Category: PHL

Is the Tipsports Liga Worth It For Polish Clubs?

There was a time where I was a huge supporter of a Polish team joining the Tipsport Liga. There is a lot of value to the idea. This would be great exposure for Polish hockey and a great experience for Polish players. A lot of the benefits would be for the national team in the short term. Long-term though it could have some risk for Poland. Losing top clubs would result in a weaker Polish Hockey League. The league is undoubtedly on the rise now and has as much talent and competition as ever. The vital question becomes what is best for the growth of hockey in Poland. What will help the game grow more, a strong domestic league or a strong national team?

The benefits to the national team may not be that strong anymore. This year so far, PHL teams have a record of 6-4 against Tipsport Liga teams. There is no doubt in my opinion that the top half of PHL teams would be competitive in the Tipsport Liga. I believe they would fare better than the Hungarian teams that entered the league. This shows the rising talent of Polish teams, but as well as the decline of the Tipsport Liga. The top Slovak league has been falling for a bit now. The two factors should make PHL teams fit right in, but this isn’t about fitting in. It is about improving the national team. How much can players gain or what opportunities could they earn from the slight bump in play?

I don’t think what Polish teams could gain is worth the damage it will cause to the PHL. I think the model that all small hockey countries should want to be is Great Britain. The idea of a single or a couple top teams in stronger leagues has not shown amazing progress for the likes of Croatia and Kazakhstan. Their results may grow for a bit, thanks to the influx of talented imports, but they then decline or flatline. It is a short-term bandaid that hasn’t been able to spur more significant growth.

Great Britain has grown the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) to such a high level that the country is passing the domestic leagues of France, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. They now are even nipping on the heels of Austria, in my opinion. The league allowed talented imports, especially welcoming those from North America. This helped shaped the current style of British hockey. Only the top percent of British players appeared in the league. This has improved league quality a lot and granted British players wonderful opportunities. Liam Kirk was able to be drafted from the league. They shot up in IIHF rankings and World Championships tournaments. They made it to the Elite division and are staying there.

The PHL has removed the import rules like the EIHL did. While there is a lot of pushback from some in Polish hockey. The skill level of the league has already grown a lot. The league is as competitive as ever. Teams no longer have to try and compete over the same small group of top Polish players to win. They can bring in better depth as well. This is very important for teams in large markets that are outside Southern Poland. Torun and Gdansk can play meaningful hockey games now, both teams are leaders in Polish attendance. Stronger teams mean better attendance, which leads to more money, attention, and more kids getting into hockey.

The Visegrad Cup is a significant test for Polish hockey in regards to gaining acceptance into the Tipsport Liga. JKH GKS Jastrzebie went undefeated to win their group, Podhale lost a single game and finished second. While Katowice dropped both their contest so far it was in a competitive fashion. If the tournament was set to judge how competitive PHL teams would be, they proved their worth in a major way. This forces the Tipsport Liga decision soon though.

The PHL is on the rise, and the Tipsport Liga is on the decline. I don’t believe the Tipsport Liga is worth it for Polish clubs. I don’t think there is enough that Polish clubs and players gain from moving the Tipsport Liga. Growing the PHL should be the top concern for Polish hockey. A goal being to get the PHL in more larger markets like Lodz and Poznan, both of which have hockey teams in the lower Poland divisions. In losing top teams, the PHL would also lose their Champions Hockey League spot which is excellent exposure for Polish hockey. The PHL can not absorb such losses.

In this scenario, the current crop of Polish players do take a hit. There are fewer jobs for them in the PHL, and top players lose on some growth. Top Polish players need to leave Poland to get better, and the current generation of talent seems to believe that. Wronka has left for the EIHL, Łyszczarczyk is staying in America, Lewandowski is in the United States Hockey League, and Zygmunt left for the Tipsport Extraliga. Polish players in stronger leagues and a growing PHL are exactly what Polish hockey needs.

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“The Slovenian Strategy” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: Unia Oswiecim

Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL

Last season was the worse finish for Unia Oswiecim since the club was relegated to the first league in 2010. This was despite some big offseason moves. The struggles continued to start this offseason. Roman Stantien took the team’s head coaching job but left after two weeks to take a job with HC Slovan Bratislava. This left the team needing a new head coach and one that was committed to the team for a few years. That job went to Nik Zupancic, the former head of the Slovenian national team. Stantien’s departure may end up being a blessing for Unia Oswiecim though. Zupancic has brought some great players with him and has had an impressive pre-season.

Forwards

Andrej Themár – Luka Kalan – Gregor Koblar

Anatoli Protasenya – Alexei Trandin – Martin Przygodzki

Lukasz Krzemien – Dariusz Wanat – Dominik Raska

Sebastian Kowalowka – Damian Piotrowicz – Patryk Malicki

Other forwards: Adrian Prusak, Krzysztof Dudkiewicz

This is a very talented forward group, and one that I feel is going to be underrated. This is due to how unfamiliar people are with some of the import talents. Andrej Themár is one that Polish fans are well familiar with though as he was an above a point per game player in his two seasons in the PHL with GKS Katowice and Unia Oswiecim. He has lined up in pre-season games with Gregor Koblar and Luka Kalan. Kalan and Koblar both had solid performances in the Alps Hockey League last year. Anatoli Protasenya is set to be the tallest player in the PHL this year at 6’6. Despite his size, he is not an overly physical player, but a strong goal scorer. More familiar faces include Alexei Trandin, he shined as a top performer for Orlik Opole and holds a career point per game of 1.10 in the PHL. As well as Martin Przygodzki who once finished fourth in PHL scoring during the 2015-16 season. He always has excellent offensive potential but can be inconsistent. Lukasz Krzemien showed he is a strong leader last year. At just 22-years-old, he led Polonia Bytom through an awful season. He is an impressive young player and really needed a chance with a top club. I really like this group and think they have a lot of potential for production across all four lines.

Defensemen

Klemen Pretnar – Jakub Wanacki

Peter BezuskaPatrik Luza

Miroslav Zatko – Jakub Saur

Milosz Noworyta – Patryk Noworyta

The defense has a lot to like. One of the best defensemen in Poland, Jakub Wanacki, signed a two-year deal with the club. Wanacki is sharp at both ends of the ice, with defense being the stronger of the two. His partner in pre-season matches has been Klemen Pretnar. Pretnar has a long history in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga and with the Slovenian national team. Wanacki and him could be one of the best pairs in Poland. Patrik Luza is a former KHL player and at 25 is always on the move. Since 2016, he has played for seven different teams. Luza was once highly thought of. The defensemen appeared twice for both the Slovakia U18 and U20 team at IIHF events, as well as being a regular in the KHL for HC Slovan Bratislava. He is a defensive first guy and his resume earned him a two-year deal. I think he could really shine if finally given a chance to settle down. Miroslav Zatko will be making his return to the PHL after a year off. Zatko has played in 11 PHL seasons, and Polish fans are well accustomed to his skills. Milosz Noworyta has a bright future for the national team, I had him ranked 41st in my top 50 Polish U23 rankings.

Goalies

Clarke Saunders

Sebastian Lipinski

In terms of actual duos in the PHL, which there are not many, this may be the best. Clarke Saunders was a bit of a controversial choice, when the team announced his signing. He struggled last year in the Alps Hockey League posting a .892 SV% during the regular season. Saunders did have some merit though, the previous year he posted a .930 SV% in the regular season and then led the Alps Hockey League playoffs in SV% with .935. He also had a decent track record in the ECHL and NCAA. So far in pre-season games, Saunders has impressed me. I think the Canadian was the right choice. Sebastian Lipinski is the future of Poland in goal. He isn’t ready to start yet, but Saunders should allow him to play more games then he did last year. Former long-time starting goalie, Michal Fikrt is also staying with the team as a goaltending coach. Lipinski has a solid foundation around him to develop. Either goalie could lead Unia to victory.

Prediction: 5th

I am really enamored with this team. I think they are going to be the most exciting team to watch in the PHL this year. There are a lot of interesting players, and these players would be top players on other PHL clubs. Of all the mid-tier teams in the PHL, Unia Oswiecim is the best in my opinion. They should have their best finish since the 2013-14 season.

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

 

“Roller Coaster Offseason” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: Podhale Nowy Targ

Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL

Podhale stayed on their normal course last year playing for a bronze medal for a fifth straight season. The offseason got underway with the expected departure of head coach Tomek Valtonen. Then rumors started to spread about the team in regards to their finances. Top players like Mateusz Michalski, Oskar Jaskiewicz, and Patryk Wajda departed for GKS Katowice and more departures seemed likely. Then Phillip Barski was named head coach and Podhale was able to retain the rest of their core. Drama would arise once again though when it came to getting a license to play in the PHL, and Podhale would only receive theirs at the last minutes. A couple of days before the team would fully ramp up their training and begin to play exhibition games news broke that they had requested some veteran Polish players to take a pay cut. Polish hockey legends Krzysztof Zapala and Marcin Kolusz would leave the club because of this. More departures were expected, but none came to light while the team added more import players. A true roller coaster of an offseason, but how will that affect the team on the ice?

Forwards 

Bartlomiej Neupauer – Krystian Dziubinski – Tomas Kominek

Richard Jencik – Emil Svec -Dariusz Gruszka

Emil Svec – Tomas Franek – Jakub Worwa

Kacper Guzik – Filip Hudak – Filip Wielkiewicz

Other forwards: Adrian Pawel Slowakiewicz, Daniel Kapica, Dylan Willick, and Lukasz Siuty

The offense saw one major late departure in Zapala, maybe two depending on where you play Kolusz. I think they did an adequate job of replacing lost talent here. The forward group is not the best in the PHL, but is above average. Krystian Dziubinski is one of the best skaters and two way forwards in Poland. Bartlomiej Neupauer is quite a strong offensive producer and has been very impressive during his time with the national team. Dariusz Gruszka returns to Podhale and should hopefully see his production increase after a disappointing year with Unia Oswiecim. Tomas Kominek is the biggest import addition after spending the past three seasons with JKH GKS Jastrzebie. Richard Jencik should be a major import contributor as well. Jakub Worwa is Podhale’s best young forward and I would like to see him have quite a larger role this season. Again the offense is above average, there are no glaring holes in it.

Defensemen

Samu Suominen – Maciej Sulka

Robert Mrugala – Santeri Arousva

Jason Seeed – Yevgeni Kamenev

Other defensemen: Patryk Wsol

The defense took a lot of hits, only one of the Finnish defensemen from last year returned and they saw the major departures of Dutka, Kolusz, Jaskiewicz, and Wajda. Samu Suominen was one of the best Finnish defensemen last year and is really good re-signing for Podhale. Maciej Sulka is a decent add from JKH GKS Jastrzebie, but only really a Dutka replacement. Santeri Arousva is an interesting import addition, Metsis alumni have had quite a bit of success in the PHL. Arousva should be able to hold down a top-four spot in the PHL. Yevgeni Kamenev is an interesting prospect and I had him ranked 36th in my top 50 U23 Polish player rankings. He was a really good junior prospect but has struggled at the professional level. This defense lacks top-end players and could use some depth. It really is the only major problem the team has.

Goalies

Przemyslaw Odrobny

Blazej Kapica

Pawel Bizub

The witcher is still in net so there is nothing to worry about. Przemyslaw Odrobny is the best goalie in Polish hockey and will help Podhale stay in any game. It is hard to say what they have in a backup. Blazej Kapica has struggled at times this pre-season but also recorded a .929 save percentage in seven PHL games last year.

Prediction: 6th

The worse finish for Podhale since 2013-14. A weak defense and an offense that well not bad, is worse than last year has Podhale finishing sixth in my rankings. There isn’t much young talent to bet on, but some imports may be able to lead them to a higher place. Podhale is currently in a rebuild. They need to find new leaders and build up new young talent. More chances for the Worwas and Kamenevs.

“The Russian Trio” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: Zaglebie Sosnowiec

Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL

Last year Zaglebie Sosnowiec was able to buy their way into the PHL shortly before the season began. This left a roster made mostly for the 1st league. They finished third to last in the PHL. This year Zaglebie is back for vengeance. They went out and had one of the biggest offseasons for any team in the PHL. Their biggest signings included signing the Russian trio of Daniil Orekhin, Robert Korchokha, and Semyon Garshin. The Russian trio dominated the PHL last year propelling KH Torun to 6th place in the league. Loaded up with some nice imports and young talent, Zaglebie Sosnowiec could potentially shock the league.

Forwards

Semyon Garshin – Daniil Orekhin – Robert Korchokha

Blazej Salamon – Damian Slabon – Tomasz Kozlowski

Filip StoklasaNikita Butsenko – Dominik Nahunko

Michal Bernacki – Lukasz Rutkowski – Jakub Blanik

Other forwards: Adam Jaskolski, Aleksander Gniewek, Andrzej Stojek, Kamil Sikora, Patryk Jarosz, and Vasili Yerasov. 

This forward group has so much talent. The Russian Trio of Daniil Orekhin, Robert Korchokha, and Semyon Garshin give them a line that can match up with any top line in the PHL. Blazej Salamon had a rough time in GKS Tychy last year, but still showed how much he can produce offensively with Polonia Bytom and Sosnowiec. Some of the young talents include Jakub Blanik and Michal Bernacki. Blanik was the captain of the Polish U18 team last year and had quite the strong performance. Bernacki was a goal-scoring machine during his junior days. Really excited to see what these players can do in a strong offense. Of the mid-tier teams in the PHL, they may have the best offense.

Defensemen

Vyacheslav Tryasunov – Marek Kaluza

Matej Cunik – David Turon

Lukasz Podsiadlo – Kamil Charousek

Other defensemen: Adrian Duszak, Marcin Horzelski, Michal Domogala, and Michal Dzialo.

The defense is pretty good but is nothing special. It is pretty veteran-led, with, in my opinion, only one player of their best six being under 30-years-old. Vyacheslav Tryasunov is an exciting import currently on a try-out basis right now. Tryasunov is a defensive first guy with experience in the KHL and has represented Kazakstan at the World Championships. I think he is the exact kind of player that young players like Adrian Duszak and Marcin Horzelski could learn a lot from. Matej Cunik is another good import. I think he brought a lot of value to Gdansk late last year and is a really great second pairing guy in the PHL.

Goalies

Rafal Radziszewski

Michal Czernik

Make no mistake Rafal Radziszewski is one of the best Polish goalies of all time, but he is no longer at his former status. Among goalies with at least 15 games played, he ranked 8th last year in the PHL for save percentage with .914. I would have liked to see them add another goalie, potentially a younger one, to split starts with Radziszewski. I think there were plenty of PHL goalie free-agent options for that like Michael Luba, Nick Vilardo, or Tomasz Witkowski. Michal Czernik has shown potential in the past but really struggled in the PHL so far. I think they could have really used another goaltender in that room to play some games.

Prediction: 7th

Zaglebie Sosnowiec is taking a big step forward this season, but a lot of veteran options need to help bring along the young talent this team has. As who knows how long some veteran players can keep up their production and play. Their goaltending is going to be in the bottom half of the PHL, and that prevents me from ranking them higher despite my high praise for their offense. This team is going be similar to KH Torun last year. A big part of Turon was the performance of Patrik Spesny in net, something Sosnowiec won’t likely have.

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

“Stronger Every Year” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: LOTOS PKH Gdansk

Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL

Every year since Gdansk made their PHL debut in 2016, they continue to build a better team than the year before. This year is no exception to that, in part due to their new sponsor of Lotos. The team lost a few key players in goaltender Evan Cowley and defensemen Matej Cunik and Robin Maly. Gdansk more than replaced them with a few new imports. The most significant additions though may have come late in the season last year after signing a couple of former Opole players after they left the team. Some new faces and a full-season of some top imports could push Gdansk up the standings again.

Forwards

Alexander Golovin Vladislav Yelakov – Jan Steber

Josef VítekPetr Polodna – Mateusz Danieluk

Yegor Rozhkov – Igor Smal – Szymon Marzec

Filip Pesta – Jakub Stasiewicz – Krystian Mocarski

Other forwards: Bartosz Woloszyk, Pavel Popov

Alexander Golovin and Vladislav Yelakov both came over from Opole midseason. Golovin increased his production, but Yelakov saw his scoring drop from a 1.28 PPG to 1.09. Yelakov was originally on pace to be a top-five scorer in the PHL, and Gdansk will need him to score at that pace again. Jan Steber should fill in right beside the two very nicely, he is still an impact player in the PHL. Josef Vitek (38) and Petr Polodna (37) are both great veteran players that can provide secondary scoring. Igor Smal is a future star, and this year he should start to be relied on a fair amount. There are a lot of veteran players, seven out of the thirteen forwards are 33 or older, and possible declines will always happen eventually.

Defensemen

Ladislav Havlik – Yan Krasovsky

Vlastimil Bilcik – Konstantin Teslyukevich

Damian Szurowski – Tomasz Pastryk

Other defensemen: Gilbert Lesniak, Michal Narog,  Oskar Lehmann

The defense features all-around solid players being led by Ladislav Havlik and Yan Krasovsky. Havlik is a veteran of over 100 Tipsports Extraliga games at just 27-years-old, he previously played in the PHL with GKS Tychy recording 23 points (6-17-23) in 62 games. Krasovsky has played over 200 games in the VHL. He arrived late into last season for Gdansk recording 12 points (5-7-12) in 22 games. Its better than last year, but not a vast improvement.

Goalies

Tomas Fucik

Mateusz Studzinski

Wiktor Solinski

Tomas Fucik will be a nice replacement for Evan Cowley. While Cowley had quite the impact in his short time, Fucik showed before that he can be a starter in the PHL during his time with JKH GKS Jastrzebie. He didn’t have the greatest time in the Tipsports Liga last year posting a .907 SV%, but in the relegation play, he recorded a .946 SV%. It may be hard to beat Cowley’s play, but Fucik should be more than fine. Mateusz Studzinski is an excellent choice for a backup. He was quite the junior goalie, but his jump to the PHL has been a bit of a struggle.

Prediction: 8th

While Gdansk continues to improve as a team, their improvement this year wasn’t as good as other teams. The mid-tier of the PHL continues to get better and better, Gdansk is one of those teams improving it. This year though some teams made some significant moves to leapfrog Gdansk, while also considering the potential decline of veterans leaves Gdansk as my team finishing 8th this year.

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

“Russian Reinforcements” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: KH Torun

Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL. 

Last year KH Torun had a really great run during the PHL regular season that saw them capture sixth place just a year after being promoted. They even battled Cracovia Krakow at some points for the fifth spot. A big part of this was the explosive Russian offensive trio of Daniil Orekhin, Robert Korchokha, and Semyon Garshin. That trio all departed for Zaglebie Sosnowiec in the offseason though. KH Torun also saw two valuable import defensemen leave in Tomas Parizek and Maxim Kamenkov. This left Torun with a lot of holes to plug on their roster. They brought in a Polish star to fill one, and a whole Russian army to fill the others.

Before we start a lot of players are on try-outs. I will fully mark the roster on who I think are the best players in camp, contract status will not currently affect rankings.

Forwards

Bartosz Fraszko – Dmitri Teslenko – Danila Bogush

Jaroslaw Dolega – Michal Kalinowski – Daniel Minge

Yegor Feofanov –  Dominik Olszewski – Jakub Jaworski

Piotr Naparlo – Gleb BondarukVladislav Sokolov

Other forwards: Artyom Sadretdinov, Alexander Volzhankin, Filip Mazurkiewicz, Vadim Ageyev, and Vadim Artemyev. 

Bartosz Fraszko is truly the most essential player on Torun’s roster. There is no doubt in my mind with the ice time and chances he’ll receive in Torun he maybe one of the top scorers in the PHL, helping replace the production of the Russian trio. The if on Fraszko is will he have linemates that will help him get there. Of the imports trying out for Torun, Dmitri Teslenko and Danila Bogush really stuck out to me as two players that really have some potential to provide offense in the PHL. Fraszko and Teslenko are 23 and Bogush is 21, making it a really young top line, but fast and skilled as well. Jaroslaw Dolega (37) and Daniel Minge (30) should both be able to provide some veteran leadership and nice secondary scoring. Michal Kalinowski has had some productive seasons in his career but cooled off lately. He should still be a solid part of the team’s middle-six forward group. Dominik Olszewski is a promising prospect, who I want to see take on some more significant roles. Of the six Torun players on my top 80 U23 board, he was the highest at 45. Overall there is a star player, some solid players, and some big chances on imports. If those chances payoff, Torun should have no problem repeating their previous success.

Defensemen

Adrian Jaworski – Eetu Moksunen

Artyom Smirnov – Mateusz Zielinski

Bartosz Skolmowski – Dmitri Kozlov

Other defensemen: Mikhail Syroyezhkin and Stanislav Kandzyuba

Update 8/15: Eetu Moksunen did not receive a contract from his tryout.

This defense may not feature any stars, but I wouldn’t say anyone is out of place. Eetu Moksunen had some nice moments with Podhale last year but dropped off as the season went on. Adrian Jaworski is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated young defensemen in Poland. He plays a nice two-way game and could develop into a top guy. Artyom Smirnov is quite an interesting import. He has served as the captain for multiple junior teams and had moderate success in the third tier of Russian hockey. This defense could use more talent, but it isn’t going to handcuff the team.

Goalies

Patrik Spesny

Krzysztof Bojanowski

Szymon Guranowski

Patrik Spesny was great for Torun last year. He is precisely what Torun needs in the back of the net given their lack of a great defense. Spesny is also still very young at only 23-years-old, meaning we might have only seen a glimpse of what he is capable of.

Prediction: 9th

It was tough to pick who was finishing second to last on my list. I feel this season in the PHL there are three tiers of teams. The top tier of four championship contenders, the second tier of five mid-level teams, and then the bottom tier of Janow and PZHL u23. That mid-level tier is were Torun is. The standings between these teams will most likely be decided by one or two games. It is a very competitive group, where concerns about the defense and too many import forwards that may underperform have them finishing 9th. This is the ranking that I believe will most likely be wrong.

“What Is Left of Bankrupted Teams” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: Naprzod Janow

Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL. 

Today we start off our series previewing Naprzod Janow. Last year Naprzod Janow won the championship in the Polish first league to earn the right to once again play in the top level of Polish hockey. Janow only spent one year in the second league after being demoted in 2017. They have been going up and down between the PHL and the first league recently with the hope this year they’ll be able to stick in the PHL. Maybe to the benefit of them, or a curse, two teams bankrupted in the PHL last year leaving two full rosters needing new homes. While the best players were picked up last year mid-season, today we see if there was still anything left on the bones for Janow.

Forwards

Yaroslav Salnik – Filip Stopinski – Maxim Titok

Alexis Svitac – Karol Wasinski – Adam Rajski

Michal Rybak – Szymon Skrodziuk – Maciej Rybak

Wojciech Gorzycki – Bartosz Kosmeda – Maciej Bielec

Other forwards: Jakub Piper, Lukasz Niedzwiedz,  Marcin Wrobel, Michal Stoklosa, Patrik Michal, Patryk Pohl, and Oliwier Ksiondz.

The offense is better than I expected, but also still not that great. It is full of players that need these top minute chances to get better, but when they’re all playing together it can collapse really quickly. There are not really all-around solid players to help guide them or be insurance. Yaroslav Salnik and Maxim Titok are interesting imports. Both players were top producers in the first league last year. Janow has to be hoping that they will get something like Torun did last year. Filip Stopinski is returning to Poland after a poor season in the Oberliga. Stopinski continues to struggle with consistency problems and other roadblocks. At times he has shown he can be a big producer in the PHL, but he also has some massive dry spells in there. If everything clicks this could actually be a really good first line, but that is a lot of ifs. Svitac, Wasinski, Rajski, the Ryabks brothers, and Skrodziuk all kinda fall in the same boat. They’re still young, show some promise, but mostly struggles when it comes to excelling at the top level. They all have a wonderful chance to take right now, it will be interesting to see who if anyone can thrive in these big roles. It is an interesting offense that I am excited to track. At the end of the day though, most of these guys would be third liners on another PHL team playing reduced minutes and roles. I do believe it will be an improvement on Polonia and Opole last year though.

Defensemen

Michal Krokosz – Adam Krok

Bartlomiej Stepien – Igor Sarna

Marek Kosakowski – Kacper Kaplon

Other defensemen: Aleksander Bodora

The defense is the biggest weakness of the team. Michal Krokosz is fine, but played higher-level hockey last year in the first league for the first time since 2015. A lot of the defense is in their mid-20s and don’t show a lot of potential for getting better. I don’t think any of them break the top six for another team in the PHL. When the league is so open to imports now, I don’t know how Janow doesn’t search for at least one import defensemen. The roster isn’t final, but I hope they’ll add something here.

Update 8/13: Janow signed Danil Skripets. The 24-year-old defenseman has represented Ukraine at the World Championships three times, including last year. He is instantly the best defensemen on their roster.

Update 8/15: Eetu Moksunen has joined the team on a tryout. The defensemen played with Podhale last year.

Goalies

Michal Krofta

Szymon Niemczyk

The biggest story in Janow’s net, may not even be in their net. They’re still in contract negotiations with Michael Luba. While I believe Luba is ready to be a starter in the PHL, he is not going to save this team. Head coach Jacek Szopinski should know this pretty well after having Nick Vilardo stop over 40 plus shots a game during their time with Opole. Michal Krofta is an interesting goaltender himself though. He at one point did really well in the Czech junior leagues and posted an above-average Goals Against Average in the Czech second league. Niemczyk would be the backup or third string.

Update: Luba signed in France2

Prediction: 10th

Interesting things on offense can’t save this team from finishing last in the PHL, only above PZHL u23. This is a team that has a chance to blend a lot of good import players with younger Polish talents, but they don’t seem to be taking advantage of that. They only have two imports that didn’t play in Poland last year. One is coming from the Greater Metro Hockey League and wasn’t a top scorer there…

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GKS Katowice Defeats Belfast Giants; Advance to Continental Cup Finals

GKS Katowice defeated the Belfast Giants, 4-2 on Saturday night in their final group E continental cup game. Coming into today, GKS Katowice was 1-1 with a win over Italian Alps Hockey club Ritten Sport and a loss to Croatia EBEL club, Medveščak Zagreb. GKS Katowice needed to win this game to advance to the Continental Cup finals in January. Katowice trailed 2-0 early in the second period but would start their comeback in the middle of the second after Mikolaj Lopuski scored on the power play to bring them within one. Just 3 minutes later, Jesse Rohtla would score to tie the game. At the end of the 2nd period, Giants defensemen, Kevin Raine, would get a 5 min major and a game misconduct for kneeing. On the powerplay, Niko Tuhkanen would score to give GKS Katowice their first lead of the game. Tuhkanen’s goal would be the game winner, as Janne Laakonen would add an empty netter to finish the game. Kevin Lindskoug made 27 saves for GKS Katowice and finished the tournament with an impressive .942 save percentage.  GKS Katowice will now turn their focus to the finals, where they will have to face off against the Belfast Giants (EIHL, Great Britain) again along with Arlan Kokshetau (Kazaksthan), and HK Gromel (BXL, Belarus).