Category: Mens Prospects

2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #30-21

We are more than halfway through the rankings now! Many remaining players have already well-established themselves as PHL players or have taken on the challenges of a top junior league abroad. This group of players features two major risers and the two highest debut rankings for 2022. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 1st, 2022. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 169 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking.

Players 80-51
Players 50-41
Players 40-31

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)

30 – Karol Sterbenz (F), 19, HK Poprad U20 (15, -15)

Sterbenz was putting up a lot of points in the Austrian junior system, making him an intriguing player in the 2022 offseason. GKS Katowice agreed and offered him a tryout and invitation to training camp, but he would stay abroad in the end. He signed on with HK Propad U20, who play in Slovakia’s top junior hockey league. It was not the most explosive year production-wise, as the Katowice native posted 16 points (10G-6A-16PTS) in 49 games. His two-way playing contributed to the club’s top regular season finish and silver medal in the playoffs.

Sterbenz Goal vs MMHK Nitra Slovakia U20

Moving from Austria to Slovakia would be a jump, especially with such a strong club. Still, I was a bit disappointed in his production. His 16 points were 30th among all 18-year-old skaters in the league. When we look at production matches, many did not pursue hockey after their junior career. Of those who did, only 19% when to play 50 games in Slovakia’s top league, while a majority, 60%, went on to play in Slovakia’s second league. Sterbenz also represented Poland at the Divison 1 Group B U20 World Championships, where he posted 1 goal in 5 games. To project him being a strong player outside of Poland, he will have to post better production year in his age 19 season.

29 – Krystian Mocarski (F), 23, STS Sanok (28, -1

Mocarski excelled in a more prominent role on the Gdansk and was one of 2021’s breakout players. In 2022, he moved to a better organization in Sanok. That move, of course, would come with a role decrease. While Sanok was not the best team, they certainly had more options at the forward end. Mocarski felt that as his production was halved. In 45 games, he posted one goal and nine assists. This placed him tied for seventh among all U23 skaters in points. His nine assists were top five among the age group.

Mocarski Goal vs KH Torun PHL

Mocarski bounced around the lineup this year in Sanok, mostly settling in on the third line. He did earn some top-line chances late in the season, and it appears that Miika Elomo trusted him more than Marek Zietara did. We also see a vast difference in production under the two coaches, as it went from .15 under Zietara to .28 under Elomo. Mocarski is already a third liner in Poland, and I think his ceiling will be a middle-six guy but could crack the top lines in the bottom half of the PHL. 

28 – Jakub Ślusarczyk (F), 19,  HC Vitkovice U20 (57, +29

Ślusarczyk is another player that receives a massive boost after barely playing the previous year due to COVID canceling Czech junior seasons. After spending the first two years abroad with HC Poruba, Ślusarczyk jumped to HC Vitkovice U20 in the top level of Czechia junior hockey. He flourished in his first season with the club, recording 11 goals and ten assists in 48 games. His 21 points were 47th among 18-year-old forwards. 

Ślusarczyk Goal vs. Ukraine IIHF U20 D1B

It wasn’t instant success at the start of the year, as he only recorded six points in 20 games for the year’s first half. In December, he represented Poland at the Division 1 Group B U20 World Championships. There in five games, he recorded one goal. Once he returned, he was a bit of a changed player. He finished the year with 15 points in 27 games. Maybe it was just getting more comfortable in Czechia’s top junior league. Either way, that second half gives me a lot of hope for what next year could be. 

27 – Michał Zając (F), 21, KH Torun (32, +5

Zając is another player that left the sinking boat of Gdansk and moved on to another PHL club. The Bytom native stayed in northern Poland, moving to KH Torun. Like Mocarski, he would get a minor role downgrade, especially as a younger player. He didn’t experience that big of a drop in production though. For the 2022 season, he recorded eight points (2G-6A-8PTS) in 40 games. This was only down three points from his totals in 2021. It was the 11th most points by a U23 skater and the second most by an aged 20 forward. 

Zając Goal vs Zaglebie Sosnowiec PHL

I was thrilled with his production, given he was pretty much glued to the bottom six for Torun this year. So only a slight production drop with that ice time is not the end of the world. Production matches in the PHL don’t paint the brightest picture. Only one match, Martin Przygodzki, has gone on to great PHL success. Many players hovered in the 20-point range and had long PHL careers as critical bottom six contributors. 

26 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow (19, -7

Brynkus drops for two consecutive years on the list. In Cracovia, he has not been trusted with a significant role. This year Brynkus was stapled to the third and fourth line. He appeared in 46 games and scored three goals while assisting on four. The seven points being the second lowest point total in his four PHL seasons. He did make his second appearance for the Polish senior national team, where he scored a goal versus Ukraine. 

Brynkus Goal vs Podhale Nowy Targ PHL

It was rumored during the offseason that Brynkus could be leaving Cracovia. In the end, he returns to the red and white. When I wrote this report,  Cracovia had already added Marek Racuk, Martin Kasperlík, Patryk Wronka, Radoslaw Sawicki, Robert Arrak, and Roman Rác to their forward core. It doesn’t seem like many spots in the top nine will open up soon. At only 21-years-old, Brynkus has a reasonable amount of time to develop. 

25 – Armen Khoperia (D), 22, Zaglebie Sosnowiec (38, +13

Khoperia is my fastest-rising PHL defenseman on the list this year. He earned his way up the Sosnowiec lineup, eventually taking on the top pairing duties. His club was in a complicated situation after Bartłomiej Bychawski left the team in January, and Daniel Klinecký failed to live up to expectations. Khoperia was thrown into the fire and ran with it.

Khoperia Secondary Assist vs. KH Torun PHL

2022 was his highest career point total as he posted six assists in 45 games. His six assists were tied for the most among all U23 defensemen. The stay-at-home defender also was appointed to the men’s senior national team for the April grouping. For 2023, Armen Khoperia is continuing to suit up for Zaglebie Sosnowiec. He should get plenty of chances and challenges. 

24 – Dominik Kolat (F), 18, HC Poruba U20 (NR) 

Kolat is our second highest-ranked debut player this year. The Czechia-born forward also has spent most of his junior career in the country. After only playing seven games in the Czechia U17 league for AZ Havirov in 2021, Kolat moved up to the U20 level with HC Poruba U20. This jump put him in the second-level of U20 hockey in Czechia. He also made a single appearance for AZ Havirov at the top level. 

Kolat Goal vs Italy IIHF U20 D1B

In 36 games, the Ostrava native scored 13 goals and assisted on nine. His .71 point per game average was 21st in the league among draft-eligible skaters. He broke out when he played for Poland U18 at the IIHF level. There in five games, he scored four goals and assisted on two. His four goals were tied for third in the tournament. I am excited to see him continue to grow in the Czech junior system. 

23 – Eryk Schafer (D), 18, KH Torun (NR) 

Schafer comes in as our highest-ranked debuting player. Watching him play this year, the best way I can describe him is a ball of energy that will not stop bouncing around til its hits someone or something. He made an impact everywhere he played this year, starting in the PHL, where he made the Torun lineup. He played in 27 games this year and scored his first PHL goal. Playing in the PHL at 17 as a defenseman is rare, so it makes sense that 83% of his production matches have become PHL regulars. 

Schafer Goal vs Polonia Bytom MHL

On top of his PHL season, he appeared for Sokoly Torun in the MHL. There he recorded 18 points (9G-9A-18PTS) in 21 games. This was tied for sixth among all defensemen in points while leading all U18 defensemen. He also made the Poland U20 squad for the D1B World Championships, where he posted one assist in five games. His season did end on a down note when he was left off the U18s squad due to off-ice issues. Head coach Łukasz Sokół did not elaborate on what occurred but said he talked with Schafer, who understood and took it well. 

22 – Oliwier Kasperek (D), 20, MOSM Tychy (50, +28

Kasperek comes in as our fourth highest-ranked defensemen. The Tychy native was the best defenseman for Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he posted two goals and one assist in five games. Those two goals led Poland at the event and were tied for the lead among all defensemen. His scoring was not his only asset, as he showed poise and firm control of the blue line. In his own zone against much stronger competition, he held his own. 

Kasperek Goal vs Japan IIHF U20 D1B

Kasperek mainly played in the MHL this year but did appear in four games with GKS Tychy in the PHL. In 24 games, he posted 16 points (3G-13A-16PTS). His increase in production from 2021 saw him tied for second in points among all U20 defensemen in the MHL. For next year, he has already re-signed with Tychy. It will be hard to see him breaking the lineup full-time, but I hope he can get a few more PHL chances. 

21 – Adrian Gromadzki (F), 18, HC Dynamo Pardubice U20 (26, +5)

One of my favorite things about Gromadzki is if you have a look at his season-by-season results, he has never not had a point per game season in at least one of level of hockey. From the junior leagues of Poland to Germany to now Czechia. In 2022, he moved up to the U20 leagues. He split the year between HC Chrudim U20 in the Czech second U20 league and HC Dynamo Pardubice U20 at the top level. 

Gromadzki Primary Assist vs. Italy IIHF U18 D1B

He posted 26 points (14G-12A-26PTS) at the second level in Czechia in 20 games. His 1.30 point per game average was the fourth-best among U18 skaters, and it’s the third-best season by a player in a draft-eligible -1 season since 2010. In the top league, his production was not as strong as he fought to earn his palace on the team. He came in at 10 points (1G-9A-10PTS) in 27 games. His 10 points were tied for 19th among skaters in their Draft Eligible -1 season. 60% of his matches have gone to play at least 50 games in the Czechia’s top league. 

It was a very strong year for Gromadzki, with great stints at both the top two levels of junior hockey in Czechia. To cap off his year, he represented Poland at the Division 1 Group B U18s, putting up two assists in five games.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #40-31

We’re now in the top 40! The players in this part mostly grade out as PHL quality players, appearing in middle six for forwards, top four for defensemen, and split starters for goalies. We also see a few young players taking double-digit jumps, including the biggest riser in the entire ranking. The rankings start to take shape at this point, and all players easily made the top 50 while the gaps widen. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 1st, 2022. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 169 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking.

Players 80-51
Players 50-41

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)

40 – Kacper Macias (D), 19, HC Poruba U20, (NR)

Kacper Macias missed out on being ranked last year after he only played in six Czechia U20 2 games. In 2022, with an entire season, he was able to make a quiet impact on Poruba. It is always a bit hard to judge when a player is playing in a country’s second level of junior hockey, but we have seen plenty of Polish players come out of the Poruba system. In total, the 19-year-old defenseman posted 21 points (7G-14A-21PTS) in 43 games. His 21 points were 15th among defensemen in the league. 

Macias primary assist vs. France U20 D1B

Macias also represented Poland at the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships. In five games, he posted a single assist. It was an interesting year, but not one I got a lot of film to watch. When we turn to point production matches, we don’t see much. Most of his matches played in the third level of Czechia hockey or lower, with only 7% playing in the Chance Liga. Macias will have more substantial chances in Poland to play professionally, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a solid PHL defenseman. 

39 – Jan Krzyżek (F), 21, GKS Tychy (42, +3

In a year with so many significant rises and falls due to COVID, Krzyżek only sees his stock rise by three. He split the year between Tychy’s PHL and MHL squads, as most U23 players do. In the PHL, he set a new career-high in games played with 25. In those 25 games, he did record two assists. It gives him one more point than last year. The big body Krzyżek usually played in low-minute defensive roles for Tychy.

Krzyżek Goal vs. ŁKH Łódź MHL

The German-born forward played a lot bigger role in the MHL. There in just 12 games, he recorded 25 points (14G-11A-25PTS). His 2.1 point per game average was the best of his MHL career. But as a player over 20, I don’t give too much weight to MHL numbers. Krzyżek will be staying with GKS Tychy next year. I think his ceiling is a second line forward in Poland, but his size could open more doors possibly. 

38  – Sebastian Lipiński (G), 22, Peterborough Phantoms 2 (24, -14

Lipiński had long been ranked as the top goalie in my list, but that streak has ended. He comes in as our third-ranked goalie. Lipinski left Poland this year for his first season abroad, ending up in the fourth level of British ice hockey, the NIHL 2. In 20 regular season games, the 6’1 goalie posted a .928 save percentage, and he also put up a .908 save percentage in 3 playoff games. His regular season save percentage was the third best among goalies, just behind former Premier League goalie Petr Cech. 

The league is what it is, and I’m not sure how to judge performances in such a low level. His drop in the ranking is primarily due to the competition being much weaker than the PHL. He did get to play a lot this year, and it led him back to Poland in the end. He signed with Zaglebie Sosnowiec for the 2023 season and beyond. He should be able to compete with Patrick Spensy next year for starts.  

37 – Filip Plonka (G), 19, UKH Unia Oswiecim (45, +8

Before I get into the report, I want to note that Plonka’s rise is mainly due to how I valued goalies versus skaters for the 2022 rankings after I believe they were undervalued in past lists. Plonka has continued to serve as the third goalie in Oswiecim while needing more time against senior competition. His only PHL action this year was in October, when he stopped all six shots he faced against Sosnowiec. He was also left off the Polish U20 team for the U20 D1B World Championship. 

Plonka Savs vs. Zaglebie Sosnowiec PHL

 He mostly performed in the MHL for UKH Unia Oswiecim. There in 12 games, he posted a .866 save percentage, which was 2nd among 19-year-old goalies in the league. In the MHL, he often faced close to 40 shots a game, with his lowest total in a complete game being 27 twice. Plonka did finish the year strong, posting a .903 save percentage in the CLJ finals.  His past seasons are carrying a lot of weight in the ranking.

36 – Blazej Chodor (D), 17, SMS PZHL Katowice (78, +42

Chodor is the biggest riser in this year’s rankings. I usually don’t even rank players in their 15-year-old season who just turned 16 in time to be ranked. Last year though, there was no way to me that Chodor was not in the top 80. After another year of success, he now climbs to the top 40. Chodor has excellent size and is a strong skater who isn’t afraid to get physical. He spent the year playing for various Polish junior teams. For SMS PZHL Katowice in the MHL, he posted 14 points (6G-8A-14PTS) in 21 games. This was second among all 16-year-old defensemen. 

Chodor goal vs. ŁKH Łódź MHL

He then went on to play for Poland Team U16, which competes in Czechia U17 2. There, he posted 10 points (3G-7A-10PTS) in 21 games. His .47 point per game average was 17th among all defenders. He also represented Poland at the U18 Division 1 Group B World Championships going pointless in five games. Chodor has a lot of potential and would be my current pick for the Polish junior player to best succeed in North America. He needs more experience in stronger leagues, especially to improve his defensive awareness.

35 – Mateusz Ubowski (F), 21, GKS Tychy (35, +0) 

Ubowski is one of the trio of young Tychy forwards that continue to fight for a shot at playing time with the top club. This year he earned plenty of more chances than last year. He played in 29 games, recording two assists while most playing on the lower lines. He also recorded 11 points (5G-6A-11PTS) at the MHL level. However, it was age 20 season and lower than his age 19 production. 

Ubowski seems like a great fit to be a middle-six forward in the PHL. It will be a prolonged rise up the lineup if he continues to play for GKS Tychy. We saw one of his teammates, Kacper Gruzla, choose to leave for a more significant chance. That might be what Ubowski needs, as it will be hard to see him getting a lot of opportunities unless put on a loan to another club. 

34 – Stanisalw Drozd-Niekurzak (F), 20, Partille HK J20 (59, +25) 

Drozd-Niekurzak has bounced around several junior leagues, teams, and countries over the past few years. He landed back in Sweden with Partille HK J20 for the 2022 season. The 19-year-old forward put up 13 points (5G-8A-13PTS) in 11 games. He also took some baby steps into senior hockey, playing in 10 games in Sweden’s Division 3, where he recorded two goals and three assists. This was his best year in Sweden and the most production he has shown over the past few seasons. 

He capped off his season as the assistant captain for Poland at the U20 World Championships. There in five games, he recorded one assist. It has been hard to get a proper hold of what Drozd-Niekurzak could develop into with his multiple short stints at quite a few clubs. Right now, I believe his ceiling is his second-line forward in the PHL. His wealth of experience in Germany and Sweden should assist him tremendously. 

33 – Krystian Lisowski (F), 17, Kiekko-Espoo U18 Ch (NR) 

Lisowski makes his debut in the top 40, one of the highest debut rankings of all time. He is a player that could rocket into a top spot next year. Lisowski played in the U18 SM-sarja in 2022, the top level of U18 hockey in Finland. There in 44 games, he recorded 26 goals and 12 assists. His 38 points tied for 38th in the league among all skaters, and it was 7th among 16-year-olds. His 26 goals lead all 16-year-old skaters and are seventh among all skaters. He also played in one game at the U20 level where he scored one goal. He also represented Poland at the U18s, where he went pointless in five games. 

Lisowski has a more significant amount of production comparables and they show a lot of promise. 3.5% of his matches went on to become NHL players. Included in the group are Markus Hännikäinen and Rasmus Kupari. Quite a few of his matches were recent NHL draft picks as well. While the NHL chance is low, it’s still great for Polish players and one of the highest among all Polish skaters this decade in their age 16 seasons. What I find more promising is that 50 percent of his matches went to at least play one entire season in the Liiga or NHL. Even then, 79.3% of his matches played in the Metsis or above. Lisowski appears to have a strong chance at being a very impactful player in Finland or worldwide. 

32 – Jakub Worwa (F), 23, Podhale Nowy Targ (47, +15) 

Jakub Worwa is a player I have watched the past few years, waiting for a season when he finally put it all together. This year, he scored five goals and assisted on six in 31 games. Podhale Nowy Targ was in a rough state for 2022, and his point total was fifth among forwards on the squad. The Italy-born forward posted a point per game average of .36. Which was the highest of his career and the fourth best among U23 skaters in the PHL.

Worwa goal vs. GKS Tychy PHL

When looking at production comparables for the PHL only, most of his matches have gone on to post career point per game averages of around .40 in the PHL. At this point, a middle-six forward in Poland seems to be his ceiling. It will be interesting to see where he ends up for next PHL season.

31 – Miłosz Noworyta (D), 23, Unia Oswiecim, (30, -1

Noworyta has now appeared in the PHL in parts of seven seasons. He has only become a full-time PHL defenseman in the past few seasons. This year was a new career high in games played with 52 games. In his fifty-plus games, he recorded three assists, which is also a career-high in points. The stay-home defenseman plays his role well but still finds himself in Oswiecim’s bottom pairings. The floor is a bottom-six defender in Poland, and he will have a long line of stay-at-home defenders to beat to rise the ranks.

Noworyta primary assist vs. Zagłębie Sosnowiec PHL

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #50-41

After the 30-player-long part 1, we have now reached the first article of the top 50. This is the first group of players who, for me, graded out as solid PHL players in past, current, and future play. This group of players was hard to rank, as it has a few players struggling to find their identity in the PHL. It becomes hard to tell after a few PHL seasons if a player still possesses the ability to climb the lineup and become an impact producer. On top of that, we had plenty of players not previously ranked, breaking the top 50. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16 years old on June 1st, 2022. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred sixty-nine players were considered for the list and reviewed, and eighty players received a ranking.

Players 80-51

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)

50 – Szymon Dobosz (F), 20, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok (41, -9)

The top 50 spot always feels like its a player who has a larger story to their season. There were questions about Dobosz’s future at the end of the 2021 hockey year, and those were never really resolved. The young forward would not sign or play anywhere during the year’s first half. He did attend national team camps and sparrings, but that was it. He was then selected to the roster of the Polish U20 team for the Division 1 Group B World Championship. He was rusty at the tournament and looked out of place sometimes. After Poland was relegated, head coach Artur Slusarczyk said he believed that Dobosz was still one of the best wingers available to them even without playing a club season. 

Szymon Dobosz Goal vs. Sokoly Torun MHL

After the international tournament, Dobosz would return to Sanok and play in the MHL for the remainder of the season. He finished with 15 points (10G-5A-15PTS) in 13 games. He is a talented forward, no doubt. At this stage, he needs to play as much as possible to continue to develop. If Dobosz plays a lot, I could see him in a middle-six for Sanok. 

49 – Jakub Blanik (F), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec (27, -22

I had high hopes that Blanik’s production would recover this year after he only posted three points in 31 games during the 2021 season. Instead, his production went down as he only recorded two assists in 41 games. Those two assists also both came in one game against Podhale. These are very disappointing numbers for a forward, especially for one who had posted seven points in just 17 games during the 2020 season. He did post 20 points (3G-17A-20PTS) in 12 MHL games. 

Blanik primary assist vs. Podhale Nowy Targ PHL

Now that Blanik is in his 20s, these will be make-or-break seasons. His high character and competitiveness are things that coaches rave about. I see him being a PHL forward, even if only a bottom-six one. 

48 – Michał Nawrocki (F),  19, Kalix HC J20, (43, -5

Nawrocki continues his journeyman junior career as he split time between Poland and Sweden. This year, he spent most of his time with Kalix HC J20 in Sweden’s second U20 division. There in 22 games, he recorded two goals and two assists. The other part of his season was in the MHL with Sokoly Torun. He only played in ten games, but he scored six goals and assisted on five. He is likely too good to play in the MHL full time, so I have liked seeing him take chances abroad. 

Nawrocki Goal vs. Sokoly Torun MHL

For the 2022 season, he will move to the United States and play for the Hershey Cubs in the USPHL Premier League. A lower-tier junior league in states, but still boasts some professional alumni. We have seen quite a few Poles play in the league, but Nawrocki will possibly be the first forward to get extended time. 

47 – Kacper Ziarkowski (F), 17, Krefelder EV 1981 U17, (NR) 

Ziarkowski receives a huge debut rating after only playing five games in 2021. His 2022 season was the first time we saw him in an extended run, and it was a great showing. The Torun native posted 46 points (27G-19A-46PTS) in 34 Germany U17 games. His 46 points were 27th among all skaters in the league, the fourth most by a non-German player. His 27 goals were tied for 9th in the league. While the current structure of Germany’s U17 league has only been around since 2019, his production matches suggest he should be a good DNL U20 player. Plenty of them have already taken their first professional steps across all the top three levels of German senior hockey. 

Ziarkowski did take some baby steps to the next level. He played in one Obliega game in 2022 with Krefelder EV 1981 U23. He also managed to get in two games at the DNL U20 level, where he recorded one goal. The team has already announced that Ziarkowski will be promoted to the DNL U20 top level next year. Poland could be looking at an excellent IIHF U20 producer. 

46 – Oskar Bajwenko (D), 21, KH Torun, (63, +17

Bajwenko was a player I have been watching for a bit. As I think the aggressive defender has a strong shot at being a top-four defenseman in Poland. He started to crawl into the PHL this year, playing in 14 regular-season games and then 4 playoff games. He also showed he is ready to graduate from the MHL after posting a career-high of 15 points (3G-12A-15PTS) in 12 games. His 1.25 point per game average was fourth among all defensemen. 

Bajwenko Goal vs. Sokoly Torun MHL

He will be returning to a much more crowded defensemen room in Torun, as the team is returning their key Poles while also adding Jakub Gimiński and Ukrainian Volodymyr Aleksyuk. I do like that former longtime PHL defensemen Lukasz Podsiadlo will be aiding his development as an assistant coach in Torun. I expect Bajwenko to potentially step into a full-time top-six role with Torun this year. 

45 – Filip Świderski (G), 21, STS Sanok, (NR) 

After a pretty quiet 2021, Świderski took control of the backup spot in the Sanok lineup. During the 2021 season, Patrik Spesny was entrenched in the starting role, playing every game of the year. But in 2022, Spesny wasn’t as sharp, and this opened up a few chances for Filip Świderski. A specific game I want to highlight was on October 17th, vs. Unia Oswiecim. With the start, Świderski played great while facing constant pressure. He stopped 38 of 40 shots. In total, he posted a .894 save percentage in eight games. That is the 6th highest save percentage by a 21-year-old goalie in the PHL since 2010 (min 5 games). 

Świderski save vs. Unia Oswiecim PHL

Towards the end of the season, STS Sanok would add a new starting goalie in Dominik Salama. The move would shift Spesny to the backup role, and Swiderski went back down to the MHL in time for the playoffs. In the playoffs, he was lights out, posting a .935 save percentage in 7 games. Only 4 U23 goalies played in more than 5 PHL games last year, and Świderski posted the best save percentage by a decent margin. With new PHL goalie rules, I think Salama and Świderski will be a great pairing, and the Sanok native could hit double-digit appearances with a few starts. 

44 – Kacper Gruźla (F), 22, GKS Tychy (23, -21

After a break-out year in 2021, Gruźla weirdly saw his role diminish on Tychy. He would suit up in 18 games this year, mainly on the lower lines, and go pointless. He also played in the MHL, scoring nine goals and assisting on six in 11 games. This year was his age 21 season, so MHL production does not hold much water in his ranking. He has played in PHL games across four seasons, and this is the first time he failed to record a single point. 

Gruźla should be a PHL player, but it is clear that was probably not going to happen in Tychy soon. Unsurprisingly, the team announced he would leave the club. I hope to see him in a different organization that can provide more opportunities. Next season is his age 22 year so the clock is ticking, and I think Gruzla has the potential to be more than a bottom-six player. 

43 – Tomasz Grobelkiewicz (G), 19, SMS PZHL Katowice (NR) 

Grobelkiewicz is a prospect I have been watching for a while, as I have enjoyed watching the slow rebirth of hockey in Lodz. He received a look with Krakow to start the season. But returned to the MHL, and had a breakout year as the starting netminder for SMS PZHL Katowice. In 18 games, he posted a .905 save percentage, which was tied for third among all goalies and second among U20 goalies. He would also stay strong in three MHL playoff games, posting a .902 save percentage.

Grobelkiewicz save vs Lodz MHL

After a great MHL season, he would not slow down. He joined Polonia Bytom for the CLJ playoffs and posted his best performance of the year. In Five games, he stopped 111 shots and only allowed seven goals. No doubt in my mind that next year, I see Grobelkiewicz as the starting goalie for team Poland at the U20 World Championships. 

42 – Filip Sienkiewicz (F), 19, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok (NR)

Sienkiewicz fell under the radar the last two seasons as he played for the Connecticut Chiefs junior teams in the United States. He returned to Poland this year full-time in 2022 to play for Sanok. He would start the year in the MHL and build a strong season. In total, he scored 14 goals and 16 assists in 28 games. His 30 points were 11th among U20 skaters in the MHL and the fifth most by an 18-year-old skater. 

Sienkiewicz goal vs. Zagłębie Sosnowiec PHL

His strong MHL play led to him getting a PHL callup with Sanok in January. He would go on to play in eight games in the regular season and three in the playoffs. In those 11 games, he scored his first career goal and assisted on two more. A tiny sample size, but it was fourth among U20 skaters in points and second-best point per game average. Sienkiewicz was a pleasant late surprise for Sanok, and it will be interesting to see his role next year. 

41 – Aleks Menc (F), 18, Strömsbro IF J18 (37, -4

Aleks Menc played his first full year abroad in Sweden this year. He mainly played in the J18 Region, which is the second level of U18 hockey in Sweden. The young center recorded 18 points (12G-6A-18PTS) in 34 games. Looking at his exact production matches that went on to play a senior career, 38 percent went on to play in Sweden’s third level of hockey (HockeyEttan). No matches have reached a stronger league than the HockeyEttan. Menc also played for Poland at the U18 Divison 1 Group B World Championships, where he recorded one assist.

Menc Goal vs France U18 Exhibition

He is a talented offensive forward with a strong shot but lacks consistency in his game. This is most evident by 10 of his 18 points coming in the last nine games of the season—only eight points in the first 25 games of the year. Maybe the jump to Sweden took a lot of adjustment. He wasn’t surrounded by the most talented roster this year either, and his 18 points were third on Strömsbro. I am curious to see if Menc stays in Sweden next year. There is a lot of talent in there if someone can mold it correctly.

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2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #80-51

We have reached the end of another hockey season—the first actual season of normalcy in a while. With the rankings, this year will see a lot of change. There was no hockey or minimal games for many players who tried their hand around Europe or North America in 2021. This year’s rankings experienced the most significant changes I have recorded in the five years of making the list. Fourteen players ranked in the top 80 either aged off, retired, or were suspended for a prolonged period. These are the most open spots the list has seen as well. With all of that combined, this is the first chance we have had in years to see what junior coaches in Poland think of players as 23 U20 and 23 U18 players were selected to represent Poland at junior IIHF events.

We have waited to reveal the players ranked 80-50 in past years until the final article. This year, I wanted to change that and add more thoughts to the players who just missed the top 50. That said, the difference in the rankings at this point is minor.

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16 years old on June 1st, 2022. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred sixty-nine players were considered for the list and reviewed, and eighty players received a ranking. 

Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical order): Antoni Gauvin (G), Kacper Gulczyński (D), Jakub Pezowicz (D), Jonathan Kaczmarek (F), Mateusz Kołodziej (G), Mateusz Siekierka (F), Olaf Wlodara (D). 

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)

80 – Michał Proczek (D), 20, Polonia Bytom, (NR)

The soon-to-be 20-year-old defenseman finished with 20 points (5G-15A-20PTS) in 31 MHL games. His 20 points were the second most among U20 defensemen in the league. He represented Poland at the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships. 

Proczek assist vs. Podhale Nowy Targ MHL

79 – Marcin Dulęba (F), 19, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, (75, -4

He only played in eight games this year but did record 12 points (3G-9A-12PTS)—primary assist machine over the last couple of seasons in the MHL. 

78 – Jakub Wenker (F), 20, Sokoly Torun, (62, -16)

Led all U20 players in MHL, scoring 53 points (32G-21A-53PTS) in 26 games. He also got 14 games in the PHL with KH Torun, where he went pointless. The top scorer in the second league may only be a bottom-six forward in the PHL. 

Wenker goal vs. Polonia Bytom MHL

77 – Szymon Klimowski (G), 20, MMKS Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR)

Klimowski split his time between Podhale Nowy Targ at the PHL and MHL levels. At the MHL level, he played in 14 games posting a .888 save percentage, which was fifth among U20 goalies. In the PHL, he played in four games posting a .816 save percentage. 

Klimowski save vs. Oswiecim MHL

76 – Dominik Kasprzyk (F), 20, UKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (NR) 

One of the busiest junior players of the year playing in 55 games across the international stage, PHL, and MHL. He was pointless in 22 PHL games but posted 27 points (17G-10A-27PTS) in 28 MHL games. He represented Poland at the U20 D1B World Championships and posted one assist in five games. 

Kasprzyk goal vs. Opole MHL

75 – Oskar Polak (G), 20, MMKS Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR)

Polak was another goalie put in the rough Podhale situation. He spent most of his time at the MHL level, recording a .881 save percentage. The 6’0 Nowy Targ native also played in six PHL games posting a .848 save percentage. He was the starting goalie for Poland at the U20 D1B World Championship but ultimately struggled at times. 

Polak save vs. KH Torun PHL

74 – Michał Jaracz (D), 20, Cracovia Krakow, (NR) 

Jaracz played a more significant role in Krakow this year in a bottom pairing defensive role. He went scoreless in 19 PHL games but put up seven assists in 13 MHL games. He was a steady presence on Poland U20 at the U20 World Championships. 

73 – Oliwier Kurnicki (D), 18, Sokoly Torun, (NR) 

I like Kurnicki a lot and think there are a lot of tools there that could make a good player. He mainly played in the MHL this year, recording 15 points (4G-11A-15PTS) in 30 games but also did play in 9 PHL games for Torun. He represented Poland at the D1B U18 World Championship, posting one assist. 

Kurnicki Goal vs Sanok MHL

72 – Bartłomiej Wsół (F), 22, Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR)

Wsół finally became a full-time PHL player after bouncing between the levels of Nowy Targ since returning from Slovakia. He recorded 7 points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 34 games. Both the floor and ceiling are likely a bottom-six PHL forward. 

Wsół goal vs. KH Torun PHL

71 – Paweł Pisula (F), 18, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, (NR)

Pisula didn’t have the most incredible club season this year, with only eight assists in 28 MHL games, but he had a great showing at the U18s and also picked up two assists in five games. Strong passer but will need a lot of seasoning. 

Pisula assist vs. MOSM Tychy MHL

70 – Mikołaj Szczepkowski (G), 19, UKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (NR) 

Szczepkowski had a roller-coaster season in the net. In 20 MHL games, he recorded the highest save percentage of all goalies at .914, but he managed a .854 save percentage in seven playoff games. When he represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, he looked great against Slovenia but struggled in his other appearance.

Szczepkowski Save vs Slovenia U20 IIHF U20 D1B

69 – Mateusz Wawrzkiewicz (D), 21, Tampa Bay Juniors, (NR)

Wawrzkiewicz spent another year in the USA with the Tampa Bay Juniors in the USPHL Premier. The 6’1 defenseman posted seven points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 37 games. Someone I think could step into a PHL lineup in a bottom-paring role, but we will have to see what his next move is. 

68 – Szymon Maćkowski (F), 19, SMS PZHL Katowice, (NR) 

Maćkowski has been consistent on junior non-IIHF national teams in the past few years. He recorded 31 points (19G-12A-31PTS) in 26 games with SMS PZHL Katowice. He also represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he scored one goal in five games. 

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67 – Jakub Michalski (D), 18, Strömsbro IF J18, (NR) 

Michalski started the year in Podhale, dividing his time between the PHL and MHL before making the late-season move to the second U18 league in Sweden. In Sweden, he posted a goal and assisted in 16 J18 Region games. Back in Poland, he went pointless in 10 PHL games but recorded five assists in nine MHL games. The stay-at-home defensemen also represented Poland at the U18s but struggled against stronger opponents. 

Michalski assist vs. Hungary U18 IIHF U18 D1B

66 – Hubert Szarzynski (D), 16, Flemingsbergs IK U16, (NR)

Szarzynski played all over the U16 level in Sweden last year. Across four different levels, he recorded 21 points (5G-16A-21PTS)  in 27 games. He mostly played at the U18 level, where he posted 11 points (1G-10A-11PTS) in 33 games. To top the year off, he made his senior debut, playing in four games and picking up two assists in Sweden’s division 2. For the next year,  Szarzynski will move to Nacka HK J18 and play in the top two levels of Swedish U18 hockey. Same junior program as former NHLer and Swedish Olympian Philip Holm. 

65 – Sebastian Wicher (F), 20, Polonia Bytom, (NR) 

Wicher has been a staple of Bytom since they were relegated from the PHL. This year, he posted MHL career highs with 37 points (22G-15A-37PTS) in 29 games. He also was a member of Poland U20 at the U20 D1B World Championships. I would not be surprised if a PHL team picks him up for 2023. 

Wicher Goal vs. Unia Oswiecim MHL

64 – Tobiasz Kapica (F), 20, Podhale Nowy Targ, (70, +6

Kapica was a prospect I was interested in for this year after he barely played in 2021 due to playing abroad in Sweden. He spent the season between Podhale’s PHL and MHL club this year. It was not what I would have hoped for in his final U20 season, as he went pointless in 22 PHL games and recorded 15 points (6G-9A-15PTS) in 20 MHL games. He also represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he went pointless in 3 games. 

63 – Piotr Ciepielewski (F), 18, KS Naprzod Janow, (NR)

Ciepielewski made significant strides this year and was rewarded with a cup of coffee in the PHL. He played in seven games with eventual champions GKS Katowice. He spent most of his season in the MHL, where the Sosnowiec native posted 17 points (9G-8A-17PTS) in 20 games. He later represented Poland at the U18s, where he assisted once in five games. Easy guy to project to play in the PHL. 

Ciepielewski Goal vs. Ukraine U18 Exhibition

62 – Paweł Wybiral (F), 19, SMS PZHL Katowice, (NR) 

Another familiar face on the covid era non-IIHF junior teams was Wybiral. He posted 34 points (15G-19A-34PTS) in 24 games, making him the leading scorer on SMS PZHL Katowice. He also represented Poland U20, where he notched a goal and an assist in five games. Another one I expect to see get some PHL time next year. 

Wybiral Goal vs. Estonia U20 IIHF U20 D1B

61 – Jakub Wieczorek (G), 16, Dübendorf U17, (NR)

We don’t often see Polish goalies go abroad to play junior hockey, and Wieczorek is quite the rarity, especially with his success in the second level of U17 hockey in Switzerland. While we don’t have a save percentage, we know that in 13 games, he posted a 2.15 GAA which was sixth among all goalies in the league. He has also been solid in appearances for Poland U16.

60 – Szymon Luszniak (D), 22, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (60, +0) 

Luszniak has cemented himself as a PHL defenseman and should continue to serve as that on lower-end PHL teams. He posted two assists in 32 games while primarily playing on the second paring, usually with Michal Narog. He did add 9 points (1G-8A-9PTS) in 11 MHL games. He is a PHL player and too good for the MHL, but he may have already hit his ceiling.

Luszniak assist vs KH Torun PHL

59 – Karol Sobecki (D), 17,  MOSM Tychy, (NR)

At only 16 years old, Sobecki became a full-time MHL player this year. The defensemen recorded three goals and three assists in 25 games. He also made his PHL debut in the playoffs for GKS Tychy, playing in one game during their series versus JKH GKS Jastrzębie. He was extremely impressive at the U18s. There he recorded two goals and one assist in five games. The 6’0 defensemen showed off a strong shot and sound defensive awareness. 

Goal vs Ukraine at U18 D1b World Championships

58 – Bartosz Florczak (D), 20, STS Sanok, (40, -18

Florczak has remained a full-time PHL defenseman for Sanok, but the development has not been as fast as I hoped. This year in 39 games, the defensemen went pointless but did record 5 points (2G-3A-5PTS) in 5 MHL games. He struggled at the U20 World Championships, finishing a minus seven with one assist in five games. He is too good for the MHL but hasn’t taken the step to being a good senior player. 

Florczak shot and assist vs. Estonia U20 IIHF U20 D1B

57 – Igor Augustyniak (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow, (61, +4)

Another case of too good for the MHL but not strong enough to be solid at the PHL level. At only 21 years old, he has played in 63 PHL games but only registered a goal and three assists. His ceiling may only be a bottom-six forward in Poland. 

Augustyniak Goal vs KH Torun PHL

56 – Igor Tyczyński (G), 16, Team Poland U16, (NR) 

Tyczyński has a solid chance to be Poland’s best goaltending prospect in a while. He was great with Poland team U16 in the Czechia junior system. The action that stuck out to me was at the MHL. He played in 9 games and posted a .912 save percentage while stopping 339 shots, averaging 38 saves per game. He topped that off recently with a tremendous U16 tournament at the 2022 Riga Hockey Cup. I’m very excited to see what next season holds for him. 

Tyczyński save vs Great Britain U16 Riga Hockey Cup

55 – Marcel Kotuła (G), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (36, -19

Kotula is a goalie facing the lack of game problem for many young goalies in Poland. Across the MHL and PHL, he only played in 12 games. He was not particularly impressive at either level, posting sub .880 save percentages in both leagues. The sample size is tiny, so stats are not fair to judge him on fully. He should be the backup in Sosnowiec next year, and I hope he gets more games. 

UPDATE: Marcel Kotuła has decided to retire. The rankings were already finalized before the decision was announced. We wish him the best in his next step. 

54 – Paweł Bizub (G), 23, Podhale Nowy Targ, (55, +1

Bizub went from playing way too little to maybe playing too much. Without much help, the 5’10 goalie played in 36 PHL games for Podhale Nowy Targ this year, recording a .870 save percentage. I still believe he projects as a PHL backup or tandem goalie, but he was impressive this year given the circumstances. 

Bizub Save vs. GKS Tychy PHL

53 – David Wawrzkiewicz (F), 18, Tampa Bay Juniors, (58, +5)

Wawrzkiewicz split the year between Poland and the USA after spending the previous few years in the Czech junior system. He posted 11 points (6G- 5A-11PTS) in the MHL in 16 games. His .69 point per game average was 10th among all U18 skaters in the MHL. In the USA, he appeared for the Tampa Bay Juniors in the USPHL Elite. He performed a little better with 16 points (10G-6A-16PTS)  in 17 games. His .94 point per game average was 21st among U18 skaters—two solid seasons in two different leagues. 

Wawrzkiewicz Goal vs. Italy U18 Exhibition

52 – Michał Cychowski (F), 19, Krefelder EV 1981 U20, (33, -19

Cychowski stayed high on the list over the past few years due to some tremendous U17 seasons in Germany and then having his first U20 experience delayed to covid. Now with a full year to play in the top level of German junior hockey, the expectations would be high. The results were underwhelming,  in 21 games, he recorded just two assists. That is among the worst production of all forwards in the league. I hope he rebounds with more substantial numbers in his final junior season. We saw it at the U17 level. 

51 – Filip Wiszyński (G), 19, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, (NR) 

Wiszyński went unranked last year after only playing a single MHL game. This year, he got a lot more time as he became the de facto regular-season starter for Sanok’s MHL team. He finished the year with a .905 save percentage, and this was tied for third among all MHL goalies and second among U20 goalies. While he served as the backup in the MHL playoffs, he did post a .900 save percentage in three games during the CLJ finals tournament. Wiszyński has a lot of potential, but he will be stuck behind another goalie on our list.

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Krzysztof Maciaś and Jakub Slusarczyk Both to Return to HC Vitkovice U20

Two of Poland’s top junior players will be staying with their 2022 junior club. HC Vitkovice U20 announced their roster for the 2022-23 season, and both Krzysztof Maciaś and Jakub Ślusarczyk are staying on the squad. They will be the only two non-Czech players on the team.

Krzysztof Maciaś will be spending his third season in the HC Vitkovice junior system. The 18-year-old posted 36 points (12G-24A-36PTS) in 48 Czechia U20 games. It was the fourth most points on the team, and tied for the 11th most by a U18 player. The left-wing also represeneted Poland at the IIHF U18 and U20 World Championships.

Jakub Ślusarczyk will be returning for his second season with HC Vikovice U20. He had previously played in the Sosnowiec and HC Poruba junior systems. Last year the 19-year-old center appeared in 48 games , scoring 11 goals and assisting on 10. He played for Poland at U20 World Championships.

Last year HC Vitkovice U20 failed to make the playoffs, and should be excited to return two of their top ten forwards in scoring. Espicially with how hot Macias ended the second half of his season. The team will still be coached by former NHL player Pavel Trnka. It will be his fifth year managing HC Vitkovice’s U20 squad. He also is an assistant coach on Czechia’s U20 for the World Juniors.

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Łukasz Sokół Out as Men’s U18 Head Coach

Changes have started to take place with the Polish national team. As Hokej.net reports, Łukasz Sokół is out as the head coach of the Men’s U18 team. The Men’s U18 squad took last place and won zero games at the 2022 Division 1 Group B U18 World Championships in Italy. Both sides seemed pretty displeased with each other before and after the tournament.

Sokół is a former national team defenseman and longtime GKS Tychy player. He retired from the PHL in 2016. He started with the national team in 2020, and served as the assistant coach for Poland U17, which competed in the Czechia junior system. 2022 was his first IIHF coaching job. Along with his U18 duties, he also worked with the Szkole Mistrzostwa Sportowego (Sports Championship School). His contact was mutually terminated with the PZHL.

The Polish U18 squad was only promoted back to Divion1 Group B at the 2019 U18s. They did not get a chance to defend their promotion due to the pandemic until this year. The 2022 team was sunk by poor defensive and goaltending play. They will still be in Division 1 Group B next year because Belarus and Russia are suspended from IIHF play. Reportedly the lead candidates for the job are former GKS Tychy head coach Krzysztof Majkowski and former U20 national team coach Piotr Sarnik. If Andrei Gusov does not return to Pohale, he would also be under strong consideration.

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The One-Line Team. 2022 Division 1 Group B U18 World Championships 5 Thoughts.

We can all wait for some moments. After two years of covid cancellations, the Men’s Senior team finally returned to the Worlds and won gold. Part of me really does believe that the three years it technically took to get back in Group A makes it all the sweeter. Unfortunately for other age levels, two canceled years means players aged out of eligibility and didn’t have a chance to finish what they started. Poland had no returners from their 2019 squad that earned a promotion to Division 1, it was now up to an entirely new roster to try and stay in the division, but could they do it?

Poland quickly saw the reality they faced in game one when offensive powerhouse Ukraine beat them 6-1. Ukraine would score 5 or more goals, including 12 against Austria, against every opponent besides one. Next up was Poland’s eternal hockey rival Hungary, who saw off Poland pretty quickly, 5-2. Hopefully, it would have been more smooth sailing for Poland with the top two teams in the tournament out of the way. In a back and forth contest against Itlay, Poland would fall 8-5 in the best chance to grab points. Poland would close the tournament with a 5-2 loss to Austria and then a 6-1 defeat against Slovenia.

A Rough Week in Net

You saw the scores, so let us address it right away. It was a very rough tournament for Poland’s goaltending, particularly for starting goalie Jakub Ciucka. While there were a couple own goals and some significant defensive lapses at times. This was a rough tournament, and there were some plays where all you can say is “oof’. Ciucka finished with a .820 save percentage, while his backup Maksymilian Kura finished with a .762. sv%. Especially in the game against Italy, Poland could have won. They scored five goals and still lost by three.

Keeping Pace

While Poland was the inferior team in each game. They were not actually as bad as the scores portray. Usually, when you see blowout scores, you also expect a similar disadvantage in the shots. Only in one game was Poland killed in the shot department as they were outshot 45-15 against Austria. Poland outshot Italy 28-27 while losing the shot battle by less than five against Ukraine. They also were tied with Austria in goals for at the tournaments. Poland did their best. It wasn’t enough. As the team improves, I see them staying in Division 1 as a very likely outcome. They mostly looked like they belonged. Not saying I’m expecting them to win a medal yet, but fourth and fifth place finishes should be on the table.

Czech Stars

In 2022, Poland only had 10 players in Czech junior leagues at the U17 level and above. That is down from the 16 that Poland had during the 2021 season. Five of the 2022 players made Poland U18. Of Poland’s top five skaters in points, four of them played in the Czechia junior system. Krzysztof Macias finished first with 7 points (2G-5A-7PTS), Dominik Kolat second with 6 points (4G-2A-6PTS), Michal Kusak was third with 3 points (2G-1A-3PTS), and then tied for fifth was Adrian Gromadzki with 2 points (0G-2A-2PTS). The top line of Kolat, Kusak, and Macias was one of the best lines in the tournament. Even when Kusak was moved down for Gromadzki to join the top line, Kolat and Macias didn’t miss a beat with their Czech junior league counterpart.

Master Macias

I usually don’t want to use two thoughts on one player in an article, but Krzysztof Macias deserves his own closer look. Macias was involved in seven goals on a team that scored 11 total goals. His 7 points were also tied for fifth in the tournament. Given that Hungary and Ukraine scored a combined 49 goals him cracking the top five is significant, in my opinion. The Polish captain also fired off 19 shots, about 20% of Poland’s total shots on goal, and tied for the fourth-most in the tournament. Given he only scored twice on those 19 shots, I believe he got a bit unlucky on his goal amount. Macias proved that he is Poland’s best U18 prospect and maybe even the best U20 prospect. A reminder, his two assists on Poland U20 put him second in scoring and tied for the lead in assists.

The Expected Result. Now What?

I saw some people a bit stunned about the results of the Polish team. Particularly about the result versus Ukraine. Poland’s junior system is inferior and years behind almost all top European countries. Poland is one of only a few countries in Division 1 to not have a fully dedicated U20 league. Ukraine especially has been impressive in its youth development. They even defeated Austria with a score of 12-4. Poland being relegated was the expected result, even if Poland’s performance in their own end didn’t help.

Poland will be relegated to Division 2 Group A next year. Their opponents will be Estonia, Great Britain, Lithuania, Romania, and Croatia. Poland often faces a familiar list of teams in Division 1 at the Senior World Championships. It will not be a cakewalk for the U18 squad, especially as they will be returning only 4 skaters. The good news is two of them are their top defenders in, Blazej Chodor and Karol Sobecki, while Finnish junior league forward Krystian Lisowski will also return. The most significant addition the team will have is goaltender Igor Tyczynski. Tyczynski was very impressive in nine MHL games and had an outstanding performance at recent U16 events.

Quick Thoughts

– Karol Sobecki showed off really well at this tournament. The 16-year-old was easily Poland’s best defender in the five-game showing.

– Another defender I liked was Blazej Chodor. He has ideal size and wasn’t afraid to get physical. But it did put his team in some rough places at times. As he gains more experience, his awareness will improve and he’ll pick better times to step up for the big hit.

– While the team was led mainly by the Czech stars on the offensive end, Paweł Pisula put in a great tournament on the forward side. His two-assist placed him tied for fifth in points.

– In his IIHF coaching debut, I thought Łukasz Sokół put in a good performance. The team stayed competitive, maybe a bit too hesitant to switch goalies at times. Based on how Kura did play in his limited minutes, I can’t blame him for that.

– This tournament will make a significant impact on my rankings for the year, while only five games. These are the five best opponents I will see most players play against all year.

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5 Players to Watch on Poland’s U18 Team

In 2019, the Polish U18 pulled off a perfect performance at the 2019 Division 2 Group A U18 World Championships. The team scored 36 goals while only allowing four in route to an excellent 5-0 record. Unfortunately, after two years in a row of the lower division U18 World Championships being canceled, we never got to see some of the team defend their gold and promotion to Division 1 Group B. It will be an all-new roster for Poland at the U18s, with zero of the squad having any previous U18 IIHF experience.

Poland will face some prominent opponents, as they will match up with the under 18 squads from Austria, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, and Ukraine. It will be an interesting test to see how the Polish U18 program has grown since 2019. Poland did make it back to Division 1 in 2017 but was promptly relegated back to the second division. Now the goal for this team will be to stay in Division 1. This team will be led by former national team member and long-time GKS Tychy forward Łukasz Sokół, making his IIHF head coaching debut. His assistants will be Adam Bagiński, Tomasz Kowalczyk, and Sebastian Owczarek. Bagiński is a current GKS Tychy assistant coach, and long-time player, while Kowalczyk is the former women’s U18 head coach. The well-experienced staff should help these young players compete and potentially catch the eyes of scouts. With that in mind, here are five players to watch at the U18s for Poland.

Adrian Gromadzki

A big scoring winger performing well in the Czech junior system is pretty uncommon for Poland. Gromadzki produced strongly in Poland, so he moved to Germany. He played great in Germany, so he moved to Czechia. He is a player whose stock continues to rise, as he just scores no matter where he goes. His ten points in 29 Czech U20 games is the first time he is not a point per game player in his career. Though he did post 26 points in 20 Czech U20 2 games. I have no doubt Gromadzki should be able to post some big numbers at the IIHF U18s.

Aleks Menc

Menc long looked like Poland’s next top hockey prospect after some ridiculous numbers at the young levels of Polish hockey and representing Poland at the youth Olympics. After some impressive years for his age at the top junior levels of hockey in Poland, Menc moved over to Sweden. Playing in the second level of Swedish U18 hockey, Menc has posted 18 points (12G-6A-18PTS) in 34 games. While not eye-popping numbers, they rank third on his squad. This will be our first chance to see the talented center on the IIHF level.

Blazej Chodor

Chodor has been tearing it up in Poland for a while now, and he does it as a 16-year-old defenseman. He posted the second-most points of all 16-aged players in the MHL while adding eight more points in just 17 games with Poland U16 in the Czechia junior system. It will be great to see the talented offensive defenseman at the U18s and against tough competition. He possesses the size scouts love already at 6’2, and would be my pick for the player to most interest scouts around Europe.

Krystian Lisowski

We don’t see many Polish prospects play in Finland, which is no surprise given how high the level of hockey is in the country. Lisowski has made himself at home in the Finnish junior ranks, scoring 38 points (26G-12A-36PTS) in 44 games with Kiekko-Espoo U18 Ch. Kiekko-Espoo plays in the top level of the Finnish junior ranks, where Lisowski’s point total ranks seventh among 16-year-old skaters. The Sanok native also played one game in the top U20 league, where he scored a goal.

Krzysztof Macias

It is not very often that Poland has two studs in one junior league outside of Poland. Macias has been a force in Czechia while playing most of his junior career there. At only 17-years-old, the Polish winger posted 36 points (14G-22A-36PTS) in 48 games with HC Vitkovice U20. This was tied for 65th among all skaters in the league while being tied for 11th among U18 skaters. It is a similar production range to some members of Czechia U18, who play in the IIHF’s elite division. Macias also has IIHF experience, as he represented Poland at the 2021 U20 World Championships, recording two assists.

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

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. Stats and Notes

The Men’s top 50 list has officially concluded for the year. It is now time to look at just some random notes for the list, like what the team had the most players or which player had the highest rise. It was a fun and challenging list thanks to the pandemic. For some players, large judgment calls had to be made given the limited amount of games for some teams. The goal this year was as well to give more credit to goaltenders, but it is hard to rank them in Poland given the sparse opportunities available for them. We don’t see many goalies in the PHL under the age of U23, not a lot of players abroad, and to top it off the MHL is not an easy place to watch or ever find statistical trends.

All Articles

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

Top 80 Rankings

Biggest Risers

  1. Jakub Bukowski +36
  2. Michal Nawrocki +33
  3. Filip Plonka +28
  4. Krystian Mocarski +27
  5. Kacper Gruzla +26

Biggest Drops

  1. Patryk Pelaczyk -16
  2. Lukasz Kaminski -16
  3. Igor Augustyniak -15
  4. Marcin Plachetka -13
  5. Sebastian Brynkus -11

Highest List Debuts

  1. Adrian Gromadzki (26)
  2. Aleks Menc (37)
  3. Krzyzstof Macias (39)
  4. Dawid Wróblewski (46)
  5. Michał Kusak (49)

Breakdown By Position

Breakdown by Team

Poland or Abroad

Notes

  • This is the first time Jastrzębie has not led the rankings in players
  • Czechia (9) was the only country that had 4 or more ranked Polish players
  • This was the least amount of players playing in Germany to be ranked.
  • This was the most amount of goalies to appear on the list with 7.

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2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #1

We have now reached the final spot in the rankings! The last piece at the end of a long series. For the first time since I started my rankings, Alan Łyszczarczyk is not the player featured in the final article. Instead, this time a new player takes the crown. The new number one player had a slower rise to the top. While he did spend a year in the German junior system, he mostly played his entire junior career in Poland and broke through to the PHL. The number one player is a home-grown Polish talent that developed in Poland! 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty 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 report.

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

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

1 – Paweł Zygmunt (F), 22, HC Litvinov, (2, +1

The new number one U23 player is Paweł Zygmunt! The big Polish right-wing was a force in the PHL before receiving a tryout with HC Litvinov in 2020. It was crazy to see at the time, and the thought of a young Pole getting chances from the PHL was a weirdly foreign concept. Only Aron Chmielewski sprung to the mind of a player to jump to a league of such magnitude from the PHL. Many people compared the two players a lot, and it was expected that Zygmunt would follow the career path that Chmielewski took in Czechia. Chmielewski mostly had to pay his dues in the Chance Liga, not becoming a top league regular until his fourth year of play. 

In Zygmunt’s rookie year, we saw what Chmielewski had played through, although to a smaller scale. This makes sense; Aron played for one of the best clubs in Czechia with HC Ocelari Trinec, while HC Litvinov is not as prestigious of a club in recent years. Still, Zygmunt played nine games in the Chance Liga and 20 games in the Tipsport Extraliga. Playing his rookie year abroad, mainly in Czechia’s top league, and not looking out of place. It was hard to imagine what 2021 would be like for the winger as he did suffer an injury playing for team Poland at the Olympic Qualifiers that would end his 2020 season prematurely. 

Zygmunt became a full-time player in the Tipsport Extraliga in 2021 at just 21 years of age. An incredible feat for a Polish player. In 55 total games, the Krynica native recorded six goals and four assists for ten points. This was tied for 22nd among all U23 skaters in points, while ninth among players in their 21 age season. He also added three more goals during the Generali Česká Cup. This was an excellent stat-line for Zygmunt, who may never be a top scorer in the Extraliga, but is securing his spot as big body bottom-six forward. In fact, of his 40 production matches, 90% of his matches reached the mid-tier leagues of Europe, playing hundreds of games. The only few matches to not surpass hundreds of games in mid-tier European leagues all had long careers in the Chance Liga.

Zygmunt goal vs Trinec

On top of earning his dues in the Extraliga, Zygmunt has quickly become regarded as one of the national team’s top forwards. He showed that at the Three Seas Cup posting four goals and an assist in five games. Zygmunt was a great player in the PHL with a lot of potential, but whenever you see him play on the national team squad since his time in Czechia, he is a entirely different beast. He plays with confidence and poise on the ice, and his development has progressed exponentially. Zygmunt is easily one of the best wingers that Poland has at its disposal. While he didn’t post any points at the final round of Olympic Qualification, he was one of Poland’s most defensively ready-forwards. 

Zygmunt is finishing up his contract with HC Litvinov after signing a one-year extension in July. While he has been a solid bottom-six forward for the team, he is an import. In 2022, I hope to see him continuing to earn more ice time and chances to increase his development. Even back when he attended Czechia camps as a Polish junior, HC Litvinov was invested in his development. He appears to be long-term for Litvinov and Czechia hockey. 

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