Category: PHL

Martin Przygodzki Signs In Slovakia’s Top League

Another Polish player is on their way to the Tipos Extraliga. National team forward Martin Przygodzki has signed with HK Dukla Michalovce. Recently Covid-19 and injuries have strongly impacted the club, and they were looking for reinforcements. Martin Przygodzki, who holds both Polish and Slovakia citizenship was a perfect fit. The right-winger will be the third Pole to play in Slovakia’s top league this year; Kamil Walega plays with HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas, and Damian Tyczynski started the year with HK Spisska Nova Ves.

Przygodzki was born in Trencin, Slovakia. He improved on his craft in the HK Dukla Trencin junior system. For the 2012 season, he made the jump to Poland and signed with GKS Tychy. Since that initial signing, he has played his entire career in Poland besides two games for Gladiators Trencin in the EUHL. During his time in the PHL, he led the league in goals for the 2016 season, along with taking two silver and two bronze medals. He played around the league appearing for GKS Tychy, Naprzod Janow, HC GKS Katowice, Polonia Bytom, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, Orlik Opole, Unia Oswiecim, and most recently Zaglebie Sosnowiec. This year he recorded seven goals and nine assists in 26 games for Sosnowiec. The import forward gained Polish citizenship and started making national team appearances in 2019. He represented Poland at both rounds at of Olympic qualification.

One of his coaches during the Olympic qualifiers was Tomek Valtonen, who is now in his second season leading HK Dukla Michalovce. HK Dukla Michalovce currently sits third in the Tipos Extraliga with a 17-12-2-2 record. The team has experienced a rapid rise since earning promotion to the top league during the 2019 season. Last year the club made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Tipos Extraliga. Among the teams roster is former PHL defensemen Patrik Luža (Oswiecim, 20-21) and Taylor Doherty (Krakow, 21).

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_.

Krakow Advances to Continental Cup Finals

The Continental Cup returned this year after a COVID-19 hiatus! The 23rd edition of the tournament featured Cracovia Krakow representing Poland. While the Cup has lost a lot of luster since the creation of the champions hockey league. The Continental Cup is still a great chance to see how Poland fares against mid and lower-level leagues and teams of Europe. For Poland, we got good results this year, with Krakow finishing second in Group E, earning them a spot in the final round.

Krakow hosted the tournament but did not receive a great thank you for that in game one. As Kazaksthan rep Saryarka Karaganda shut them out 2-0. The team from Kazakhstan really controlled the game, limiting Poland to only 18 shots while putting up 38 of their own. Denis Perevozchikov was sensational in the game and would remain that way throughout the tournament.

The red and white would bounce back with a 4-3 shootout win over Slovakia’s finalist HK Poprad. The Polish and Slovak clubs would trade the lead throughout the game. Poland took the lead first after an early goal by Ales Jezek. Poprad would score their first halfway through the period and take the lead just 21 seconds into the 2nd period. Krakow would be down 2-1. Łukasz Kamiński would tie it with four minutes left in second. Both teams would score in the third to take it to overtime. A shootout would be needed. There Erik Nemec and Ivan Yatsenko were successful, giving Krakow the critical win. On a side note, former PHL champion and Krakow forward Patrik Svitana played for Poprad.

With both top slots advancing, a win over Poprad looked to secure promotion for Poland. In the first game of the final day, Saryarka Karaganda took out Poprad, putting Krakow’s fate in their own hands. Asiago Hockey, repping Italy, was not a pushover and had kept pace with Poland’s previous opponents. That held true as halfway through the game, Asiago held a 2-1 lead over Krakow. While Cracovia would take the lead in the third, the Italiens would tie it up with just five minutes to play. The game would eventually go into overtime, where Artyom Voroshilo would bury the winning goal.

The final round will take place in January of 2022 from the 7th to the 9th. There is no venue set yet, but we do know who Poland will be facing. Saryarka Karaganda finished first in Group E and will face off with Poland again. Coming from Group F will be the Aalborg Pirates from Denmark and HK Gomel representing Belarus.

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_.

Former CSKA Moskva Goalie Looks to Make Comeback with Zaglebie Sosnowiec

Zaglebie Sosnowiec has added a new goaltender to their squad. The team announced on Friday the signing of former CSKA Moskva goaltender Andrei Filonenko. Sosnowiec started the year with a young tandem but was rumored to be looking to add another goalie to the mix. The team was reportedly in on former Torun goalie Anton Svensson, even making an offer. Now they have a new Russian goalie that is looking to resurrect his career.

Andrei Filonenko is going to be the veteran of his younger partners in net but is only 26-years-old himself. The Moskva Russia native was developed in the CSKA Moskva system. In 2012, he led Russia’s top junior league, the MHL, in save percentage with a .942 mark. This earned him a spot on Russia’s U17 squad at the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Russia would defeat the United States in the final to win gold, but Filonenko only played in one game. His career continued to progress as he started to creep into the pro-ranks. His best year as a professional came in 2017. That season he managed a .937 SV% in the VHL, along with a .941 SV% in four KHL games. After that career year though injury problems would take their toll from 2018 to 2020, he would only play 29 games. The 6’5 goalie did not play anywhere in the 2020 or 2021 seasons. His first game in Sosnowiec will be his first in about 3 years.

Sosnowiec went with their young tandem again to start the year. While the team around them has been improved, starting goalie Michał Czernik has seen a slight decline in his numbers. Through 18 games this year, Sosnowiec has only been named the winner in five of them. Which is the second-lowest total in the league. When the team went out and made some bigger offseason additions they had to be hoping for better results. While there is risk associated with Filonenko, at one point he appeared to have a KHL future. We have seen import goalies able to steal games and improve a team’s standing pretty quickly in the PHL before.

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_.

The Most Interesting Import on Each PHL Squad

We are underway with another hockey year in Poland. This year the PHL is the smallest it has been in a while. Even though the PHL is down a couple of teams compared to the past few seasons, it is a very competitive year. Not every team is a championship contender, but no team will get blown out every game, and the top seeds losing to the bottom ones would not be a gigantic shock. 

There are two big reasons to thank for the competitiveness in the PHL. The first is how teams like Sanok and Sosnowiec have put together great young forward groups. The second reason is still the lack of an import rule. This allows every team in the league to add some strong players to their lineup. 

We wanted to take a chance today to look at the most interesting import on each PHL club. The keyword is interesting. We’re not saying these imports are going to be the top transfer for each club. Just that these are the ones, we found the most intriguing and are excited to follow. 

Cracovia Krakow – Collin Shirley

Canadian forward Collin Shirley takes the spot for Krakow. Outside of last year, North American players rarely join the PHL, with only one or two a season. Shirley was a longtime member of the Kamloops Blazers, eventually being named the team’s captain. He recorded 246 points in 352 WHL games. He later played in Canada’s university league and had a short stint in the ECHL last year. He has two sisters who have a chance to become future stars for team Canada. Both play for the University of Wisconsin and played for Canada at the U18s. His cousin Adam Beckman was a third-round pick of the Wild in 2019 and is set to play his first AHL season next year. Quite the hockey family. 

GKS Katowice – David Lebek

This one caught me by surprise. At 18-years-old Lebek has to be one of the youngest import signings in league history. The German-born forward is the grandson of GKS Katowice legend Maksymilian Lebek. He also has the height scouts love at 6’5 (196 cm), making him the tallest player in the PHL for the 2021 season. A young big forward with Polish roots would definitely peak the interest of quite a few PHL clubs and the national team, if he were to consider import status. Last year Lebek played in five games with Krefelder EV 1981 U20 in the top level of German junior hockey. 

GKS Tychy – Renārs Kārkls

Speaking of big boys, let’s talk about Renārs Kārkls. Kārkls is a Latvian defender at 6’5 (195 cm), the second tallest player in the PHL, but the biggest defender. The big 22-year-old has bounced around a little in his short career. This includes playing in the KHL, MHL, NAHL, and Alps Hockey League. He also represented Latvia at the U18 and U20 World Championships. Kārkls will have a chance to make a significant impact in GKS Tychy. This is especially true if he can repeat his .71 point per game average from last season in the Alps. 

JKH GKS Jastrzebie – Vitālijs Pavlovs

Jastrzebie saw a lot of their top young Polish talent depart recently, which means they would need to fill some spots with imports. The team has a very distinct Latvian taste, with six hailing from the Baltic country. That includes veteran Vitālijs Pavlovs. At 32-years-old, Pavlovs will be playing only his 3rd full season outside Latvia. Most of his career has been spent with the Latvian KHL team Dinamo Riga. The 6’4 forward recorded 41 points in 281 games with the club, 36th most games in club history. He did make sporadic appearances outside the KHL, with a loan to the Mestis, an early season in Kazakhstan, and a 34 point ECHL season in 2015. Last year after starting in the Latvian league, he moved to the top Austrian league, recording four assists in 12 games. It will be interesting to see what he can provide to the defending champs. 

KH Torun – Conrad Mölder

Torun’s new head coach Jussi Tupamäki has worked for the Estonian national team, so it is no surprise to see some Estonian players. New starting goalie Conrad Mölder is one of the more notable players with Estonian roots. At one point, Mölder was receiving some NHL draft hype after solid years in the Finnish junior system. He then took over as the starting goalie for China’s MHL team KRS Junior. He would then return to Finland, getting a Liiga game in, while starting in the Mestis for TUTO hockey. Last season, he was signed to play in the Tipos Extraliga but never played a game for HK Dukla Michalovce. He has already posted a shutout for Torun though. 

Podhale Nowy Targ – Pavel Novozhilov

This one was a bit hard, as only two new imports are on the Podhale squad. That is not to say Pavel Novozhilov doesn’t have an interesting career. Another player who was seemingly found out of nowhere by KH Torun. Novozhilov posted 10 points in 14 games for Torun to end the year and in the playoffs. Now Pavel moves over to Podhale for his first full PHL season. Before the PHL, Novozhilov played in 159 VHL games for five clubs, including in China and Turkmenistan. He was playing in Russia’s Saint Petersburg Student Hockey League when he signed to Torun. 

STS Sanok – Toni Henttonen

Toni Henttonen joins six other Fins on the Sanok roster. The 27-year-old played for SaPKo pretty much his entire career, both senior and junior hockey. SaPKo plays in the Finnish 2nd league, the Mestis. When it finally came time for his first game outside his home club, it was a step up when he played in the Liiga for the Ilves during the 2019 season. The following year, he recorded three assists in 16 games for Ässät also in the Liiga. Last season was the first time Henttonen did not play any games in the SaPKo organization. Now he is pretty far away from home as he suits up for Sanok, who will be counting on the winger to help their young forward core. 

Unia Oswiecim – Ty Wishart

No team had more big import signings than Unia Oswiecim, both poaching imports from other PHL clubs and free agency worldwide. The biggest one to me is veteran Canadian defensemen Ty Wishart. The Belleville Ontario native was a top prospect in the 2006 NHL draft. He was eventually selected 16th overall by the San Jose Sharks. He would go on to play 26 NHL games with the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. He did spend most of his time in the AHL for those organizations, recording 109 points in 329 games. After departing North America, Wishart has played in Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden. He joins the weird list of NHL first-round picks to play in Poland with Gilbert Brule and Wojtek Wolski. 

Zaglebie Sosnowiec – Nikita Mitskevich

We end off with another team that doesn’t have many new imports, but their new one was a big get. Nikita Mitskevich is a long-time defenseman in Belarus’ top hockey league. At only 26-years-old, he has played in parts of 9 seasons in the top league with 290 games and 74 points. His highlight season was in 2017 when he played in seven KHL games for Dinamo Minsk and played for the Belarus national team at a non-IIHF event. A solid young defenseman with potential that could shore up the team’s defense.

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_.

KH Torun Nabs Liiga Executive as New Head Coach

KH Torun has named their new head coach in 43-year-old Jussi Tupamäki. The Finnish coach currently works as the head coach for the Estonia National team. On the club side, he worked for JYP in the Liiga last year as their Director of Player Development, along with joining the coaching staff as an assistant in October.

KH Torun needed a new head coach after parting ways with Yuri Chukh. Belarusian coach Yuri Chukh had been leading Torun since 2017, helping the team work their way up from the second league. He had a very strong knack for finding diamonds in the rough. Under him, Torun was able to find PHL stars out of the lower leagues of Europe. Torun finished strong under his leadership, including 5th in 2021. The team under Chukh relied heavily on imports much to the dismay of some Polish players.

Torun has recently stated a desire to develop more home grown talent. That seems to make Tupamäki a perfect fit. The former Liiga coach has a vast amount of experience. He started as a head coach in the women’s second league in Finland. He moved to coaching the junior ranks, even coaching in the top junior leagues of Finland. He then served as a head coach for the Estonia national team, and in the Mestis and EBEL. In 2021, he joined JYP in the Liiga as their director of player development. Tupamäki has experience as a coach, director of player development, director of coaching, and scout. He really ticks all the boxes that Torun needed.

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_.

The All-Time European PHL Squad.

This past season has seen a lot of top imports play in Poland. We have seen a lot of notable North American names. There has also been a considerable surge in European talent with players like Marek Hovorka and Kirill Lyamin. The arms race in the PHL has undoubtedly proved to bring a lot of new talent. It is a shame fans are not able to see it in person. 

We recently made a team looking at the best North Americans to ever play in the PHL. Now is a chance to look at the top Europeans to ever play in Poland. The North American team had fewer roster choices to make as the number of North Americans to play in the PHL is pretty low. It also had the advantage of almost every North American to play in Poland has done so since I have been covering the PHL. That is not the case for Europeans in the PHL, as they have been an extended part of the PHL’s history. This means relying more on statistics and achievements. And the enormous error that some statistics and accomplishments are missing. 

I feel this is going to make some roster choices more debated. I reached out to some of my contacts and hockey fans in Poland to measure some players’ impact. I did have a final choice on all picks.  For rules on players, all European players are counted. Yes, Russian players are counted. Players must have played at least one entire season in the PHL. I will only consider what they accomplished in the PHL. What they did before or after does not matter. We will select 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies.

Forwards

Milan BaranykJosef VítekMartin Vozdecký

Petr ŠináglRichard KarlKarel Horný

Marián KacířTeddy Da CostaAndrei Gusov

Roman SkutchanPeter TabačekMarek Hovorka

Vitali Semenchenko

Josef Vítek (2009-Present) – Vítek is the first pick for this list and would be on the all-time PHL team. The talented Czech forward has recorded 645 points in 671 games. He is 7th all-time in PHL scoring, with the most amount of points by a non-Polish player. As well as one of only seven players to record 300 or more goals in the PHL. He is a two-time PHL champion and a three-time Polish Cup winner. At 40-years-old, he is still going with a 20 point season for Stoczniowiec Gdansk in 2021.

Martin Vozdecký (2009-2018) – Vozdecký career in the PHL is nothing but achievement after achievement. No matter if it was for Sanok, Tychy, Polonia Bytom, Jastrzebie, or Katowice the talented forward had success. In 384 PHL games, the Czech forward posted 460 points. The second most by a non-Polish player. He is also a two-time PHL champion that has led the league in both goals and assists in separate seasons. 

Milan Baranyk (03-04, 07-11, 12-14, 18) – The talented Czech forward appeared for five different PHL clubs, usually with stops in other European leagues between them. During his long career, Baranyk appeared in the PHL over 11 seasons. He recorded 444 points in 439 games, the 4th most points by a non-Polish player in the PHL. He also is a two-time PHL champion wining both with Podhale Nowy Targ.

Richard Kral (2011-2014) – Kral is one of the most distinguished Czech players ever, with a long and outstanding career in the Extraliga. He finished his career with JKH GKS Jastrzebie, where he recorded four straight years of at least 50 points. The Czech forward was always among the leaders in points, including leading the regular season in scoring in his first season. Overall he finished his PHL tenure with 257 points in 192 games. His 1.34 PPG is the third-highest by a non-Polish player. 

Petr Šinágl (2014-2018) – The long-time Czech2 forward made an immediate impact when he joined KH Sanok in 2014 with a 75 point season. He would spend five years in the PHL with Sanok and Krakow. In total, he posted 312 points in 266 games. His point total is the seventh most by a non-Polish player in PHL history. Šinágl also won 3 PHL championships and a Polish Cup while leading the league in assists twice. 

Karel Horný (00-02, 05-12) – Horný was a journeyman in Poland, appearing for six different clubs and two different Polish hockey levels. The Czech forward started his Poland career off by winning two straight PHL championships with Unia Oswiecim. He would later post high-scoring years for Krakow,  Krynica, and Tychy. He later helped Oswiecim earn a promotion back to the PHL. Horný ranked up 298 regular season PHL points in his career. 

Teddy Da Costa (06-10, 12-13, 18, 20-Present) – While Das Costa comes from a Polish mother, he is french born and represents France on the international stage. He helped raise awareness of the PHL by playing in the World Championships’ Elite Division while playing in the PHL. Da Costa has played for six different clubs in Poland, even spending part of his junior career with Zaglebie Sosnowiec. A ten-year ongoing PHL career has resulted in 386 points in 424 games. 

Andrei Gusov (1995-2000) – Gusov, or Husau, could probably be named the head coach of this team if I named one. He is a multiple-time championship coach in the PHL. His playing career was even more impressive as the Belarusian national team forward played in parts of 6 PHL seasons. His six years included three with Podhale Nowy Targ. He ranked up at least 250 points in the league, some statistics are missing. He was the captain for SMS I Warszawa in 1999.

Marián Kacíř (2006-2011) – When you look at the mid-2000s, Imports were not as prominent. There was a huge star among them in Kacíř. He was an NHL draft pick, former AHL, DEL, Liiga, and SHL player. More importantly, he was a star in the PHL. In 6 years from 2005 to 2011, only the Polish legend Leszek Laszkiewicz had more points than Kacíř. And that 2011 season, the Czech forward played just nine games in the PHL. In 2008, he led the league in assists and points while helping Podhale Nowy Targ to a PHL championship. His final stat line was 298 points in 258 games.

Peter Tabaček (2008-2019) – When looking at the best forwards all time to appear for Unia Oswiecim, Tabaček has to be up there. The Slovak forward spent 12 years in the PHL, the first two with Naprzod Janow but the next ten straight with Oswiecim. For his career, he racked up 385 points in 503 games. Tabaček sits fifth in all-time points for Unia Oswiecim and is one of only five players to hit 300 points. He also won two bronze medals with the club and served as captain. 

Marek Hovorka (2021-Present) – Hovorka had an excellent European career and was an Olympian for Slovakia at the 2012 winter games. He is now nearing the end of his career and is on a long-term deal with JKH GKS Jastrzebie, similar to Richard Kral. While his first PHL season is not yet even complete. The Slovakian forward led the regular season in scoring with 51 points in 35 games. That is nine more than second-place Zack Phillips. He is also poised to lead the league in overall scoring. While it may be only a year,  the PHL is the strongest it has been in a while. 

Roman Skutchan (99-02, 05-11) – Players seem to fall in love with the city of Gdansk and stay for a long time. That was the case with Roman Skutchan, who doesn’t have much of a record playing outside Poland. Of his 14 year career, 11 years were in Gdansk, including all but one of his first 12 seasons. In total, he recorded 370 points in 378 games for Stoczniowiec Gdansk.On a side note, his son Adam Skutchan played for MH Automatyka Gdansk in 2017 and 2018.

Vitali Semenchenko (1998-1999) – Semenchenko was a record-setter in the PHL. He set both the regular season and overall PHL scoring records. In 1999, he recorded 88 regular-season points and 11 playoff points. His overall record would stand until 2014, while his regular-season record lasted until 2016. Both of his records made it past a decade. His record-setting year was also pretty much double his point total the previous year with Podhale Nowy Targ. In his two seasons combined, the Ukrainian left-wing posted 139 points in 120 games. 

Defenseman

Miroslav Zatko – Tomáš Jakeš

Pavel Mojžíš – Nicolas Besch

Peter NovajovskýPeter Bezuška

Martin Ivicic

Miroslav Zatko (07-15, 17-18, 20-Present) – You don’t see many careers like Zatko. While they were not all in a row, he spent 13 years in the PHL, making the playoffs in 12 of them. While he never won a PHL championship, he did win two Polish Cups. The Slovakian defenseman also led PHL defenseman in goals, assists, and points numerous times. His 467 games are the most by any non-Polish defensemen, and his 313 points are the third most by any defensemen in PHL history. 

Tomáš Jakeš (2006-2014) – The only defensemen to come close to the longevity that Zatko has in the PHL is Jakeš. He has played in nine PHL seasons, making the playoffs in eight of them. He is a PHL champion with Podhale in 2007 and then won three straight Polish Cups with GKS Tychy from 2008 to 2010. His final stat line came in at 204 points in 447 games, along with over 500 penalty minutes. 

Pavel Mojžíš (2012-2015) – While a lot of players made it in parts thanks to their longevity in the PHL, Mojžíš was an offensive dynamo. He did stay for four years with Sanok and Tychy. He was such a force to reckon with production-wise that he would easily make the team with just his two best years. In 212 PHL games, the high-scoring Czech defenseman produced 183 points. The third most by any import on the back end. His .86 PPG is the most by any defenseman in PHL history with at least 50 games. He is also the only defensemen in PHL history with two seasons, where a defender averaged at least a point per game.

Nicolas Besch (2012-2015) – With Besch taking a spot on this list, 50% of all French players to play in the PHL made the team. He is a three-time PHL champion who also represents France at the IIHF elite level while playing in Poland. Besch recorded 149 points in 210 games. The french defender finished top 5 in scoring among defensemen in all of his PHL seasons.

Peter Novajovský (2016-Present) – Strong two-way play has made Novajovský one of the best defensemen in the PHL for this decade. He is a four-time PHL champion and one time Polish Cup winner. Since the Slovak defender arrived in Poland in 2016, only two defensemen have more points than him. Only one defenseman has a higher point per game among players with a min of 50 games. Novajovský continues to be a top defender for the top teams of Poland.

Peter Bezuška (2016-Present) – Bezuška joined the PHL, the same year as Novajosky. Both post pretty similar numbers. The Slovak defenseman has managed to stay healthy and be a workhorse for Unia Oswiecim, with whom he has spent his entire PHL career. His 254 games are the third most by a non-Polish defenseman in the PHL. He is only one of nine import defensemen to record 100 or more points in the PHL. 

Martin Ivicic (2009-2012) – Ivicic impacted the scoresheet one way or another as the physical defenseman with strong two-way abilities. The Slovak defender posted 101 points in 144 games, along with 174 minutes. He bounced around in the PHL, playing with a different club in each of his PHL full seasons. His journeyman run resulted in a PHL champion with Podhale in 2010 and a Polish Cup with Sanok in 2011. 

Goalies 

Ondřej Raszka

Tomáš Fučík

Ondřej Raszka (11-12, 14-Present) – Raszka is one of those players who has a chance at making an all-time PHL team, not just the European squad. His 308 games are the 6th most by any goalie in PHL history and the most by an import. His career .933 SV% is one of the highest among goalies in PHL history. Add in two-time PHL champion and one-time Polish Cup winner. Plus, being the backstop to so many great PHL clubs, he was an easy pick here. 

Tomáš Fučík (17-18, 20) – Picking the second goalie was hard. There were a couple of goalies with longevity. Then you had a few goalies with great short runs. Fučík was right in the middle of those categories. The Czech goalie posted an SV% above .930% in all three of his PHL seasons. His run was also split and showed dominance upon his return in a better league on a worse team. That cemented him in the lineup to me. While his accomplishes don’t match others on this list, besides leading the 2020 regular season in save percentage. Each of his seasons ranks among the best goalie seasons in the PHL. 

Notes

If you wanted to know which country had the most here you go.

Here some honorable mentions of players by their country: (Belarus) Andrei Prima (Czechia) Richard Bordowski, Dusan Adamcik, Pavel Urban, Michal Fikrt (Finland) Jesse Rohtla, Jarmo Jokila, Joni Haverinen (Kazaksthan) Yuri Karatayev, Alexander Artyomenko (Latvia) Maris Jass (Russia) Alexei Trandin, Denis Sergushkin (Slovakia) Milan Furo, Andrej Themár, Zoltan Kubat (Sweden) Kevin Lindskoug

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_.

The All-Time North American PHL Squad.

This year has seen a huge influx of North American players in Poland, with quite a few big names like former NHL players Gilbert Brule, Paul Szczechura, and Victory Bartley recently signing. This trend started earlier in the year with JKH GKS Jastrzebie picking up former Minnesota Wild first-round pick Zack Phillips. There is certainly an arms race going on in the PHL right now. You can even build a pretty good team out of just North Americans.

Most of these players though, won’t leave a lasting impact on Polish hockey directly. Of course, big names are good for the league, and if they have a good experience, it will encourage more players to take a chance in Poland. These names are a result from the COVID-19 pandemic causing many leagues to be canceled, delayed, or without a majority of the teams participating. Most of them will play 20 or so games in the PHL and then return to a stronger league.

With all this in mind, it got me thinking about the most important North American players to play in Poland. A player like Mike Cichy, for example, is crucial to the history of the sport. Cichy set the PHL scoring record, and since he arrived in the PHL in the 2015 season, he has 89 more points than the next closest player. On the other hand, while a player like Wojtek Wolski may have been a bigger name to play in the PHL, his direct impact on the league wasn’t that large, as he just played in just nine games.

Today I decided to take on the challenge of making an all-time team out of just players from North America who played in the PHL. For this, we will only consider what they accomplished in the PHL. What they did before or after does not matter. The player must have also played at least ten PHL games. We will select 13 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goalies.

Forwards

Christian Mroczkowski – Mike Cichy – Alex Szczechura

Dave Kostuch – Jared Brown – Samson Mahbod

Nick Sucharski – Zack Phillips – Jordan Pietrus

Rafal Martynowski – Mike Danton – Kelly Czuy

Extra: Justin Chwedoruk

Mike Cichy – Cichy and Szcezchura are players that are not just on the North American all-time team but the all-time PHL team. Cichy arrived in Poland with Sanok in 2014 and since has played for Opole and Tychy. In 2015, Cichy set the record for points in a PHL season with 113, nine more than the previous record. Since he arrived in Poland, he has 437 points in 324 games, the most by any player during that time frame. His 188 goals and 249 assists are also both the most by a player since 2014. To top it off, Cichy is a three-time PHL champion.

Alex Szczechura – The year after Cichy arrived, Alex Szczechura arrived in Poland with Opole. He and Cichy had instant chemistry, becoming two of the best offensive players the PHL has ever seen. He has played for Opole, Sanok, and GKS Tychy. In 253 games, he has 298 points—the second-most points since 2015, behind only his duo partner, Cichy. The former Ohio State forward has three PHL championships with GKS Tychy.

Christian Mroczkowski – The perfect third piece of the Cichy and Szczechura line has long been searched for. In reality, any player you paired with the duo will succeed. In 2019, Christian Mroczkowski arrived in Poland on a tryout with GKS Tychy. The young power forward has instantly impacted the league, leading the 2020 regular season in points. The 6’0 right-winger has only repeated his success in 2021 as he currently sits tied for third in the PHL for points. So far, he is one for one in seasons with a PHL championship.

Samson Mahbod – For someone to break a record, there has to be a record in place. The scoring record that Cichy broke was held by Samson Mahbod. Mahbod arrived in Poland very late to the 2013 season with GKS Katowice. The high-scoring forward returned the following year to appear for KH Sanok. That year was one of the best seasons in PHL history as he recorded 36 goals and 68 assists for 104 points in 53 games. His 104 points setting the new PHL scoring record at the time. Mahbod used his PHL success to jump to stronger leagues in the VHL, Liiga, and KHL. It showed players that the PHL could be used as a launching pad for stronger leagues in Europe.

Jared Brown – Brown is a mainstay of Europe’s lower professional leagues. Playing for multiple teams in Hungary and Poland, along with stops in France and Romania. In Poland, for three separate teams, he had above a point per game regular season. While his trips were not always the longest, he racked up 71 points across 51 PHL games with Katowice, Opole, and Sanok.

Dave Kostusch – Kostuch left Canisius College after two years to play for Krakow in the PHL during the 2010 season. In his first year, he was a star posting 55 points in 47 games, good for ninth among all Polish players. He would miss most of the following season but return for the Polish Cup and playoffs, recording 23 points in 15 games. He retired after the 2012 season.

Jordan Pietrus – Pietrus came from the ECHL with a very good resume, more than 150 ECHL points in 272 games. In his lone PHL season, he would finish with 70 points in 53 games. His 66 regular-season points led the league. He also had a strong continental cup with 5 points in 6 games. The talented center with Polish roots posted one of the best years ever by a North American.

Zack Phillips – Phillips makes the list despite 2021 being his first PHL season. The former first-round pick currently sits second in PHL, scoring 35 points in 29 games. In just one short year, he has proved to be a valuable forward for JKH GKS Jastrzębie.

Nick Sucharski – Sucharski was a 5th round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets and a captain at Michigan State. He joined Krakow in 2011 and recorded 38 points in 37 games. The Polish-American jumped ship to GKS Katowice the following year. This was another strong year with 34 points in 38 games—a top-line forward for two different clubs, who also served as an assistant captain with Katowice.

Kelly Czuy – Czuy is an interesting player. The physical winger with Polish roots bounced around the AHL, CHL, and ECHL. He started a couple of seasons in the PHL with Podhale Nowy Targ but would end the year back in the United States. In total, he recorded 62 points and 218 penalty minutes in 60 games. This included leading the league in penalty minutes with 123 in 2011.

Mike Danton – A controversial figure in hockey, but no doubt proved to impact the lower leagues of Europe, including Poland. He joined KH Sanok for the 2014 playoffs and went on to play two more years with the club. He recorded 132 points and 266 penalty minutes in 133 games. Danton won a championship in 2014 and led the league in penalty minutes for the 2015 season.

Rafal Martynowski – Martynowski came to Poland in 2010 after spending two years in the fourth tier of German hockey. In two years with Krakow, he recorded 72 points in 96 games. His highlights being a point per game continental cup and playoff run in 2011.

Justin Chwedoruk – A talented, hard-working, and two-way forward, Chwedoruk dreamed of representing Poland on the international stage. He signed in Poland with GKS Katowice before the 2014 campaign. The former Edmonton Oiler minor league player recorded 42 points in 35 games but would miss most of the playoffs with an injury. He returned the following year with Sanok but would suffer a concussion that ended his career after 14 games.

Defenseman

Zach Josepher – Jason Seed

Matt Williams – Adrian Gajor

Sam Roberts – Ryan Barlock

Quinn Sproule

Defensemen are really a weaker portion of the team as strong defensemen are really hard to come by for almost any league. Despite that, there have still been some North American defensemen to impact the league—especially those with an offensive or physical presence.

Zach Josepher – Josepher was seemingly bouncing around from ECHL and semi-pro teams multiple times a year. Gdansk signed him for the 2016 season, their first back in the PHL. While it was a rough year for the team, it was great for Josepher. He recorded 39 points in 37 games. 9 points coming in 6 relegation games. The fourth-best point per game posted by a PHL defenseman since 2000.

Jason Seed – When it seems imports are coming from stronger and stronger leagues, a guy coming from France’s second league is not the biggest move. Seed has proved himself to be a solid defenseman in the PHL over the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The strong two-way play resulted in him with 38 points in 76 games. He served as an assistant captain with Podhale in 2020. For 2021, he joined three-peat champions GKS Tychy.

Matt Williams – Williams was a physical force on the defensive back end. He contributed at both ends with 35 points in 54 games. That was 6th among defensemen in points for the 2015 season. Williams posted 131 minutes in the box, which was second in the league during his lone year. He was the typical import that Sanok recruited at this time, bringing an offensive and physical presence.

Adrian Gajor – Gajor was a player who I often overlooked. He came to Poland last playing inline hockey, with really no major league to his name. He was still young and had Polish roots, but it seemed like an odd move when Krakow signed him in 2018. The guy who was playing roller hockey, before coming to Poland, has now played 109 games putting up 23 points. A point total that is seemingly increasing each year. He also has been named to a Polish national team international roster.

Sam Roberts – Roberts was a strong two-way defenseman in the QMJHL, ECHL, and lower European leagues. In his lone PHL season, he posted 33 points in 49 games. The third most in points and PPG among defensemen in 2016.

Ryan Barlock – Barlock impressed in France with his defensive and physical pace. He brought that same play to Poland, even earning a leadership role with GKS Katowice as their assistant captain. In his lone year, he posted 19 points in 39 games.

Quinn Sproule – Sproule came to the PHL after one ECHL year. In his lone PHL year with Sanok, he provided the club 7 goals and 18 assists in 54 games. His .46 PPG was 7th among PHL defenders in the 2016 season.

Goalies

John Murray

Clarke Saunders

John Murray – When the Polish national team had so many top goalies, it seemed the depth chart was air tight with no room to break in. Instead, John Murray forced his way into becoming Poland’s national team starter. Murray bounced around the CHL and ECHL before signing in Poland for the 2014 hockey year. Murray was a brick wall in the playoffs with a .958 SV% in 14 games leading KH Sanok to a PHL championship. He would move on to Opole the following year and post a .920 SV%. He would leave in 2015 for Kazakhstan but return to Opole the following year. Since 2017, he has represented the colors of GKS Tychy. Murray is a four-time PHL champion and easily one of the best PHL goalies in history.

Clarke Saunders – Saunders had a star-making MVP performance with Unia Oswiecim in 2020. After coming over from the Alps Hockey League, it was hard to predict what he would achieve in the PHL. The Brockville native posted a .932 SV%, good for third among PHL starting goalies. His playoff run appeared to be off to an even better start with a .955 SV% after just five games. He returned in 2021, and well not as strong as his previous year, he remains a solid PHL goalie. Saunders has come clutch on many occasions for Unia Oswiecim. He has kept them in a top PHL spot, despite early struggles.

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_.

GKS Tychy Adds Former NHL Forward Paul Szczechura, And ECHL Forward Alex Tonge

The Covid-19 pandemic was at one point thought to potentially have the power to kill off the PHL. Instead we are now having a arms race the league has never seen. So many teams are adding talented and well-kwon players to their ranks. That trend has continued as current champion GKS Tychy added former NHL forward Paul Szczechura and ECHL forward Alex Tonge.

Paul Szczechura is well known to Polish fans by being the brother of GKS Tychy forward Alex Szczechura. Alex, the younger brother, has played in the PHL since 2016. Paul, 35, during that time was playing in the top hockey leagues around the world. The Brantford Ontario native took the college hockey root playing for Western Michigan. After a standout career at Western, where he was the assistant caption in his final year. He would sign in the AHL with the Iowa Stars as an undrafted free agent. From 2007 to 2012, he played in three NHL organizations mostly for their AHL squads. He signed his first NHL deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008. He did play in 92 NHL games recording ten goals and assists for the Buffalo Sabres and Lightning. He owns a .71 PPG in 271 AHL games.

The 5’11 center has played in the KHL since the 2012-13 season, most recently with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. He appeared in five different clubs and four different countries during his KHL time. In 395 regular season games, he has 244 points (100G-144A-244PTS). The fourth most points by a Canadian skater in KHL history. He was named a KHL all-star during the 2018 season.

Alex Tonge joins GKS Tychy as well after playing in the ECHL. Tonge was an all-star in the OJHL during his junior career. The Canadian forward went the American academic route playing for Robert Morris University. In four years and 146 NCAA games, Tonge recorded 56 goals and 82 assists. Following his college career, he went pro in the ECHL bouncing around between three clubs, but posting strong offensive production for each. In 52 ECHL games, he owns a .71 PPG.

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_.

Former NHL First Round Pick Gilbert Brulé Signs In Poland.

Unia Oswiecim continues their string of big moves under new head coach Kevin Constantine. This time it is former 6th overall pick Gilbert Brulé. The 34-year-old Brulé is a physical forward with 299 NHL games, along with 278 KHL games. He joins ECHL top scorer Brett McKenzie and former NHL defensemen Victor Bartley in recent big moves by the club.

Brulé was drafted 6th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2005 NHL entry draft, after a successful junior career with the Vancouver Giants. He made his NHL debut during the 2006 season playing in seven games recording two goals and two assists. After a few years in Columbus, he was traded to Edmonton for Raffi Torres during the 2008 offseason. Struggling with consistency he found himself scratched, injured, or playing in the minors a lot during his time in Edmonton. After a strong start to the 2012 AHL year, he earned a call up to the Oilers. He had to pass through waivers first, which is when the Arizona Coyotes placed a claim. He played the rest of the year in Arizona, along with getting his only NHL post-season action during the Coyotes’ playoff run. The following year, he signed in Switzerland during the lockout. He would request to terminate his contact though after just 14 games with the ZSC Lions. The Edmonton native would return to the Coyotes for the 2014 season, but would retire from professional hockey on January 1st, 2014.

This retirement would not hold as Brulé signed in the Kontinental Hockey League for the 2015 season. He would play the next six seasons in the KHL with six different clubs, most recently with Kunlun Red Star. In 2018, he was named to the Canadian Olympic team that took bronze at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Now in 2020, he signed in Poland with former Kunlun Red Star teammate Victor Bartley.

The expectations were high for Unia Oswiecim after their second place finish in 2020. Injuries and few disappointments among imports led to the team struggling from the start. Things reached a peak when head coach Nik Zupancic resigned from the team after an altercation with an official. The team hired former NHL head coach Kevin Constantine in his place. It appears they are making a quick turn around as well, as the team has made it to the finals of the Polish Cup vs. JKH GKS Jastrzebie.

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_.

Unia Oswiecim Sign Top ECHL Player Brett McKenzie

Unia Oswiecim had championships goals that they wanted to reach this year, after not getting a chance to win a championship last year, due to COVID. The team that was awarded the silver medal went out and made some big offseason moves like acquiring forward Eliezer Sherbatov. The team did not get off to the hottest start and after an incident with a official, Nik Zupancic was let go. Despite that setback, Oswiecim made it clear the goal was still to win a championship, as they hired former long-time NHL head coach Kevin Constantine. Now we have the first addition of the Constatine era as the team signed ECHL forward Brett McKenzie.

The Canadian forward was standout in the Ontario Hockey League, eventually being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in seventh round of the 2016 NHL draft. The Ontario native played for the North Bay Battalion most of his junior career till a trade to the Owen Sound Attack mid-way through his final OHL year. With the Attack he played on a line with Polish forward Alan Lyszczarczyk. The two ended up being the top line throughout the end of the regular season and playoffs. In total he recorded 224 points (101G-123A-224PTS) in 328 OHL games.

McKenzie would start his professional career the following season in 2019, when he signed with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. He would only play 5 games in the AHL spending a majority of his time with the team’s ECHL affiliate the Atlanta Gladiators. With the Gladiators, he would post 16 goals and 29 assists in 62 games for his ECHL rookie year. The 6’2 forward would sign with the Fort Wayne Komets for the 2020 season, there he reunited with Alan Lyszczarczyk, the two often playing on a line once again. In 56 games, he recorded 23 goals and 37 assists for 60 points. He also earned one call up to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, where he played one game. Brett McKenzie originally had re-signed in the ECHL with Fort Wayne for the 2021 season.

Unia Oswiecim currently sits fourth in the PHL with 41 points. The team is out of first place by 16 points, where JKH GKS Jastrzębie’s 57 points are at the top. The team is coming off a big 1-0 win over fifth place GKS Katowice. The team recently released Finnish players Jere Helenius and Lassi Raitanen, while giving Canadian defender Ryan Glenn another chance.

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_.