakub Lewandowski. Lewandowski will be only the second Polish national team player to play in the USHL, Rob Gubala played two games during the 1995-96 season. (John Murray and Mike Cichy played in the USHL prior to joining the Polish national team). Polish-born Kamil Sadlocha and Wojciech Stachowiak also played in the league during the 2017-18 season. Both made NCAA division 1 commitment after the season.
Last season, Lewandowski had 48 points (22-26-26) in 48 games with HC Vitkovice U19 in the Czech U19 league. He also played one game for PZHL U23 in the PHL recording 1 assist. Prior to last year, the 6’2 forward had played in the HC Vitkovice U18 system since 2016. Before moving to the Czech Republic, he played for Sokoly Torun in Poland. Lewandowski represented Poland at the 2018 U18s, where he recorded 7 points (5-2-7) in 5 games.
Lewandowski will be one of the 28 players trying to earn a spot on the 23 man Stampede roster. Last season Sioux Falls were the USHL Champions but will see of five of their top scorers move on in their careers.
The United States Hockey League is the top junior hockey league in the United States and a major source of NHL draft picks. Last year 47 NHL draft picks played at least 15 games in the USHL during their draft year.
My top 50 Men’s U23 list has finished and its time to take a closer look at the rankings. If you have to check it out you can start here at Players 50-45 or at the bottom of the article there will be links to every single piece.
The Big Board
In total, I looked at 139 players for my rankings. In total 80 of them were ranked with the top 50 all receiving a prospect report. Here are the top 80 rankings.
Top 5 Teams by Player Count
Player’s Team in 2018-19. Only players that made the top 80 will be counted here.
Players By Country They Play In
Player’s Team in 2018-19. Only players that made the top 80 will be counted here.
Despite all that seems to go wrong in Polish hockey the light at the end of the tunnel has been the amount of great young talent that Poland has in their system right now. This is the deepest depth of young talent Poland has had this century. Regardless of what happens in regards to management and coaching with the talent that Poland has coming, they should be able to push forward. In this list, I wanted to rank Poland’s young talent to create a better picture of what the future look likes. In this part, we look at the player ranked second.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team
1 – Alan Lyszczarczyk (C), 21, Mississauga Steelheads – Was there ever going to be any doubt about who the number one player was? Lyszczarczyk maybe the top player in Polish hockey regardless of U23 status. There is simply no player that caries the hype or status that Lyszczarczyk brings. He is the king of Polish hockey right now, and his success could have a tremendous impact on hockey in Poland.
Lyszczarczyk was born in Wellington, New Jersey. His dad Darius Lyszczarczyk was a long-time Polish National team player and forward for Podhale Nowy Targ. Lyszczarczyk returned to Poland though where he played in the Podhale Nowy Targ junior system. Impressive performances in Poland led to him getting to play in the Czech Republic for the junior team of Pirati Chomutov. In his first season in the Czech Republic at 14, he recorded 36 goals and 42 assists for 78 points in 40 games at the U16 level. The next year he continued his strong production with 66 points in 32 games at the U16 level, plus 30 points in 21 games at the U18 level. 2014-15 was his huge breakout year though as he led the Czech U18 league, as a 16-year-old, in points with 69 in 40 games.
This had Lyszczarczyk generating some buzz for the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. Lysczarczyk would not be drafted though, he would sign with the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) as a free agent. “Alan was a kid whose name came up on a pretty frequent basis from some pretty reputable hockey guys, so he was garnering some interest at that time. I know Sudbury, as well, was a team that was interested in him. But then, as the league did some homework on their own, they discovered that Alan, because his parents are living in the United States, that was their place of residence and it had been for a few years, he was not eligible for the import draft. That opened the door for him to be a free agent and paved the way for us bringing him to training camp,” Barclay Branch, then Sudbury Wolves General Manager, said in an interview to The Sudbury Star.
Lysczarzcyk had quite the debut season in the OHL. He recorded 17 goals and 33 assists in 50 points in 67 games. We reached out to Sudbury Wolves writer Ben Leeson and asked him about Lyszczarczyk’s first year, “Lyszczarczyk kind of came out of nowhere in his first season with the Wolves. No one had heard much about him when he arrived at training camp, but of course, a quick glance at Elite Prospects suggested there was plenty of skill there. And he showed that skill, more and more as the year went on, eventually becoming a top-line forward later in the season. While there were things to work on, such as his skating and shot release, he had very good offensive instincts, was an effective passer and was quite strong on the puck, despite not being the biggest player, and had a non-stop motor. He was also very coachable — I remember Sudbury’s staff at the time saying he was never a guy you had to worry about, a guy who just went out and did his job without complaining. He kept things light in the room, too, always smiling, making jokes, funny faces and sounds, leading his teammates to affectionately call him Cartoon.”
Lyszczarczyk was generating some NHL draft interest. He was projected to be drafted anywhere from the 4th round to the 7th round.
Another good sign that Lyszczarczyk would be drafted was the fact that 84.3% of players with similar production had been drafted. TheDraftAnanlyst.com wrote, “He can play in the trenches and shows interest in fighting tooth and nail for loose pucks, but building upper-body strength and learning the intricacies of three-zone play will make him tougher to deal with beyond the puck artistry and hard shot. Lyszczarczyk is at this point a one-dimensional point producer who can be entrusted with power play duties but nothing during penalty kills and late-game lead holds.” In the end, his name was not called at the NHL entry draft.
“I wasn’t sure if Alan would be drafted in his first year of eligibility, though I certainly wouldn’t have been surprised if he did, after such a strong season and a fairly smooth adjustment to North American hockey. I just wasn’t certain he had the kind of speed and skating ability NHL teams had begun to look for, and his shot was still a work in progress — he has since come a long way in that area, I should say, so perhaps a team should have taken a chance on him. I did believe he would earn himself opportunities at a professional career, whether in North America or Europe and could see him opening a lot of doors with his worth ethic.” Ben Leeson on if he expected Lysczarzcyk would be drafted. Lyszczarczyk would be invited to the Maple Leafs development camp following the draft.
Some things needed to improve in Lyszczarczyk’s game, but he still had a lot going for him. I mean it was only his first year in North America, the Wolves had some really nice talents in Dmitri Sokolov and David Levin, and Lyszczarczyk continued to get better and better as the year went on. His second season did not go well at all though. His production dropped to 10 goals and 22 assists in 61 games. The Wolves were a better team, ice time was harder to come by, and Lyszczarczyk struggled with consistency. “Despite the dip in Lyszczarczyk’s numbers, he still scored some big goals, made some great plays and rounded out his game in some other areas, but he definitely had a few dry spells, and I think it led him to grip the stick a little too tight, as they say. He also had to share the ice a little more with older players as the team tried to make a push for playoffs. I was always sure that he’d find his touch again, though, possibly as a 19-year-old.” Ben Leeson told us about Lyszczarczyk’s 2016-17 season.
In the offseason, the Wolves would trade Lyszczarczyk and goaltender Zach Bowman to the Owen Sound Attack for a handful of draft picks. Owen Sound was going to be a fresh start for Lyszczarczyk. The team was loaded on forward talent, where while Lyszczarczyk maybe wouldn’t get the most ice time he would be surrounded by top talents like NHL draft picks Aidan Dudas, Jonah Gadjovich, Maxim Sushko, and Nick Suzuki. Lyszczarczyk had an improved season posting 21 goals and 20 assists in 59 games. He really had a great postseason posting 8 goals and 5 assists in 11 games. His production was better, but still just below his rookie year. You could definitely see his improved shot.
For 2018-19 this was Lyszczarczyk’s overage year and final OHL season. It didn’t look like he would return to Owen Sound at first after trying out for HC Energie Karlovy Vary of the Tipsport Extraliga. He ended up deciding to stay in the OHL for his overage season. Owen Sound still had a strong roster, but a couple top 6 spots had opened up meaning more ice time. Owen Sound was over the overager limit. This would mean that one of the overage players would have to sit out. Lyszczarczyk made the most of this situation at first recording 4 goals and 7 assists in 10 games despite numerous healthy scratches. The situation was fixed though when Lyszczarczyk was dealt to the Mississauga Steelheads.
The trade to the Steelheads can easily be called the best thing to happen in Lyszczarczyk’s OHL career. He caught fire with the team being able to play a lot of ice time with top players. Lyszczarczyk put up new career highs for every statistical category. His season totals were 39 goals and 43 assists in 64 games. He had 2 goals and 2 assist in 4 playoff games as well. He was truly for the first chance, given the chance to be one of the top stars on a team and flourished in the role. Even after the team traded away high NHL draft picks Owen Tippett and Ryan Mcleod, Lyszczarczyk continued to produce at a high rate.
His season point total of 82 was tied for 18th in the OHL. His goals were 13th in the league. He also had the 4th most shots in the league at 305. Yes, he was an overager in the OHL, but all his stats ranked within the top 10 for overagers.
His play has come a long way since his rookie days notably the vast improvement of his shot and development to his defensive game. Last year, he was even able to get some time on the penalty kill. His game has become more complete and rounded. He may be the best offensive talent Poland has had since Mariusz Czerkawski. He is willing to go into the corners and will never quit. There is still work to be done at on defensive game, but it is good enough for the next level. What is the next level is the big question for him? His point per game comparables most likely play at least 100 games in the ECHL or a lower European league like the Tipsport Liga. Though a decent amount go on to play 100 games in the American Hockey League or a top European league like the Kontinental Hockey League. None have gone on to play 100 games in the NHL yet.
It seems that comparables were right in this case as Lyszczarczyk signed an ECHL deal with the Fort Wayne Komets. He was also invited to the Chicago Wolves (AHL) training camp. I could see Lyszczarczyk earning a contract with Wolves out of training camp, but still most likely spending most of his time to start the year in the ECHL. This is mostly because of his playstyle. He needs to play the most minutes he can, and he probably won’t get that in the AHL. He needs to adjust and learn how to produce offensively against men. That development is going to come a lot easier in the ECHL.
Since Fort Wayne entered the ECHL for the 2012-13 season, they have only had fours rookie forwards. Those four forwards all posted point per game marks above .60 for their ECHL career. Three of the four also made it to the AHL pretty quickly, while the other lead the Elite Ice Hockey Leauge in assists for the 2017-18 season. It seems that when Fort Wayne signs a young forward they expect them to produce strong numbers and put them in a position to succeed. It will be the first time a Polish player has played in the ECHL since Adam Borzecki in 2005. I think signing in the ECHL is the perfect place for Lyszczarczyk to continue his career.
Despite all that seems to go wrong in Polish hockey, the light at the end of the tunnel has been the amount of great young talent that Poland has in their system right now. This is the deepest depth of young talent Poland has had this century. Regardless of what happens in regards to management and coaching with the talent that Poland has coming, they should be able to push forward. In this list, I wanted to rank Poland’s young talent to create a better picture of what the future look likes. In this part, we look at the player ranked second.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team
2 – Jan Soltys (F), 19, JKH GKS Jastrzebie. The second player on my list is one who can do it all. Soltys has the best all-around game of any Polish player. The 5’11 forward is a perfect fit for North American hockey. He has a game that could make Don Cherry fall in love with a European player as his head explodes from trying to pronounce a Polish name.
Soltys has been a staple of Poland’s junior teams since he was 16. He made his first IIHF appearance at the 2017 Division 1 Group B U18 World Championships. He was the youngest member of Poland at that tournament and recorded a goal and an assist. The following season he was named to both Poland’s U18 team and U20 squads. He captained the U18 team as they took silver in Division 2 Group A, recording three goals and four assists. At the U20s, he was once again the youngest member of a Polish national team. The only 2000 born player at the tournament for Poland recorded two goals in five games.
This year he was a crucial part of Poland’s U20 team again. He recorded three goals and two assists, tied with Kamil Walega for the second-most on the team. Soltys was an absolute beast in this tournament. He was the most physically dominant player at the tournament. He was also able to make his senior team debut this year playing two games. His play style really makes him a strong contender to make his senior World Championship debut soon.
Soltys has been playing a majority of his seasons in the PHL since he was 16. His age 16 season in 2015-16, saw him put up four goals and one assist in 31 games. He was the only 16 years old to play more than 15 games that year. The five points are tied, with Bartlomiej Jeziorski, for the 4th most points by a U17 player in PHL going back to 1990. The following year, he only played 28 games between Poland’s two pro leagues as Soltys was quite busy with many junior national team endeavors. He still recorded two goals and two assists in the 18 games at the PHL level for SMS U20 Katowice, which was part of a four-way tied for the team lead.
This year was really his breakout year offensively in the PHL. Anyone who saw him on the junior stage knew it was coming and he delivered in a massive way. This season between JKH GKS Jastrzebie and PZHL U23, Soltys had 22 points (8-14-22) in 38 games. This was tied for second in terms of points by a U20 player in the PHL, and the highest point per game. It ranks as the 7th highest point per game posted by an 18-year-old player in the PHL going back to 1990.
David Leger, the former head of Poland’s junior teams, was quite the fan of Soltys’ game. He had him at both the U18s and U20s in 2018. After the season, Leger commented on him, “He scored two big goals for us at the u20 tournament. I spent the whole year with him on the SMS team. Soltys is physically dominant, competes and battles, and not afraid to go to the net, plays very similar to a North American. Skates well and good puck skills. I was disappointed a little bit, I had a team contact me from the CHL asking about him and saw he wasn’t selected in the import draft. I think he would be really suited to play major junior hockey. I think he’s got a really bright future.”
Soltys is an all-around great player with a complete toolset with no major flaw in his game. He is a strong skater which aids every facet of his game. I don’t think there is another junior player in Poland that throws some of the hits that he does. He is always going to forecheck and backcheck, usually winning that puck battle. Soltys annoys the opposition to the point they wish they chose football as a kid. His offensive skills have continued to improve tremendously. His puck skills now rank among the best for young Polish players. Soltys is going to be a star, no doubt in my mind.
While I may sound like a broken record in this list series saying players need to go aboard to develop, that applies to Soltys as well. The specific target in my mind for him would be to go to the United States Hockey League. The league is the top junior league in the United States. I think he would excel in this league and attract a lot of professional interest. For next season, Soltys will be a leader for Poland at the U20 World Championship, and probably get more senior national team games in. On the professional side, Soltys has been training with JKH GKS Jastrzebie. He is likely to play a more significant role for the team and spend less time with the PZHL u23 squad.
Despite all that seems to go wrong in Polish hockey the light at the end of the tunnel has been the amount of great young talent that Poland has in their system right now. This is the deepest depth of young talent Poland has had this century. Regardless of what happens in regards to management and coaching with the talent that Poland has coming, they should be able to push forward. In this list, I wanted to rank Poland’s young talent to create a better picture of what the future look likes. In this part, we look at the player ranked third.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team
3 – Jakub Lewandowski (F), 18, HC Vitkovice U19. One of the highest bars to hit when judging the growth of a small hockey country is getting a player drafted. It can make headlines and inspire so many young players in a country. For Poland, it has been a long time since that height was reached. The last was Marcin Kolusz, who heard his name called in 2003. There have been others since then to reportedly draw some interest and get invited to development camps, but that elusive status of being drafted has continued to evade Polish players. There is always talk of the next player who may potentially change that and that player in Poland right now is Jakub Lewandowski. Lewandowski is Poland’s next chance to have a player drafted to the NHL and his odds look promising.
Lewandowski moved over to the Czech junior system in 2016 after playing in the Sokoly Torun system his entire life. He even reached the Tourn U20 team as a 14-year-old in 2015. His jump to Czechia was dominant from the beginning he had 54 points (27G, 27A) in 30 Czech U16 games. He also got in 28 games at the U18 league, adding 25 more points (17G, 8A). He played full time in the Czech U18 league for the 2017-18 season, he scored 29 goals in 42 games while adding 15 assists for 44 points.
Now to this season his season before being draft eligible. Lewandowski got off to an extremely hot start. Being one of the leading scorers to begin the Czech junior year.
Jakub Lewandowski currently sits 8th in points in Czechia’s top junior league. He turns 17 in October and isn’t eligible for the NHL draft this year.
His scoring did cool a bit, but by no means was it not great production. Lewandowski finished with 22 goals and 26 assists in 48 games. This was the second most points by any player in their season before draft eligibility and the 6th highest point-per-game.
Lewandowski made his national team IIHF debut for Poland at the 2018 U18s. There he was able to score five goals and added two assists. This was tied for the second most goals on team Poland. This year he was left off the U20 World Championship in a controversial decision. That I view as one of the biggest roster mistakes this decade. He did get one game in with PZHL U23, where he recorded an assist against Orlik Opole.
Lewandowski is a sensational offensive talent with an eye for the back of the end. He will always be able to make his way to the front of the net and use his excellent patience before unleashing his lethal shot. He has some decent forechecking ability. He has all the offensive tools to succeed in some of the top professional leagues in Europe.
While his top professional league status in Europe is probably a guarantee. He is also the Polish player that has the best chance to be drafted. His draft year is next year and it is no were near a guarantee, but he has a lot going for him. First, he has the size that NHL team love, Lewandowski stands at 6’2. Second, he has the offensive skill to be drafted in my opinion. The third is the fact that how similar players and players he played with and against are doing. For the 2020 draft, there are six players popping up on draft boards who also played in the Czech u19 league.
Lewandowski while not the top scoring player is not the worst. A reminder he also had the second most points among players in their draft-eligibility -1 season. While an impressive stat part of this is because all the other players, besides John-Jason Peterka, were able to play some professional hockey games. That is the big key for Lewandowski, he needs to get on some larger stages. Even if that is just playing a handful of games in the second league. It would give the exposure and credibility that Lewandowski needs. He will be a key member of Poland’s U20 team along with returning to HC Vitkovice U19. Hopefully, Vitkovice will give him some professional chances.