Category: Mens Prospects

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #20-16

The hockey season continues to march on as we do with the list. We are now entering the next tier I discussed in the last article. If you missed it, I divide the list into three levels. The third tier is the widest, and I can see these players in the PHL, whether on the fourth or second line. The second tier is where we are now. The second tier is players I feel will be top-line stars in the PHL. These are players with that first line, top 2, or starting goalie potential. 

Now we have our next five picks, who have experienced a lot of changes in the rankings. Each player either raised or fell by seven spots. That is remarkable for how high we are on the list—the higher in the rankings, the less change we see, with injured players being the exception. A significant fall can be recovered from, as we will see later with the player who the most significant fall in 2020.

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 judged 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 50-41
Players 40-31
Players 30-21

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

20 – Karol Biłas (D), 19, STS Sanok, (36, +16)

There is so much great young talent in the Sanok system. That was on full display last year, with the team having a competitive roster despite how young most of the talent was. One of the young players that had to play a lot was Biłas. Just 17-years-old to start the season is a challenging task for any young player, but especially on defense with a forward core that will not offer that much offensive support. He is physically at about average to above-average size for PHL defensemen at 6’0 and 187 lbs. But how was he on the ice? 

Biłas is a player that I usually compliment more on his stellar offensive play. He posted five assists in 32 games for Sanok, which led all draft-eligible skaters in the PHL. His point total also tied the 18th best total by any skater in their draft-eligible season of all time. In his draft-eligible season, Biłas’ point total is tied for second all-time among defensemen. It was a rare season for a player this age and especially position. 

The offensive side is still the best part of his game. While I called him a two-way guy last year, I would say he is a full-blown offensive defenseman with a nice shot. That statement reflects on his play in both zones. His defensive play is still progressing, and it’s not going to be an issue of skating. It will be an issue of experience and will likely be a bump in the road over the next few years for him. No offense to the level of Slovak hockey, but this was the first time in his career where he had to face professional offenses. If he improves in his zone as he gains more experience, then Biłas can likely be a top-line defenseman in the PHL. His offensive play will always keep him high up on the teams’ lineup with powerplay time. 

19 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 20, Cracovia Krakow, (8, -11)

Brynkus takes a significant fall in my rankings and out of the top ten. It is not at all injury-related. He even played more than the previous year and did not suffer a large production decrease. In the end, Brynkus had a slight decline in offense in a year where so many other young players received huge chances for ice time and offensive opportunities. He is not getting that many chances to create that much production on the lower lines. His play away from the puck in his zone and the opposing continues to improve. 

Brynkus assist vs Gdasnk (PHL)

While he continues to improve the other facets of his game, his offensive skill will always be the highlight of his arsenal. His explosiveness is why he became so highly regarded after showing it at IIHF events and in Poland’s lower leagues. Until Brynkus shows his production ability in the PHL, it will be hard to project his ceiling. Among players, his age since 2010 in the PHL, his .18 point per game average last year ranks outside the top 70. Once he proves himself as a producer at the PHL, he will shoot back up the rankings, but question marks will stick until then. It may just be the playing behind imports in Krakow. During the 17 plus year reign of head coach Rudolf Rohacek, only Aron Chmielewski has been able to break into the top 6 while being on the cusp of his 20s. 

Whatever the reason, the critical part to remember is Bryknus is only turning 21 at the end of this hockey season and will already have over 150 PHL games under his belt. That experience is precious for a young player, especially when coming with a constant contender like Krakow. Playing with imports from high leagues is always a chance for a young polish player to learn. I have faith we will see Brynkus breakout even if we’re waiting for the end of his U23 days. 

18 – Michał Naróg (D), 20, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (25, +7)

Of players who took the best advantage of the covid year, Naróg is at the top of the list. In my opinion, it is much harder for defensemen to make it in the PHL, and we have seen fewer defensemen make it at such a young age and play strong hockey over the years. The 5’8 defenseman didn’t just look in place but earned his way up the roster and found himself playing a top 4 role on defense at just 19-years-old. While the Sosnowiec wasn’t the greatest, he still earned it and helped the team keep pace. 

The biggest standout from his season was nine assist in 30 games. His nine assists were tied for 20th among defensemen in the PHL, and it was the most among all U23 defensemen. Since 2010 it would be tied for 30th among all U23 defensemen. He did this on a team that failed to break 100 goals during the regular season, making Narog a part of 10% of his team’s goal while missing six games. Only one defenseman has had more points in their draft-eligible plus two season, Oskar Jaskiewicz.

Narog Goal vs. Katowice (MHL)

While that offensive season is impressive for his age and position, that is one part of the game, and as the team improves around him, we have to see how many of those points came from top line minutes with forwards who produce above a point per game level. While Sosnowiec didn’t have a lot of talent, Ruslan Bashirov was third in points, and Yevgeni Nikiforov was seventh in the league. It is not impossible to be natural progression from his rookie year, Narog managed four assists in 30 games and had been above a point per game player in the MHL for a while. 

He has avoided making major mistakes on the defensive end while facing the toughest competition in his top-four role. Few things like missing his assignment or picking up a man will go away with more time, especially with his role challenging top line, while paired with better defensive partners. He has quickly turned some heads with his hot start. He was one of the young players named to team Poland for the Baltic Challenge Cup. 

17 – Dominik Jarosz (F), 23, JKH GKS Jastrzebie (10, -7

JKH GKS Jastrzębie won the big one last season. The best team in the league featured a forward group with the best imports in the league. Add in plenty of young players taking that next step in their career and getting noticed for stronger clubs outside Poland. In a year where so many extraordinary moments happened for the organization, it feels weird to dissect a player and ask what went wrong. Each year Jarosz proved himself more and more. With Jastrzębie, he went from three to ten to 22 points. This past year he was dropped back down to eight points in the regular season. He even found himself back in the MHL for the first time since 2018. 

It was the largest point drop by any player on our ranking from the previous season. That is also something you don’t want to see out of a player that is starting to reach that point where development starts to slow, and seeing a player’s ceiling is a lot more clear. While a drop like that is concerning, I’m not close to writing him off. It was a down year on one of the most stacked Polish teams we have seen in a long time. 

Last year we talked about how great he was, and those same compliments remain. The size and speed make him one of the most dangerous forwards in Poland, especially down low. He is brilliant and seems to have so much patience and control on the ice, generating plenty of scoring chances. While Jarosz is great, there are a few more complete players ahead of him, along with many strong imports. He dropped down the line-up and wasn’t afforded many chances. He will rebound.

16 – Fabian Kapica (F), 19, Podhale Nowy Targ (29, +13

Kapica makes a big move up the list after his first full professional season. The previous year the young player bounced around a few levels of hockey in Poland and some junior hockey in Germany. Podhale Nowy Targ is a team that is on the downswing right now and is hurting to attract talent. Especially with a significant focus on that talent being Polish. For the past few years, we have seen a push by the blue and yellow bring back a lot of young Polish players to Poland with professional opportunities. Kapica was among those young Poles and the stand out of the group. 

Kapica Goal vs Sanok (PHL)

Kapica managed three goals in 23 games in his first full professional season. While not eye-popping numbers, it led U19 forwards in goals and points. It is also tied for the sixth-most goals by a player his age since 2000. He plays hard and shows excellent hustle, and I’m honestly surprised he couldn’t generate a few more scoring chances last year. At the MHL level, we saw more offensive dominance. There he posted three goals and seven assists in eight games. His 1.25 point per game average was the fourth-best in his age range. That MHL total is something I love to see out of a player. Most players saw a drop in MHL production. I don’t know what Kapica’s ceiling is. It is hard to project with the limited amount of games he has played over the last two years. He has the potential to be a special player for Poland, and I’m excited to see what he can accomplish on Poland’s u20 squad.

Players 15-11

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2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #30-21

The top 50 list continues to march on as the hockey season as already started. We are starting to hit the big names on the list. In this list, I separate players into four tiers based on their floors. The fourth and last tier are players ranked 80-50. These are players I feel will have a chance to make the PHL, but no guarantee. The third tier is players I think will have PHL careers but will not be your top-line players. The second tier is players I view with a chance to become top liners in Poland. The first and final tiers are your players I feel can be good players or stars outside of Poland. Right now, we are just about at the end of tier 3. 

The next set of players are primarily big risers. Only two of the following ten players fell in our rankings. When I say big risers, I mean it as well. Some of the players next up are the players I underestimated the most. We got to see a majority of the players spend their entire season in the PHL. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. Players are judged 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 50-41

Players 40-31

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

30 – Miłosz Noworyta (D), 22, Unia Oświęcim, (27, -3) 

Noworyta has made appearances for Oswiecim for the past three years, working his way to a full-time roster member last season. This year, he still spent more than a majority of his time with the senior squad. But found himself mostly relegated to the fourth line of defense with his older brother. He also missed a few games and played a couple of matches at the MHL level. His defensive play is the most notable highlight of his game, while his offensive game is lacking. While with the team, Unia Oswiecim has become more and more of a force in the PHL. They have continued to bring in better defenders ahead of him, which has played a part in dampening his development. 

29 – Konrad Filipek (F), 22, STS Sanok (32, +3)

Filipek has slowly been working his way up the Sanok system playing with the club in the MHL and third tier of Slovak hockey. Now this year, he finally got a full-time shot at the senior level of the PHL. He responded with a goal and five assists in 36 games. It was 6th among points for players his age. His late birthday allowed him to play at international events in Poland as one of the most mature players. Which always helped him stand out a bit. Now he is showing that was not the only reason why though. He does turn 22 in the middle of the season, he will need to show he belongs higher up the line up soon.

28 – Krystian Mocarski (F), 22, Stoczniowiec Gdansk, (55, +27) 

The Gdansk situation was not going to be an easy one for most players. A couple of players smashed it out of the park though, one of them was Krystian Mocarski. Mocarski had an excellent year for the blue and white in northern Poland. In total, he recorded eight goals and seven assists in 36 games. It was tied for 9th among U23 PHL players in terms of points, and his .42 PPG game average was 11th among U23 skaters. It was also second on all of Gdansk for points. Plus his total was also tied 44th among all Polish forward since the 2010 season in points per game. Next year Mocarski is moving to a much better Sanok team, and I’m excited to see how it goes. 

27 – Jakub Blanik (F), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec (20, -7)

Last year Blanik went to Sosnowiec in search of more chances after he was deemed too small for JKH GKS Jastrzebie. It was a breakout year for the 5’7 forward who posted 7 points in 17 games with Sosnowiec, though he was also pointless in 13 games with PZHL U23. This year, he was scheduled to get a more significant role with Sosnowiec on their weaker roster. Blanik was one of the players that suffered from a watered down roster, as he posted a meager two goals and one assist in 31 games. His .10 point per game average was 30th among U23 PHL forwards. This was a rough year for a good player, who should be able to recover. 

26 – Adrian Gromadzki (F), 17, HC Dynamo Pardubice U17 (NR)

Gromadzki would have been ranked last year if he met the age requirement. He was, unfortunately, playing in a Czechia junior system that shut down less than ten games in. He recorded three goals and four assists in his five games, Which were 9th among players in points per game that played five games in their draft-eligible -2 season. He has got the size and offensive touch that will get him attention outside Poland. He is set to play at the Czech U20 level next season. 

25 – Jakub Bukowski (F), 21, STS Sanok (64, +36)

Bukowski has long been a good player for a long time abroad, but it was mainly in the second level of junior leagues in Czechia and Switzerland. Still, he has shown a lot of promise, and we put him as the U23 player to watch on Sanok. Bukowski delivered on that with five goals and six assists in 40 games. The second most points by a player in the draft-eligible +2 season. His ceiling is hard to tell, and he will need to continue to bulk up. The more time we get with him on Sanok, especially as the team improves, will help see what he can fully become. Right now, it appears his floor is a solid PHL middle-six forward. 

24 – Sebastian Lipiński (G), 21, Unia Oswiecim (31, +7)

I think imports have a considerable place in Polish hockey, but there is no doubt that there is starting to be a problem with how few young goalies are playing.  Lipiński is our top-ranked goalie who played four games in the PHL last year. He recorded a save percentage of .900, which is the highest of his career in the PHL. The rumors suggest that Lipiński will be playing in the U.K.’s NIHL, the second level of men’s hockey in the country. Not much else to say about it. There is a problem with Polish goalie development in a significant way. There is nowhere for them to play appropriately. 

23 – Kacper Gruzla (F), 22, GKS Tychy (49, +26)

From barely making the top 50 to being right smack dab in the middle, Gruzla comes in at 23. Gruzla forced the Tychy staff to play him as much as possible. This was the first big taste of the PHL for the Mikolow native. He had previously played 14 games with PZHL U23, but only one with GKS Tychy. This year, he found himself with 22 games and responded with five goals and three assists. His nine points tied him for the 13th best point per game average among all U23 skaters, it is tied 9th among Polish players. Gruzla went from a young player looking to make an impression to a part of GKS Tychy’s everyday lineup. 

22- Klaudiusz Libik (D), 20, Vålerenga U21 (12, -10)

Libik is a player I like a lot and I see a chance for Poland to have something their lineup often lacks. Which is a defenseman good enough to play in leagues stronger than the PHL. Libik worked his way up to the top junior leagues of Norway. In the end, his lack of experience, inconsistency, and quick changing of teams has resulted in a player with mixed development. This past year Libik managed a goal and an assist in seven games with Vålerenga U21, his third U21 junior team. 

Now next year, he will be turning professional in Norways’ 2nd league. This is the perfect place for him to gain constant playing time against senior talent while developing. Hopefully, his flaws should not bite his game as much. 

21 – Mateusz Bezwiński (F), 20, Cracovia Krakow, (26, +5)

Bezwiński’s improvement seems to get larger and larger every year. As the soon-to-be 20-year-old finished 5th in points among U20 skaters with three goals and three assists in 19 games, it was 3rd in points per game. In the MHL, he recorded 12 points in nine games, which is a tad bit better point per game average than the previous year. This is a bit more notable because of how many players lost points from the year prior. Krakow has a large batch of young forwards; hopefully, Bezwiński’s growth rate continues. He no doubt would have been one of the leaders at the U20s this year for Poland.

Players 20-16

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2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #40-31

The top 50 is underway and we’re now on to the players ranked 40-31. The last group is hard to make. As you have to cut a few players from getting a report. Until you get to your 20s, in my opinion, the difference between most players is not that major. A lot of them are very minor and could realistically flip with another month of play, or even a few more games.  

This next batch of players is an interesting group. It’s a mixture of some newcomers tearing it up around Europe and a few players that improved their stock in the PHL. It was definitely a trend this year in the PHL, due to covid, that some teams relied on younger players more. In some cases that worked great and players took a huge jump. In other cases the larger role with a poor supporting cast hurt young players and their numbers fell. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. Players are judged 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 own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world 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 50-41

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

40. Bartosz Florczak (D), 19, STS Sanok, (38, -2)

Florczak’s quick climb in the rankings came to an end, as he slides a minor two down the rankings. This fall more comes down to quite a few newcomers and other players taking a larger jump. He is also definitely a player that would have benefited from a few international tournaments. A strong two-way defender definitely had run into problems of low ice time, and poor supporting cast. Still the 18-year-old was able to post 2 assists in 30 PHL games. The third most points by any skater in their draft-eligible season. While a sample size of six games, his 1.67 points per game average was the best among U20 defensemen in the MHL. 

39. Krzyzstof Macias (F), 17, HC Vitkovice U17, (Not Ranked)


Macias had a really great season for HC Poruba in 2020. His 21 goals were the 13th most among U16 players in the Czech U16 league. The Podhale native had played for HC Poruba most of his junior career, but after the breakout year, HC Vitkovice picked up the talented Polish forward. It appeared he was going to be a great pick-up as well with 6 goals and 5 assists in just 7 games. This had him tied for 17th among all skaters in terms of points. Its going to be exciting to see what he does at the U20 level, and should shoot him up the rankings. 

38. Armen Khoperia (D), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (41, +3)

Khoperia’s ranking has kinda stayed the same over the years. That is not to say he is not making progress and developing as a player. He is best in his own zone and continuing to develop into a great defenseman. He went up and down the Sosnowiec lineup as they struggled with a rough year. He started playing top-line minutes to begin the year but went down in the lineup as the season went on. He would rebound though as he and Eduard Kaščák formed Sosnowiec’s top paring for the home stretch of the season. In total, he posted four assists in 36 games.

37. Aleks Menc (F), 17, KS Naprzod Janow, (Not ranked)

Menc has long been considered a top Polish prospect. If you have been following my account for long enough you have probably seen some of the ridiculous point totals he has posted in Polish hockey’s junior divisions.

Menc really has the potential to be a special player. This year, he was finally getting out of Poland and headed over to Sweden. The 16-year-old suited up Kiruna AIF J20 in the second level of U20 hockey in Sweden. He only got in a total of two games before the season was canceled, recording both a goal and an assist. This made him one of only five U17 players to post more than one point. He then suited up for Janow in Poland recording 3 points (1-2-3pts) in 6 MHL games. Along with 35 points in 17 lower junior games, but only a goal and assist in 8 CLJ games. Next year he will be representing Strömsbro IF J18 in the second level of Swedish U18 hockey. The team has a close relationship with the top Swedish club Brynas IF. 

36. Marcel Kotula (G), 20, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (44. +8)

Kotula was one of two young goalies in a rough Sosnowiec situation. There was no way any goalie was going to thrive there. It was also a familiar place for Kotula, who saw similar action with PZHL U23. Sosnowiec would later add another goalie as well, at the PHL level, and had talented Lithuania Tadas Ramanauskas at the MHL level. This made playing time a bit hard to come by, but Kotula fought for his minutes. In five PHL games, he recorded a .871 save percentage up from his .829 mark the previous year with PZHL U23. While at the MHL level, he posted a .909 SV% the fifth-best among all MHL goalies. Definitely lost a few big international starting spots due to COVID-19, and I hope to see him with a few more PHL games next year. 

35. Mateusz Ubowski (F), 21, GKS Tychy, (28, -7

Ubowski had a really strong year in 2020 making his debut for GKS Tychy along with being a key member of PZHL U23 recording 5 points in 23 games. This year, he only managed one assist in 6 games. Along with seeing his MHL point total drop from 48 points in 24 games to 28 points in 20 games. The MHL was a lot better league this year and points was not easy to come by.. His 28 points still were the tenth most in the MHL for 2021, when they would have been tied for 19th in 2020. Still, this was his final U20 season, the talented forward will need to start translating his skills over at the senior level in a hard Tychy lineup to crack. 

34. Maciej Miarka (G), 21, GKS Katowice, (42, +8

Goalies were given more slack in the rankings this year, as I think in past years I jugded them too hard. That said Miarka did earn his ranking improvement. The Lodz native moved from Jastrezbie to Katowice this year to serve as the team’s primary backup. While he didn’t get too much action in the green and black, his .891 save percentage was the best among U20 goalies, and fifth among U23 goalies. It is also a nice bump up from the .847 he recorded with PZHL U23 the previous year. John Murray will be the starting goalie next year in Katowice, which will be a great veteran for Miarka to learn and grow behind. 

33. Michał Cychowski (F), 19, Krefelder EV 1981 U20, (30, -3)

It was a unfortunate year for Cychowski. He was set to be a key player for Poland at junior international events along with his first full season in the DNLU20, the top junior league in Germany. Instead, he played a whole five games for Krefelder EV 1981 U20. Not really much else to say about his year. He was recently named to the U20 team for training camp and a tournament in August 

32. Michał Zając (F), 20, Stoczniowiec Gdansk, (43, +11)

Zając flashed some skills in 2020 in short runs with PZHL U23 and Polonia Bytom. With Stoczniowiec Gdansk this year, he was able to get a lot of playing time due to the lack of veteran talent on Gdansk. A common thing in the PHL this year, but Zajac excelled in the situation. He posted 11 points (4G-7A-11) in 36 games. This was the most points by a U20 player in the PHL this year. Since 2000, it is the 21st best season for a player in their draft-eligible plus 1 season in the PHL. It also sets him up with some nice production comparables like Pawel Zygmunt, Mateusz Michalski, and  Patryk Krezolek. Though the average for most of the comparables is a .31 PHL point per game average career. 

31. Michał Bernacki (F), 23, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (22. -9)

From one player who really flourished in a larger role with a talent-strapped team to one who saw their production drop. In 2020, Bernacki posted a 20 point season, but in 2021 his point total dropped 5 (2G-3A-5PTS) points in 28 games. A rough season after he looked good in some pre-season matches including a double goal game against Podhale, which matches his total for the season. He started the year as well mostly on the second line, eventually missing most of January and falling to the bottom 6. Bernacki is a solid forward with good size, and I have confidence that his production will bounce back. Especially as the talent around him in Sosnowiec improves. 

Players 30-21

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2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #50-41

Last year I thought the list was difficult because a few players missed playoff games or international tournaments. This year was even more challenging as some players did not play at all. Lots of players saw their season cut short or never get started. In Poland, hockey was able to be played with both the PHL and MHL completing their seasons.

I thought about skipping the list this year because many of the top young players maybe saw their years canceled as they play abroad. I ended up looking at it similar to a player with a season-ending injury. A lot of players lost a crucial year of development. Their sacrifice will hopefully be understood with coaches as they play a bit of catch-up.

With that said, there was a lot of hockey played, with plenty of players taking significant steps in their careers. At the same time, plenty of others have been a part of an action-packed offseason and moving up levels. It is time for the top 50 U23 players of 2021. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. Players are judged 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 own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world 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.

Honorable Mentions (In No Order): Patryk Pelaczyk, Marcin Plachetka, Lukasz Kaminski, Patryk Wysocki, Paweł Bizub. 

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

50. Oliwier Kasperek (D), 19, MOSM Tychy (Not Ranked) 

Kasperek makes his first appearance on the list after just missing a ranking last year. The young defensemen would have certainly been vying for a spot on Poland’s U20 roster. He did play for the U20 team in their two games at Opole HK. He had a cup of coffee with GKS Tychy playing in 4 games. Most of his time was spent with MOSM Tychy in the MHL. There he recorded 13 points (2G-11A-13PTS) in 29 games. His regular-season point total was tied for sixth among MHL U20 defensemen. 

49. Michał Kusak (F), 17, HC Karlovy Vary U17 (Not Ranked)

From one non-ranked player to the next, Michal Kusak makes the top 50. Kusak left Poland at 14, to play in the top U17 level in Czechia. In his third year at the U17 level, It appeared Kusak was going to have a breakout season with 5 points (1G-4A-5PTS) in his first four games. The rest of the season was canceled. Kusak returned to Poland, putting up a similar performance with 5 points (1G-4A-5PTS) in 3 games during the junior level postseason. 

48. Patryk Gosztyla (D), 22, Cracovia Krakow (51, +3)

Gosztyla came over to Krakow last year from the Slovak junior system. At the time, Krakow was looking to inject more young Polish talent into their lineup. Despite that, regular playing time found itself hard to come by for the 6’2 defender in his first season. 2021 proved to be better as he played 28 games while recording one assist. The stay-at-home defenseman has continued to improve his game slightly. He is not close to a national team contributor yet. Next year at 22, he will need a break-out season. 

47. Jakub Worwa (F), 22, Podhale Nowy Targ (66, +19)

While it may seem like Worwa is getting a big jump. This is mainly due to staying healthy after just playing 12 games in 2020. I was very excited to see Worwa play this year after posting 6 points the previous year in just 12 games. In 36 games this year, he recorded three goals and four assists. This production is down from 2019 when he posted 11 points as a 19-year-old. He still finished 13th in scoring among u22 players. The power-forward has a make-or-break year in 2022. 

46. Dawid Wróblewski (F), 19, JKH GKS Jastrzebie (Not Ranked) 

Wróblewski has many positive assets at his disposal. These include good size at 6’4, and strong offensive instincts. In past years, he was always someone hard to leave unranked. It came down to putting it all together when he was playing at higher levels. This year the Polish forward with US citizenship found himself loaned to Polonia Bytom in the MHL. He was more than impressive. His 26 points (12G-14A-26PTS) in 21 games were tied for fifth among u20 players in the MHL. He also added 18 points (7G-11A-18PTS) in 6 games during the CLJ postseason. I hope to see him receive a cup of coffee in the PHL next year. 

45. Filip Plonka (G), 19, Unia Oswiecim (73, +28)

Our first goalie on the list! Again this year, I wanted to give more credit to the goalies. Plonka made headlines last year when he recorded his first PHL shutout in his first game at 16-years-old. While this year was a bit step back statistically. Almost all goalies declined in the MHL this year. His .892 SV% was still seventh in the MHL, among players with at least five games. With Lipinski departing, it seems Plonka is the pick of the future in Oswiecim. 

44. Wiktor Bochnak (F), 20, AZ Havirov U20 (52, +8)

Bochnak has spent most of his junior career in Czechia. Thus he has been able to work his way up the system. He has played at the top level of junior hockey in the country since he was 16. His numbers during that time were not always eye-popping. Before the Czech system shut down for the year, Bochnak played in six pointless games. He ended the year on a high note after returning to Poland. With Podhale, he posted 26 points (14G-12A-26PTS) in just 12 games across the MHL and CLJ.  

43. Michał Nawrocki (F), 18, Sokoly Torun (76, +33)

Nawrocki had a solid couple of years in the German junior ranks. This year he was set to test his skills in Sweden’s J18 Div.1 with Kalix HC J18, but most levels of Swedish hockey were canceled. Nawrocki managed to get in 6 games recording a goal and an assist but not much time to show what he has. He would return to Tourn and play in Poland’s junior system. In the MHL, he recorded 9 points (4G-5A) in 11 games. The third best point per game average among U18 MHL skaters. The Gdansk native also netted 17 points in 16 games across other Polish junior contests. 

42. Jan Krzyzek (F), 21, GKS Tychy (34, -8)

Last year the big german-born forward played at almost every level with a lot of success. This year was split between the GKS Tychy and their MHL team. In 18 PHL games with Tychy, he recorded one goal. While down from his three goals the previous year, he had a lesser role with Tychy than PZHL u23. At the junior level, it was a different story.  His 1.70 PPG was the 5th best by a U20 player in the MHL. Krzyzek was explosive in the postseason with 15 points (9G-6A-15PTS) in 8 CLJ games of play. At 21 next year, we will need to see some of his production start to shown through at the senior level. 

41. Szymon Dobosz (F), 19 STS Sanok, (45, +4)

Dobosz was able to play the majority of this year at the senior level for STS Sanok. In those 26 games, he did go pointless. I’m not too worried about that, given the level of talent he was surrounded by in Sanok. In the MHL, his 12 points in 7 games resulted in the highest points per game average among all players in their first draft-eligible year. Dobosz was at the weird place of too good for junior hockey but not good enough for top-level senior hockey yet. Unfortunately, in Poland, there is not an excellent place for those players.

Players 40-31

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Jakub Lewandowski Makes NCAA Commitment

One of Poland’s best young players has taken another major step in their hockey career. 19-year-old Jakub Lewandowski has made an NCAA commitment to Bemidji State University. He will be only the third Polish player to play in the NCAA, and the first since Filip Starzyński in 2018.

Lewandowski quickly emerged as a special talent for Poland. He moved to Czechia at just 16-years-old to play at the top level of U18 hockey in the country. He moved up the ranks quickly making it to the top level in 2019. After his breakout year with 48 points in 48 games in the Czechia U19 league, he moved over to the USA. The Polish forward was able to make it to the USHL, the top level of junior hockey in the states. With the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, he recorded 20 points in 42 games. He was considered a possible late round NHL draft pick at the beginning of the year.

The Torun native has also represented Poland twice on the international stage. He had a seven point tournament in 2018 at the U18s. His best performance though was a 13 point performance at the U20s in 2019. Last season due to COVID-19, Lewandowski returned to Europe and HC Vitkovice. Unfortunately, the Czechia junior leagues would also stop playing after a handful of games. The 6’3 forward still managed four goals and one assist in five games.

Bemidji State University has been playing at the top level of college hockey since 1999. Their best year making it to the frozen four in 2009. Last year the team managed a 22-10-5 record. This was good for the second best record in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Beavers from Northern Minnesota have been coached by Tom Serratore since 1999. It was also the former home of NHL players Brad Hunt (Wild) and Zach Whitecloud (Golden Knights).

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One Young Player To Watch on Every PHL Team

The PHL season is fully underway. With plenty of teams facing a COVID-19 related cut to their roster. This left plenty of roster spaces open for young players to earn. COVID-19 also caused PZHL U23 to be left out of the plans for the hockey year. It also left many players without a way to play a sizable amount of games in the PHL, which is an excellent development experience. If a player were going to get meaningful minutes in the PHL, they would have to prove it to their clubs’ coach that they are ready to contribute in the league.

I think those conditions make it the perfect time to check in on the young talent for each PHL club. I also am setting a goal to pick players that are not as traditionally regarded as a top player. Sure Dominik Pas is a great young player, but he has also been in the PHL for years now. So I am setting a rule of less than 50 PHL games coming into the year.

Cracovia KrakowPatryk Gosztyla. In the past couple of years, Krakow started to make an apparent effort in bringing in young talent. Gosztyla was part of that initial group. The 6’2 defensemen got a bit lost in the shuffle in 2019 after returning to Poland from the Slovak junior system. This year though, he has cemented himself as part of the Krakow defensemen lineup, already topping his games played total from last year. The 20-year-old also has posted five points (1G-4A-5PTS) in six games in the Polish second league. Honorable Mention: Igor Augustyniak

GKS Tychy – Kacper Gruźla. Gruźla had a breakout year last year in the Polish second league. This earned him a long term spot with PZHL U23 and an appointment to the Polish U20 squad. This year he has run with it playing in six games for GKS Tychy. Since then, he has already impacted the boxscore, recording two goals and two assists. If the 6’1 forward continues his upward trend, he could find himself with a larger PHL and national team role. Honorable Mention: Jan Krzyżek

JKH GKS Jastrzębie – Dawid Wróblewski. Jastrzebie has the most young talent of any team in Poland. With that, a lot of the talent has already played more than 50 games, as a lot of the talent has long been promoted to the PHL. Wróblewski saw a lot of action across different Polish junior teams putting up solid production wherever he went. This year, with Jastrzębie not having a team in Poland’s second league, the 6’4 forward was loaned to Polonia Bytom. There he has put up six goals and six assists in eight games. He should be able to start trying to force his way into the Jastrzebie roster. Honorable Mention: Marcin Płachetka

KH GKS Katowice – Maciej Miarka. Miarka joined the Katowice squad after seeing the logjam of goalies in Jastrzebie. In Katowice, the former Poland U18 and U20 goalie should play quite a few games in the PHL this year. In Katowice, the Łódź native will be backing up veteran Slovakian goalie Juraj Šimboch. So far, in two PHL games this season, the 6’1 goalie has a .912 SV%. Including stopping all seven shots, he faced in relief against defending champs GKS Tychy. Honorable Mention: Marcin Wyśnik

KH Energa Toruń – Oskar Bajwenko. Before we knew if this hockey year would go on at all, Toruń had a team mostly of junior players with a few imports and returning veterans. One of the few junior players from that group to earn a contract was Oskar Bajwenko. Bajwenko is a smaller defenseman but not afraid to go into the corners and get physical. He has received a small amount of junior national team consideration. He is a project. He could develop into a tremendous physical defenseman with two-way abilities. He has only played in one game so far in the PHL, but with the start the club has had this season, it is understandable they may not want to change up the lineup. Honorable Mention; Filip Mazurkiewicz

Podhale Nowy Targ – Ernest Bochnak. Nowy Targ came into this season, emphasizing finding new Polish talent and has already tried out quite a few new young players. This includes Ernest Bochnak. Bochnak comes over after time in the Czech and Finnish junior systems. Last year he played most in the third level of Czech hockey, recording two goals and four assists in twenty-two games. Bochnak has long been one of the best Polish junior players. He now has a chance to show that in Podhale. Through eight games, he has two points notching both a goal and an assist. Honorable Mention: Fabian Kapica

Stoczniowiec Gdansk – Michał Zając. I have many feelings about the club and how they will be as a place for developing young talent. The team will undoubtedly provide a lot of value to young players in terms of ice time. Zając is taking advantage of that, playing in each of the team’s games so far. In those ten matches, he has recorded one goal and three assists. This matches his production from last year with PZHL U23 but in a much smaller role. He is making the most of his opportunities. The 6’1 forward would have easily made the Polish U20 squad if not for COVID. Honorable Mention: Bartosz Wołoszyk

STS Sanok – Jakub Bukowski. Sanok is one of the youngest teams in the PHL, leaving many options for this choice. For their pick, I went with Jabuk Bukowski as he is probably the most pro hockey ready. He showed up well in the pre-season and has done well so far in the regular season. He has three goals and one assist. His point total is tied for third on Sanok. The talented forward showed a lot of potential in smaller Czech and Swiss leagues and now has a great chance to show his skills in Poland. He has been given many top line chances in Sanok, giving him an excellent opportunity to develop further. Honorable Mention: Maciej Witan

Unia Oswiecim – Sebastian Lipiński. While I tried to pick less known players for this list, the gap between Lipiński and the rest of the Oswiecim roster was too big. Lipiński is one of the best young goaltenders Poland has seen in a long time, with few rarely even able to play the amount of PHL games he has at his age. So far, in his lone game this season, he posted a 15 save shutout vs. Gdansk. Honorable Mention: Patryk Kusak

Zaglebie Sosnowiec – Marcel Kotuła. Sosnowiec is another team packed with a lot of young talent, but most of their young talent are seasoned veterans of the PHL. As mentioned in Lipinski’s paragraph, young goalies don’t get those chances in the PHL. This season Marcel Kotuła will compete with 24-year-old Michal Czernik for reps. Last year Kotuła led all goalies in save percentage for the Polish first league. So far through four games between the PHL and Polish first league, he has a .917 SV% along with one shutout. Honorable Mention: Szymon Luszniak

The Three NHL Draft Prospects with a Connection to Poland

Polish fans have become accustomed to the lack of Polish names being called at the NHL entry draft. Every year the draft had come and gone without a Polish player being selected since the fifth round of the 2003 NHL draft when the Minnesota Wild selected Marcin Kolusz after his rookie year in Nowy Targ. In the past couple of drafts, the lack of a Polish appearance has stung slightly more as Alan Łyszczarczyk failed to have his name selected. Poland once again has a chance to see a national team member reach the goal of every junior players’ dreams with Jakub Lewandowski. Lewandowski’s draft chances don’t seem that high, but even if he doesn’t, we will likely hear a Polish name selected, even if they don’t play for Poland. 

Adam Borzęcki was one of the last Polish players to make a large impact in North America. The physical stay-at-home defensemen was a strong presence in the Quebec Major Junior League. This eventually led to professional seasons in the American Hockey Leauge (AHL) and East Coast Hockey League. The team he spent the most time with in America was the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. Reaching the AHL’s heights was not the only notable achievement during his time in Syracuse, as his son Jakub Borzęcki was born in January of 2002. 

Jakub Borzęcki didn’t stay in America for long as his family followed were ever his dad’s playing career went. Starting in 2005, Adam Borzęcki played the rest of his career in Germany for various teams. The young Jakub sometimes swapped junior teams depending on what professional team his father played for. This included his dad’s final stop with the Bietigheim Steelers, where Jakub played for their U16 squad. In 2017 the elder Borzęcki would play his last hockey season while Jakub moved on to the Kölner EC junior system. He would only play a year for Kölner, before moving on to the Austrian super junior team RB Hockey Akademie. Jakub would play in the top Czechia junior league and make his IIHF debut for Germany at the U18s, winning the Division 1 Group A gold medal. 

Team Germany saw a lot in the young forward. He has been named the captain for both the U17 and U18 squad. He continued to improve on his performance in the Czech Republic as well. His performance on the International stage and with  RB Hockey Akademie earned him the 64th spot on NHL’s central scouting list for European skaters. COVID-19 canceled the U18s, where Borzęcki would have likely served as captain and enormously improved his draft stock. This upcoming season, the 6’1 forward has already appeared with the Germany U20 squad. He will also be making his professional debut for RB Hockey Juniors in the Alps Hockey League.  The Dubuque Fighting Saints saw enough to take Borzęcki in the sixth round of the 2020 USHL Draft. Something that could have also improved his draft stock if not for COVID-19. Jakub Borzęcki certainly shares some of his dad’s traits, with a strong two-way game while not afraid to get physical. His development could take some time, but he might develop into an excellent power forward for a team. Draft regardless, his future shows a lot of potential for a long professional career just like his father. 

Another promising RB Hockey Juniors player is Maksymilian Szuber. Szuber was born in Opole but left Poland at a very young age. He first gained attention playing for the Germany Selects U13 squad. He has spent most of his junior career with the RB Hockey Akademie, playing with the team since 2016.  Szuber is a talented defenseman with a lot of offensive flair. This skill was shown during his stint in the top Austrian U18 league, where he posted 29 points in 16 games, helping the RB Hockey Akademie to an EBJL championship. 

The following year, he would play full time to the RB hockey squad in Czech top junior leagues. He would be a vital part of team Germany winning gold at the 2018 division 1 group A U18s after posting five assists in five games. The 6’2 defensemen made his U20 debut this year in three non-IIHF games. He will also be getting his first taste of professional hockey playing in the Alps Hockey Leauge for the RB Hockey Juniors. Szuber has the size and offensive talent that scouts love, but his game still needs a lot of work. He has yet to appear on many draft boards. 

Florian Bugl, Filip Varejka, Jakub Borzecki, JJ Peterka and Maksymilian Szuber at the U18s

For the final player, we head to Sweden for Mateusz Szurowski. More people in Polish hockey may be more familiar with Damian Szurowski. Damian Szurowski has played in Poland since 2017, playing in 120 games between Cracovia Krakow and PKH Gdansk. The Szurowski brothers were both born in Sweden to Polish parents. They would visit Poland at least once a year growing up to see family. In Sweden, both showed potential for more while playing in the Bålsta HC system. For Damian, this was moving to Poland to start a strong professional career. For his younger brother, this meant joining the Linköping HC junior system in 2017. Linköping HC was a constant playoff team in the Swedish Hockey Leauge at the time. Recent high NHL draft picks, Calle Dahlström and Jakub Vrána passed through their system. 

In the Linköping HC system, Mateusz Szurowski flourished, posting above a point per game seasons with both of their U16 squads. He also made his first appearances for this Swedish U16 squad scoring one goal in three games. The following year would be pretty similar, another level up and now point per game seasons at the U18 level. He would make his debut for the Sweden U17 team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, putting up one assist in six games. This past season, he spent most of his time with the Linköping HC J20 in the top Swedish U20 league. There he posted eight goals and eight assists in 36 games. He also notched another international achievement by making the Swedish U18 squad. He would have had a chance to make his IIHF U18 debut this season, if not for COVID. 

Of the group, Szurowski stands the highest probability of being drafted, earning quite a few high rankings. Number 50 on the NHL Central Scouting European skater list, #123 by McKeen’s Hockey, and #264 by Future Considerations. Szurowksi is a strong skater, always pushing for the puck on his stick to create unique scoring chances. His offensive vision has gotten him this far, but his overall game will need to continue to develop fast. 

These three players all stand a chance of hearing their name called in one of the most unique NHL drafts of all time. Especially as they have all have had a few more handful of games to improve their stock and a year older, both Borzęcki and Szuber were able to make their U20 squad debuts for Germany. In contrast, Szurowski has added a couple of goals in Sweden’s top junior league. There is no connection between these players and Polish hockey growth, but Polish fans will undoubtedly take pride in them just like they do Wojtek Wolski. They’ll do that with the hope that a player wearing red and white with an eagle on his chest joins them one day.

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

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

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

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

Goalies

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

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

Defensemen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Conclusion

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

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

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2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Points vs. Date

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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