Category: Uncategorized

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players Stats and Notes

We have reached the end of the 2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 list. For this list I looked at 140 plus players, the top 80 were ranked, while the the top 50 received a scouting report. This year had three big things that I think shifted rankings a bit. The lack of a IIHF U18 tournament really meant a lot of younger players didn’t receive their chance to shine. Second the was the lack of film overall this year for a lot of games. Third was my goal to be more generous with ranking goaltenders. I won’t lie evaluating goalies is what I’m probably the worst at, so this year I wanted to try more generous with them.

All Articles

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 and Player 1

Top 80 Board

Biggest Risers

  1. Konrad Filipek +36
  2. Mateusz Ubowski/Marcel Kotula +35
  3. Michal Cychowski +27

Biggest Drops

  1. Patryk Wysocki -34
  2. Tomasz Skokan -31
  3. Filip Mazurkiewicz -24

Highest List Debuts

  1. Karol Sterbenz – 33
  2. Karol Bilas – 36
  3. Kacper Gruzla – 49

Breakdown By Position

Breakdown By Team

Breakdown By Country

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

So You Want To Play Professional Hockey In Poland?

One of the most common things I get emailed about is players asking me what to expect when playing hockey in Poland, along with if I had any connections to help them get their foot in the PHL door. While I love to see the excitement of players and hope they succeed in their hockey career. I don’t believe it is my place as a journalist to help teams and players find each other. That is why I created this guide to playing hockey in Poland. As a note, a lot of this information was collected pre-COVID-19. Some things may be subject to change.

Yes Poland has hockey

I will never forget one interaction I had with a player who messaged me, saying they had an offer from Poland. After I asked them which city, they replied, confused at my question and seem to think Poland was a city in Germany…

Poland has a long hockey history. They have been members of the International Ice Hockey Federation since January of 1926. Both the men’s and women’s senior and junior national teams play in the IIHF Division 1 Group B Championships. The most significant success came in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Poland regularly competed in the Elite divisions of the IIHF being led by NHLers Mariusz Czerkawski and Krzysztof Oliwa.

The men’s national team is currently led by Slovakian head coach Robert Kalaber. The team recently advanced to the final round of Olympic qualification, after an upset win over Kazakhstan. Some current prominent players include former Minnesota fifth-round NHL draft pick Marcin Koulsz who plays in the Liiga, Aron Chmielewski who plays in the Tipsport Extraliga, PatrykWronka in the Polska Hokej Liga, and Alan Łyszczarczyk in the ECHL.

The League

Poland’s top league is the Polska Hokej Liga (PHL). The league has been in operation since 1925. In the past, the PHL has also gone under the name 1 Liga, Ekstraklasa, and Polska Liga Hokejowa. It has been referred to as the Polska Hokej Liga since 2013. In 2019 the league made a significant change to abolish a previous limit on imports. This is a strongly controversial topic, as though it raised the quality of the league. Many feel it will hurt Polish players in the long term. In 2020, the league featured 11 teams, with one team, Naprzod Janow, falling out mid-season due to financial reasons. Twelve teams have submitted applications to play in the 2020-21 PHL season. The season will be around forty plus games, with an eight-team playoff.

Only two teams will not be returning to the top league from the previous year in Naprzod Janow and Lotos PKH Gdańsk. Gdańsk was pretty much forced out by a second Gdańsk team in the PHL, SA Stoczniowiec Gdańsk.

The Teams

GKS Tychy – The premiere team of Poland. They have made it to the finals every year since 2014. In that time, they have won three championships. They also were named the champions for the 2019-20 PHL season, which was suspended due to Covid-19. GKS Tychy also will compete in the Champions Hockey League this season, which is a competition of top clubs from around Europe. The team that finishes first in Poland is guaranteed a spot in the Champions Hockey League. GKS Tychy is a top organization all-around. There is no one better in Poland.

Unia Oświęcim – They are a club on the rise, finishing second in the PHL for the time since the early 2000s. A lot of credit goes to Slovenian head coach Nik Zupancic. The team is based in the city that was the place of the Auschwitz nazi concentration camp. The Athletic.com did a great piece on what it is like playing in the city. The team itself has some of the most passionate fans in Poland, along with a great mix of imports and Polish talent. They will be playing in the Continental Cup this season A smaller Euro club tournament featuring teams from Kazakhstan, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and more. The winning club gets a spot in the Champions Hockey League.

Podhale Nowy Targ – One of the most historic clubs in Poland has had a bit of an up and down ride lately, with some rumored financial struggles. Despite that, the team is full of national team talent and remains a force in the PHL. Their success shows no signs of changing in 2020, as they continue to bring back their core, along with hiring head coach Andrei Gusov, who helped make GKS Tychy into the dominant force they are.

JKH GKS Jastrzebie – Jasztrzebie is the talent factory of Poland. No club produces more young talent than they do. Current national team head coach Robert Kalaber is at their helm. A great team that uses imports to supplement and grow their young talent. Although a Polish championship has evaded them recently, they are a considerable threat.

Cracovia Krakow – Krakow is a weird club. They are like the New England Patriots of the PHL. They can never be counted out. Every time it seems like the team is at its end. They somehow still pull off a great year. Czech coach Rudolf Rohacek has been behind the bench since 2005. He runs the team like a well-oiled machine, even if unpopular at times. Krakow is one of the largest and most exciting cities in Poland as well. This year due to Covid-19 related budget cuts, the club is looking to mix mostly their junior talents with strong imports.

KH GKS Katowice – Katowice is a top team in Poland that just hasn’t gotten the results many expected of them. They returned to the PHL in 2016 after a short hiatus. In 2019, they finished first in the league but lost in the semi-finals. They have an absolute gorgeous arena, and great behind the scenes staff. The expectations are high in Katowice, but it is a great environment.

KH Torun – There is a lot of fan support for Torun, and they finish towards the top of the PHL in attendance every year. Torun is also a pretty place. Their club has a smaller budget than most PHL teams. Belarusian head coach Yuri Chukh deserves a lot of credit for being able to find diamonds in the rough. Torun is always able to find a few players in the lower leagues of Eastern Europe that become PHL stars. They do go through imports quick though, and a lot of players are just brought in for try-outs.

Zaglebie Sosnowiec – They have been hard hit by COVID-19 and have a much smaller budget for this year. They are looking to supplement their junior talent with imports like a few teams in the PHL. The team has a lot of potential for the future, but this will definitely be a step back year for them as they regroup. For imports though, this means a lot of ice time and chances to show their skills.

Other clubs in Poland that maybe in the import market include KTH Krynica-Zdrój, ŁKH Łódź, Naprzod Janow, Polinia Bytom, SA Stoczniowiec Gdańsk, UKS Niedźwiadki MOSiR Sanok. With the exception of maybe Gdańsk and Sanok, all these team operate at a much lesser scale of all the teams listed above. We did a larger dive on hockey in the city of  Łódź here.

What the Agents Say

If you are going to play in Poland, you will most likely need to get there through an agent. At the end of the article will be a list of agents that have worked in Poland. Teams in Poland will often contact agents with the list of positions they’re looking to fill.

From my perspective, I’ve had clients in the PHL the last few years, all of them carrying EU or Polish passports. I enjoy working with teams in the league.
The PHL as a whole does not take many North American imports, as they are more expensive due to visa and travel costs typically. That is not to say they don’t want to have more North Americans in the league. But for a North American player to come to Poland they often have to take a lower salary than they would ideally prefer. The nature in which some Polish teams try to sign imports to “tryout contracts” as well makes the league a tougher sell sometimes to other comparable leagues. Polish teams expect a lot from their imports. The league has no import limit which has helped in increasing the level of the league. Most of my clients who I have sent to Poland have had fine experiences that I sign to standard player contracts. A couple have not, all whom signed “tryout contracts,” to begin with, and I avoid this at all cost unless the player wants to go for it and has no other decent options. – 83, LLC

1.liga is a good league for younger players looking to jump into men’s hockey and gain exposure to Polish hockey and PHL clubs as the PHL has no import limit, the sky is the limit for young players to earn potential opportunities! The PHL is a good league which continues to improve each season. Now with the no import rule, teams can add as many import players as they wish to strengthen their lineup and boost the level of the league! The winner gets to participate in the ChampionsHL while the runner up participates in the Continental Cup, two high level European tournaments! – 93 Hockey Services

I tell the players to be pleasantly surprised with the caliber of play. It is close to echl level. The travel isn’t as bad as some leagues which is a selling feature. (When asked about pay) Very reasonable it is on par with EIHL and DEL2 and Denmark and Norway – Darryl Wolski of 2112hockey

What the Players Say

I have talked to countless players about their experience in Poland, some players really enjoy it and want to stay for the long term. There are a lot of players that don’t even make it until the end of their contract. A very mixed bag, the biggest thing I have noticed is that players with prior European experience suffer less of a cultural shock to how European hockey runs and are more likely to stay.

Playing in Poland has been a great experience for me. I truly enjoy the lifestyle, the hockey, and the people. The hockey culture might be a little bit behind the modern countries such as Sweden, Finland and so on, but I’ve enjoyed my playing experiences way more in Poland than any other place in Europe. Great and supportive fans as well. – Nick Vilardo former Opole and Podhale Goaltender

I could write a book after one season. On ice: There was a big gap between best and weak teams but also between 1st and 4th line. Off ice: Off ice practicing is crazy. Running running running… everyone works with same weights and drills. It’s like soviet union style what they used in Finland 30 years ago. And one more thing. Everyone should learn to speak polish even little bit if you are not living in big cities. With my experience 25-50% of players can speak English. – Anonymous former PHL defensemen. Player did add he wouldn’t be against returning.

Training styles are a bit ancient at times, but the travel and pay are decent enough with nice cities. In my experience players either love or hated it. No in between. I would love to return one day. – Anonymous former PHL forward.

What the Staff Says

well I guess a lot depends on a team, our league is getting better, it was before that virus thing and right now no one knows how will it look like when whole this situation is going to end. We mostly expect from import players that they are going to be better than polish ones. – Roch Bogłowski, Manager GKS Katowice 

Imports need to make a great first impression teams won’t hesitate to cut them after a couple poor performances. You’re taking a Polish players’ spot, so you better prove you’re worth the extra money fast. Imports usually widely accepted by their teammates quickly though. Lot less travel compared to past coaching jobs. – Anonymous former PHL coach 

Agent List

Again if you want to play hockey in Poland, you will most likely need an agent. Here are some agencies that have handled and negotiated deals for players in the PHL. There are plenty more agents out there, but these are ones I have heard positives things from when talking to players and have had multiple players in Poland.

Name (Based) – Links

2112 Hockey Agency (Canada)2112hockeyagency.comTwitterElite Prospects Page

83 LLC (USA) 83llc.comTwitterFacebookElite Prospects Page

93 Hockey Services (North America) – FacebookTwitter

Hockey Progress Management (Poland) – FacebookElite Prospects Page

Import Sports Management (Canda) –  ImportSports.caFacebook │ Elite Prospects Page

 

Hockey Making A Comeback in Poland’s Comeback City Łódź

The city that could play one of the most significant parts in the future of Polish hockey doesn’t even have a PHL team, and there are no signs that one may be coming any time soon. So why does Łódź matter so much then in the scope of Polish hockey? At 682,000 plus people, Łódź is the third most populated city in Poland. In the PHL, only Kraków (2nd) and Gdańsk (6th) rank inside the top 10 most populated cities and have a PHL team. If hockey really starts to take off in Łódź, it could mean big things for PHL, especially when it comes to getting the league back on television.

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The city of Łódź was one of the largest industrial centers in Poland, especially for textiles,  during the 1960s and through the early 90s. As with many other industrial cities, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe left these cities devastated. The city began to suffer significant population losses, and the textile industry practically vanished. The city started to rebound though in the late 2000s. More and more foreign companies and investors have arisen in the Polish city. The city is renowned for its film school and even nicknamed HollyŁódź due to this school and its name being pronounced woodge.

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The city continues its long comeback. Former textile mills turned into shops and restaurants, giving parts of the city a hipsterish vibe. Along with amazing pieces of street art that have become common on the older buildings. Piotrkowska Street remains a popular shopping and tourist destination. As the local economy has improved, the re-emergence of strong sports clubs has as well. The city hosted the 2009 Eurobasket, along with being home to one of Poland’s top rugby teams.

From 1967 to 1991, the city also hosted a hockey team. LKS Łódź played in the top Polish league. During the 60s and 70s, the team was quite good, often finishing anywhere from fourth to sixth in the league, while also capturing bronze three times, and finishing second once. Polish national team defensemen and Łódź native Jerzy Potz led the team on the backend. In the 80s, the team started to falter, often finishing seventh in the league. Homegrown national team stars like Piotr Zdunek departed for stronger clubs. The team was relegated to Poland’s second league for the first time since 1968 a year after their debut season. After two years in the second league, they would earn promotion to the top level again in 1990. After a 4-38 record though in that season, the hockey team would completely disappear, and the senior hockey squad was liquidated.

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Through the early 90s and early to mid-2000s the only relevancy Łódź had to the hockey world was being the birthplace of Michal Zajkowski,  Sweden’s 2003 World Junior goalie. The Łódź native moved to Sweden from Poland when he was six years old. While LKS Lodz was battling to return to the top of Polish hockey.  Zajkowski spent most of his career in the Svenska hockeyligan (SHL), with MODO Hockey. He bounced around some lower European leagues at the tail of the end of his career but never played in Poland. As the last thing that gave Łódź any relevancy to the hockey world was winding down his career, a new team in Łódź was forming.

Hockey in Łódź didn’t completely die when LKS Łódź left the hockey map in 1991, only three years later LKH Łódź was founded in 1994 by a group of Łódź hockey supporters that were led by sports writer Wojciech Filipiak. This club exclusively focused on the youth side of hockey. 19 years later, the senior squad would be reformed and compete in Poland’s third tier of senior hockey. Just like to approach to junior hockey, they took things slow and steadily built a foundation, but then some quick jumps started to happen.

Maybe these jumps happen because of how solid their groundwork to begin was, but it happen quick. Their youngest teams quickly became top dogs in the Czerkawski Cup, winning it twice in 2018 and 2020, while finishing third in 2019. Their star goaltending prospect and Łódź native Maciej Miarka was named to the 2018 Polish U18 Men’s team. He would be the starting goalie in 2019, along with becoming the first player from the Łódź junior program to play in the PHL. The most significant jump was the senior team moving up to the Polish first league, which was now transformed into a mostly U20 league called the Młodzieżową Hokej Ligą (MHL). The team was able to attract quite a few sponsors along with partnering with former NBA player Marcin Gortat’s athletic school in Poland.

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Photo: Grzegorz Gałasiński

Łódź found itself on the doorstep to the top league of Polish hockey this year. Of course, this was a massive jump as Łódź would be facing off against some of the top junior teams and systems in all of Poland. Former Łódź player Tomasz Matuszewski and player-coach Yuri Zenkov had a tall task in front of them. Tymoteusz Lewy returned to Łódź after playing in the Torun junior system. Lewy posted 27 points (18-9-27) in 24 games, which was 19th in the league. Piotr Ciechanowski returned to Poland after being a strong producer in Danish and German junior ranks, though he only played five games with the club. The team also brought in Russian born defensemen Denis Salnikov, who spent the previous year in the Western States Hockey League. The team also had a few players from Gortat’s school. In total, 44 players suited up for a game this year in Łódź.

Despite trying hard to build a competitive roster, the results were as expected, the team finished second to last in the league. Only picking up four wins in 24 games. While these results are not great, and the average score was a 7-3 loss. This was year one, and they jumped up to compete with top junior teams like JKH GKS Jastrzębie and teams with stronger senior rosters like Sanok, who compete in the third Slovak league as well. Every game was going to be a major uphill battle for the team. Despite the rough results, the future looks bright for Łódź.

The team seemed poised to be a strong recruiter in the import market again, along with their junior roster continuing to develop. Three Łódź players were named to Polish u18 roster lists. Forward Arkadiusz Karasiński, defensemen Adrian Drustinac, and goaltender Tomasz Grobelkiewicz were all appointed to teams last season at various points. Drustinac and Grobelkiewicz standing a strong chance to make the team, after being named to the final roster before the U18s. Grobelkiewicz and Karasiński only appeared in six combined games for Łódź this year in the MHL, while Dusrstinac was a regular defenseman for the team.

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These three are not the only young players making great strides. Poznan native Jakub Biernacki, who spent time in the Łódź junior system, finished 12th in scoring in Germany’s second U17 league.  Oliwier Kowalczyk made the Zietara Polish Eagles team that plays in the youth Quebec Interventional tournament. Łódź’s u12 squad finished first in the Żak Młodszy KPOZHL with an astounding plus 322 goal differential in 14 matches. The team has a lot of promising youth talent that they should be able to establish a robust senior foundation.

The Łódź area is also starting to have an impact on women’s hockey. Polish national team and Gdansk defensemen Natalia Kaminska was born in Łódź, while promising prospect Magdalena Łąpieś played with the Łódź’s boys U12 and u14 squad, before moving to the Gdansk women’s team.

Hockey in the city took another significant step with the addition of a senior team, and while it may be a long time till the next step is taken. The youth talent they are starting to produce is outrageously good for a club of their size. Last year only seven Polish clubs had a player named to the Polish U18 team. Only five of those clubs had more than one player. Clubs like Łódź are not supposed to produce national team quality talent, but they have! Even rarer when you consider two of them are goaltenders. There is potentially something special that is building in Łódź. Hockey is making a comeback in Poland’s comeback city.

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

 

Polish Puck Turns 5 Years Old

Today is the 5th anniversary of Polish Puck starting and what a journey it has been. This blog has been something to really help through rough times and I feel has helped me both grow as a person, professional, and writer. Today, I wanted to share a few memories of the site and a few thank yous to some certain individuals who may have helped shaped Polish Puck, a friend met through my work, or someone who didn’t do much but their support encouraged or inspired me greatly.

One of the memories that always sticks out to me with Polish Puck is when I was interviewing for the Detroit Red Wings. I was nervous wreck for this as working for an NHL club was my dream. So the interview is going on and I legit felt like all my answers were garbage or sounded like I was unsure. Then they asked about Polish Puck, I legit felt like a light bulb turned on and probably talked their ear off about it. In the end, they hired me, so advice kids wanna work in the NHL? Write about obscure hockey. It was the first time though I really talked about the blog publically outside of friends and family, and I felt really confident doing it.

When I went to Vancouver for the draft last year, I was also treated to ramen by a fan of the blog. It was the best ramen I ever have had in my life. If anything this blog was worth five years of work just to get that good ramen. It was also the first time meeting a fan of the blog in person, wierdly at that draft I ran into Poland’s biggest rival as well.

Thanks

Thank you to Andrew Zadarnowski. He has always been supportive of the blog, and I have loved discussing hockey with him. He also allowed me to interview him for piece, that I really loved working on. You should read it here. He is a great and passionate hockey writer as well.

Thank you to Sunaya Sapurji. Sapurji is the biggest hockey journalist who follows me, when they followed me I had to do quite a few double takes. They have always been supportive of my work and even though our interactions have been minor, they all have encouraged me to continue writing.

Thank you to Jason Botchford. Botchford was my writing idol and someone whose work I still go back to read to try and take inspiration from. I miss reading his work after Canuck games. I was able to meet him while working for the Red Wings and the genuine kindness and interest he showed me is something I will never forget.

I could name tons here and I’m sure I’m missing tons of people, but a shoutout to some awesome people that always have been supportive on twitter (In no order), @WojtekSwierkot, @dud_mar, @StevenEllisTHN, @CreaseGiants, @V_McF2, @RolandCreative, @ProngenDota2, and @czosnek_20.

Thank you to Mike Danton. Danton was the first player from Poland to follow me and the first-ever sports interview I have ever done in my life. While I look back and critique the hell out of that interview, I still love it and think how amazing my first interview was an ex-NHLer. Danton also was the first major twitter follow, which really lit a fire in me to keep going.

Thank you to Dominik Olszewski. Olszewski was the first Polish player interviewed for the site, and only the second sports interview I had ever done. It was also done over text while I was in an accounting class, which was interesting. It remains one of the most viewed Polish Puck articles to this day.

I don’t want to give specific names for this one as there are way too many I don’t want it to seem like anyone listed is source for me. A large thank you though to all those working in Polish hockey behind the scenes who I have interacted with, from social media managers to coaches and higher-ups.

The largest thank you to my family. They have always been extremely supportive of my work. Some of them reading every piece I publish with knowing a thing about Polish hockey. They also have had to endure me randomly destroying my sleep schedule for games or just in general talking about Polish hockey as it was on my mind and I wanted to say it out loud. I love them so much even if they tune out the Polish hockey talk at dinner.

Here is to the next five years!

Top Ten in Polish Hockey With The Most To Prove in 2020

The final day of 2019 is here, and it has been up and down and down year for Polish hockey. The upsides have been on the women’s side, young talent, and the PHL becoming a much more competitive league. The downsides have been on the Men’s senior team and continued backstage messes and drama. We had an article on New Year’s Eve looking at who had the best years in 2019, but today lets look at who needs to rebound after some rough patches in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: Cracovia Krakow, Kasper Bryniczka, Michael Luba, Patrik Spesny, and Risto Dufva

10. Ernest Bochnak

Bochnak saw himself left off an IIHF Polish junior squad once again. He made the Polish U18 squad in his first season of eligibility. He has yet to make a roster since, and his time is up. It is shocking to me that he was never able to get on a roster after his initial U18 appearance, where he recorded three goals and one assist. This year he was able to play professional games in both the second and third Czech leagues. Bochnak is an outstanding junior player, and he’ll find himself on a senior roster, I’m sure of it.

9. Patryk Wronka

Wronka had an outstanding 2018-19 season in the PHL and used that to sign in the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) with the Belfast Giants. The highly skilled player got off to a hot start recording two goals and one assist in six Champion League Hockey games, as well as six assists in seven EIHL Cup games. That production did not carry into the regular season, and he only recorded eight points (4-4-8) in 24 games before mutually parting ways with the Giants. Now Wronka has a fresh start with Rapaces deGap of the Synerglace Ligue Magnus. In his first three games in the French league, he has four goals and one assist. Wronka is insanely talented, the EIHL just wasn’t a fit for him. In 2020 he needs to prove that.

8. Jacek Szopinski

Jacek Szopinski has been the head coach of both Orlik Opole and Naprzod Janow over the past two years. These clubs are complete clown shows. Both teams are very uncompetitive. Now Szopinski is not responsible for their financial situation. He is responsible for lying to players, bashing players to other coaches and teams, as well as being regarded as a difficult coach to deal with. Szopinski simply needs to shape up and act like a coach should or get out of the PHL.

7. Zaglebie Sosnowiec

Zaglebie Sosnowiec showed a lot of promise last year in their first season back in the PHL after two final losses in the second league. This year with a full offseason to prepare, they signed the big Russian trio that propelled KH Torun to a strong season. The Russian trio has not been able to replicate their production, and some young players did not take as big of steps that were needed. Now going into 2020, they sit just above Janow in the standings. If the team doesn’t improve, a lot of big changes are going to be needed.

6. Sebastian Lipinski

Sebastian Lipinski looked to have the title of Poland’s best goaltending prospect on lock. In 2018, he had a great performance at the U20 World Championship and led PZHL u23 to their first win. In 2019, he had a disastrous U20 World Championship run and endured an up and down PHL year. His 2019 does include two shutouts as well as some flashes of brilliance in the net. Lipinski has to become more consistent in 2020.

5. Patryk Wysocki 

I had Wysocki ranked as my sixteenth best U23 Polish player to end last year. The Belarusian born defensemen had been able to play professionally in Belarus and Poland, while also appearing in the top Russian junior league the Molodyozhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga (MHL). This year he started in the MHL once again with the Chinese junior club but left his team after playing only ten games and receiving very limited ice time. His final game in China took place in October. Wysocki wouldn’t play another hockey game till December when he popped up in the BeNe League, a lower European league composed of teams from Belgium and the Netherlands. There he has two points in four games. It is an odd choice for him, and there isn’t enough information to guess a reason why his season has gone as it has, but he still remains one of Poland’s most developed defensive players for his age.

4. Piotr Sarnik 

Piotr Sarnik led the U20 team to a poor performance at the 2019 Division 1B U20 World Championships, but that wasn’t even his biggest challenge at the time. Risto Dufva left GKS Katowice in November to take a job in Finland, leaving behind a GKS Katowice that had not lived up to expectations. Sarnik is now tasked with giving a team identity that doesn’t have one in a PHL that is more competitive than ever. It is going to be quite a challenge for the young coach.

3. GKS Katowice

As mentioned in the last entry, Katowice is supposed to be up there with GKS Tychy. In the past seasons, they seemed to just always be one step behind GKS Tychy. This year GKS Katowice already has as many regulation losses as they did in the last two seasons combined. The season has also been very hard injury-wise with only eight players managing to play all 32 games so far this year. Katowice also released Radosław Sawicki early in the year, and Sawicki currently sits seventh in league scoring. Before the new year, Martin Cakajik left the team after two and a half seasons.GKS Katowice is going to need to regroup fast.

2. Men’s Senior Team

After being demoted to D1B for the first time since 2014, it was only expected to be a one year stop. That was not the case as Poland has continually struggled during 2019, never once show any signs of promise. 2019 saw more players retire or currently suspend their national team career. The team’s depth has taken quite the hit with younger talents not being ready to jump in. They’ll have two big chances at the Olympics Qualifiers and D1B World Championships to prove this team and staff have potential. If neither chances are successful drastic actions will have to be taken.

1. Tomek Valtonen

Simply put, it is sink or swim time. Everything that was a pro about Valtonen never came to fruition. There is some blame on both the coach and the PZHL. What he can control though, he has done poorly, so either win or leave time.

The Ten Best Polish Hockey Years of 2019

The final day of 2019 is here, and it has been up and down and down year for Polish hockey. The great signs have been on the women’s side, young talent, and the PHL becoming a much more competitive league. The downsides have been on the Men’s senior team and continued backstage messes and drama. We will have an article on New Year’s day looking at who needs to improve in 2020, but today lets look at who had the best 2019.

Honorable Mentions: Bartlomiej Neupauer, Filip Stopinski, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, Kamila Wieczorek, KH Torun, Noureddine Bettahar, and Radoslaw Sawicki.

10. Damian Kapica

Kapica was a dominant offensive force at the top of the Cracovia Krakow line up in 2019. The Nowy Targ native currently sits 5th in PHL scoring for the 2019-20 season. He added in an explosive performance at the World Championship, including a five-goal game against Ukraine. It was one of the best performances by a Polish player in World Championship history.

9. Kamil Walega

Kamil Walega just capped off his 2019 with a superb performance at the 2019 Division 1B U20 World Championship with 11 points (6-5-11) in 5 games. He was also able to make his senior national team debut in 2019. In the PHL, Walega had become a significant part of the JKH GKS Jastrzebie offense with 17 points (5-12-17) in 20 games.

8. Wiktoria Sikorska

Sikorska has continued to cement herself as the future face of women’s hockey in Poland. In 2019, she was the best forward at the D1B U18s with seven goals and three assists in five games. She then went on to make her senior IIHF debut at just 16-years-old. The sky is the limit for Sikorska, and her season in the top Czech women’s league has proved that as she sits ninth in league scoring with nine points (1-8-9) in four games.

7. Unia Oswiecim

The 2018-19 season saw a rough start for the blue and white. The team finished eighth in the league, their worst finish since 2009-10. This year though, they were back with a vengeance. The team was one of the most skilled teams the PHL has seen in a while, all spearheaded by new Slovenian head coach Nik Zupancic. The club currently sits fourth in the PHL and made it to the finals of the Polish Cup after defeating GKS Tychy in the opening round.

6. Julia Zielinska 

Julia Zielinska is one of the most active Polish players on social media, and she definitely has a career worth following. The talented 15-year-old defensemen became the first female Polish player to play at a top senior level in Finland and the second male or female. She has spent most of the season with Kiekko-Espoo Akatemia in the Metsis recording one assist in tens games. Zielinska is on a quick path to being the best female defenseman in Polish hockey history.

5. Pawel Zygmunt

The big 6’3 forward took a big step in his hockey career after a successful try-out with HC Litvinov of the Tipsports Extraliga. He and Aron Chmielewski are the only two Polish players in the league. Zygmunt was able to score in his debut match and also recorded three points in the second Czech league. Zygmunt has also been a member of various Polish senior teams and could be in line to make his senior IIHF debut this year. He also scored the game-winning double-overtime goal last season to send Cracovia Krakow to the PHL finals.

4. GKS Tychy

The big dog of Polish hockey has continued their strong reign with back to back PHL championships. Not to mention they are once again at the top of the table for the 2019-20 season with 70 points. They have appeared to find another stud North American with Polish roots in Christian Mroczkowski. They set a new record for points by a Polish club in the Champions Hockey League with 4. This includes a victory over Austria’s Viena Capitals and taking Alder Mannheim of the DEL to overtime. The PHL continues to improve, and GKS Tychy is the team leading the charge. They also won the first-ever Champions Hockey League marketing award. Props to the team behind the team.

3. Alan Łyszczarczyk

The Ontario Hockey League belonged to Alan Łyszczarczyk after his midseason trade to the Missauaga Steelheads. Despite the Steelheads trading away many of their top players, Łyszczarczyk was one of the players that stepped up to get the Steelheads to the postseason. He finished the season with 82 points (39-42-82), setting new career highs in every category and finishing 19th in the league for points. Łyszczarczyk put up a goal and three assists for Poland at the World Championships as well. His strong play during the 2018-19 season earned a deal with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL, as well as an invite to training camp with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League (AHL). Łyszczarczyk has been a star for the Komets posting 27 points (11-16-27) in 28 games, which is third among rookies in the ECHL. There is a strong chance his first AHL call-up should be coming soon.

2. Women’s Hockey in Poland 

It has been a big year for the growth of women’s hockey in Poland. Both the senior and U18 team played very well at their international tournaments with promotion being a possible goal for both 2020 tournaments. Those 2020 tournaments will also both be hosted in Poland. On top of that, the team continues to make more strides and there is a goal of an official U16 squad. The most significant addition to Polish women’s hockey this year was the women’s national team joining the Elite Women’s Hockey League. The club currently has a 3-6-1 record. The Silesia Brackens have stayed competitive in every game. The future of women’s hockey in Poland is very bright.

1. Jakub Lewandowski

The prospect of the year for Poland is easily Jakub Lewandowski after being a controversial late cut from Poland U20’s team in 2018, he continued his offensive excellence in the top Czech junior league finishing with 48 points (22-26-48) in 44 games. He was able to turn that into a chance to play in the top junior league in the United States. Lewandowski got off to a scorching start in the United States Hockey League (USHL) but has cooled down a bit since. He currently has five goals and five assists in 22 games. This earned him a C ranking, meaning a player viewed as a late-round NHL draft pick, on the NHL preliminary players to watch list. Lewandowski has a great chance to become the first Polish player drafted since Marcin Kolusz was taken by the Minnesota Wild in 2003.

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

Poland and Professional Wrestling

Right now wrestling is going through a boom period. There are multiple mid-level promotions gaining popularity in the United States with Ring of Honor, Impact, and Major League Wrestling.  Then there New Japan Professional Wrestling’s American expansion and a very hot indie scene. That is not even mentioning the top level where for the first time in over a decade the largest promotion in the world, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), has competition in the form of All Elite Wrestling.

Polish hockey has a lot of similarities to professional wrestling. Both are filled with a lot of behind the scenes drama, sketchy financials, and are scripted. Today though, we look at Poland’s connections to professional wrestling overall.

Polish Promotions

While the WWE has made a few appearances in Poland in the form of their live shows, Poland wouldn’t have their own wrestling promotion til Do or Die Wrestling (DoDW). DoDW was started by American wrestler Don Roid. Roid had been wrestling in Germany when he meant a Polish girl who later became his wife. Roid moved to Poland full time in 2005. Four years later in 2009, he started DoDW.

In an interview with Vice, Roid talked about the beginning of DoDW, “I moved here in 2005 to be with my wife, but that didn’t stop me from walking into the ring. I started performing around Europe—mainly in France, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. It took me four years to create Do or Die Wrestling, the first Polish federation, and at the same time the first wrestling school in Eastern Europe.”

“I’m not sure Polish people understand what pro wrestling is. Their history is full of wars; they were always engaged in a battle with someone—so the very idea of fighting, even for sport, is a very serious deal to them. In general, as a nation, they are very serious. Americans can chill out a bit. We understand that this is just entertainment. It’s still a sport, as everything that happens in the ring hurts quite a lot, but it’s strictly for the enjoyment of the audience”

Given the uniqueness of their product, Roid thought that DoDW would be an instant hit, but alas that did not happen, “I thought that people would go crazy about it, considering there had never been anything like it in Poland before. I thought that teenagers would want to sign up for training and then join the federation. I was wrong. But I still managed to create a Polish wrestling team that not only performs here but also fights abroad.

DoDW would later earn a valuable addition in Joe E. Legend. Legend was a longtime professional wrestler with experience in the WWE, Pro Wrestling Noah, and various international promotions. In DoDW he was a valuable trainer for many young Polish wrestlers and even held the DoDW international belt at one point.

IC Belt

DoDW would close their doors in 2015 after six years of bouts. It wouldn’t be the end of wrestling in Poland though, as another promotion had sprouted in the country.

Maniac Zone Wrestling (MZW) was created in 2014 by former Don Roid trainees Shadow and Jedrus “The Polish Hammer” Bulecka. Polish Puck reached out to Shadow to learn more about his promotion. “Maniac Zone Wrestling was created 5 years ago by two guys: Me and Jędruś “The Polish Hammer” Bułecka. At the beginning it was so hard to take ‘something big for us’ but right now we a are strong polish wrestling promotion.

On what fans could expect to see out of MZW, “Well..the MZW is based on colorful and interesting characters and also we have a wrestlers with so many styles. We likes effective and spectacular fights here.” Then also on the goals of MZW and the future of professional wrestling in Poland, “The current goal for us is to make our promotion bigger and bigger. We want wrestling in Poland to become popular cause right now it’s not… I think that every year there are more and more wrestling fans so we have to keep going and do what we can do the best.

Kombat Pro Wrestling (KPW) would rise from the ashes of DoDW. They would be formed in October of 2015 and had their debut show, KPW vs The World: Hung(a)ry for Power, on November 14th in Gdansk. The debut show was ran with Hungarian Championship Wrestling.

Since then the promotion has continued to grow. Just like their first show international talent has continued to be brought in to mix with their Polish wrestlers. This includes WWE talent Primate.

Polish Wrestlers

Both KPW and MZW are filled with Polish talent, but not much Polish talent has traveled outside the country to reach the biggest stages yet. In the early 20th century, wrestling was filled with Polish immigrants to the states. The first of these wrestlers was Stanislaus Zbyszko. Zbysko had established himself as one of the top Greco-Roman style wrestlers in Europe. Zbysko eventually came over to the states and put on some fantastic matches including an hour-long draw with legend Frank Gotch. Wrestling at this time was more of a real sport but shifting into more of a shoot. Zbysko was still able to claim the World Heavy Weight Championship twice including a 1925 match, where Zbysko turned a worked match into a real one and repeatedly pinned former football player Wayne Munn til being awarded the title in a match Munn was booked to win. Zybsko is regarded as one of the best legitimate wrestlers of all time, and another legend in the business, Larry Zbyszko, adopted his last name as a tribute.

The most interesting of these early wrestlers was Polish Strongman Stanley Radwan. The Krakow native was incredibly strong and some of his feats seem unbelievable. He was able to pull cars with his teeth and remained undefeated in wrestling for 20 years.

stanleyradwan-brokenhorseshoe.jpg

One of the most famous stories is about an event that took place at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the same concentration camp that Anne and Margot Frank spent their final days. Radwan was captured during the Nazi Germany invasion of Poland. Radwan attempted to escape the camp by pushing over a brick wall. The news of the feat attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler. Per Ohio Magzine, Hitler ordered Radwan to put on a show for him and some other Nazi leaders. Radwan refused and then was meant with a gun pointed at his head, where he promptly bit the gun chamber closed. After the war, Radwan immigrated to the United States and began his strongman and wrestling career.

Stanislaus Zbyszko’s younger brother Wladek was also a wrestler. Wladek Zybszko was a two-time AWA World Heavyweight Champion and wrestled from the early 1910s and into the 1950s. Another notable Polish wrestler from this time was Abe Coleman. Coleman was never a championship wrestler but is credited with the invention of the dropkick. Coleman wrestled from 1928 to 1958. The Lodz native was described as a solid mid-card worker and is believed to be the only wrestler to live to be over 100 years old.

Since the end of the pioneer era in wrestling, there have not been many big Polish wrestlers. Ivan Putski is the biggest name since the early days. Putski was a tag team specialist winning tag team gold in Big Time Wrestling, Southwest Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation. He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1995.

The most recent Polish wrestler to make it big in wrestling is Babatunde Aiyegbusi. The Wroclaw native was originally an American football player. Babatunde was a star offensive linemen in the Polish American Football League. His strong play in Poland earned him a chance with the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League. He was released after three preseason games. In April 2016, he signed with WWE as apart of their performance center. Babatunde appeared in some large multi-man matches before making his singles debut on January 14th, 2017. The 6’10 355lbs wrestler is quite the monster and has been booked as since winning almost 80% of his matches since debuting.

Wrestlers with Polish Heritage

There are also plenty of people that have stepped into the squared circle with Polish heritage. Plenty of Hall of Famers and former champions.

Debut – Ring Name – Notable Career Achievement

1947 – Killer Kowalski – WWF Hall of Fame 1996

1947- Johnny Valentine – 3x NWA Television Champion

1967- Ole Anderson – 2x AWA Midwest Heavyweight Champion

1970 –  Greg Valentine – WWE Hall of Fame 2004

1986 – Scott Putski – 1x GWF North American Heavyweight Champion

1990 – Rob Van Dam – 1x WWE Champion

2000- Trish Stratus – 7x WWE Women’s Champion

2001 – Beth Phoenix – 3x WWE Women’s Champion

2002 – Chris Masters – 1x Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship (This title was once won by A pint of beer, a cat doll, and various other intimate objects.)

2003 – Velvet Sky – 2x TNA Women’s Knockout Champion

2010 – Jacob Novak – WWE NXT Season 4 contestant

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

 

 

 

 

 

5 Bold Predictions for Polish Hockey In 2019-20

Hockey is officially back. GKS Tychy has already played two games in the Champions Hockey League while the first Polish Hockey League regular-season game takes place next week. This is a big year for Polish hockey. There are three national teams that will be playing in foreign leagues including the senior women’s team. Polish players are also playing overseas in the highest numbers since the late 1990s. It certainly seems that it should be a great year for Polish hockey, with that in mind here are five bold predictions

1. GKS Tychy Will Win One Champions Hockey League Game

So far already GKS Tychy has taken Alder Manheim to overtime, and in their game again Stockholm it was 2-1 til a costly third period. The team that GKS Tychy would most likely beat is the Vienna Capitals of the Erste Bank Eishockey League. Last year, Tychy beat HC Bolzano 5-3, then lost their second game 6-4. GKS Tychy should be able to win at least one of the two games against the Capitals. If the win was in regulation it would set a new high in points by a Polish team in the Champions Hockey League competition.

2. Adam Kiedewicz Will Play for Poland

This year is kinda now or never for Adam Kiedewicz in regards to representing team Poland. The talented younger forward is rumored to be gaining interest from the German national team, though he would not be eligible to represent Germany for years to come due to him representing Poland at an earlier U18 Championship. I asked head national team coach Tomek Valtonen, about Kiedewicz and if he would consider giving Kiedewicz a chance to play with the senior team. Valtonen believed it was a possibility and now that he is in Germany, he will be sure to keep an eye on him. Kiedewicz can play for Poland at the U20 World Championships as well, but I would imagine we would most likely see him with the senior team if he does make an appearance.

3. Both Women’s Teams Will Be Promoted

This year both Women’s IIHF tournament that Poland will compete in are going to be hosted in Poland. In front of their home country crowd, both teams will be able to earn promotion. The Women’s U18 team was very young last year and will be only losing a single player. Wiktoria Sikorska recorded ten points last year, and is going to come back even better. Every team should be afraid. Defender Julia Zielinska will be playing in the top level of Women’s hockey in Finland gaining extremely valuable experience that will be well above her competition at the U18s. The team should be in line for their best result in team history. On the senior level, almost the entire team will be playing together in the Elite Women’s Hockey League for the season. They will face tough competition and develop chemistry. The team will be upgrading their bronze medal to a golden one.

4. A Polish Player Will Be Drafted

The long wait for the next Polish NHL draft pick will be over next offseason. There are quite a few players that will be throwing their hat in the ring through performances in top junior leagues around Europe, with the most notable being Jakub Lewandowski. Lewandowski is attempting to make it in the United States Hockey League, the best junior league in the United States. Lewandowski checks plenty of NHL boxes and has the best chance to be the first Polish player drafted since Marcin Kolusz.

5.  Risto Dufva will take Charge of the National Team

After this year, Tomek Valtonen will be out as the head of the national team. I believe current GKS Katowice head coach Risto Dufva will take the reigns. It was already unkown coming into this year if Valtonen was going to return to Poland. His first year was filled with controversies both in and out of his control. The back-up plan for Poland seemed to be Risto Dufva, who served as a consultant during Valtonen’s first year. Dufva is a pretty good fall back option given his coaching resume is pretty impressive and quite better than Valtonen’s. While Valtonen is staying for at least one more year, Dufva is also now an assistant rather than a consultant. Dufva should have quite the influence over the national team regardless of Valtonen’s plans for the future.

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

Why I Write About Polish Hockey

I have been asked why I write about Polish hockey a lot. Sometimes it is a serious interest or times in a manner suggesting it’s a waste of time. Writing about Polish hockey itself is already an uncommon endeavor, but writing about it in English is even more unusual. I mean, I do think about what is the point to myself a lot. Who do I write more for English speakers or Polish speakers? My analytics say English speakers, but I do often question how authentic their engagement is. That engagement is something website statistics can not track.

Polish Puck was started on April 25th, 2015. It was just a twitter account. Probably the worse time to launch the page given there was no actual news to report on really. The account was just pretty much dedicated to Lyszczarczyk news and stats leading up the CHL import draft, where Lyszczarczyk was not drafted because at the time it wasn’t known his birthplace was in the United States. While I continued to attract a small number of followers, it really wasn’t much interaction. I was in my freshman year of college, taking general business classes. I always had a clear interest in working in hockey but never really wanted to be a hockey writer. I can’t lie my writing skills are always still evolving, and it’s always cringe-inducing to look back at old posts, but also amazing to see how far things have come.

There were a lot of points where I thought about just shutting down Polish Puck. I mean, it was pointless to begin. Only the random tweets of a bored college student who liked Polish hockey. I have long fought a personal battle with depression, especially in my first few years of college. Finding the motivation to do anything was hard. I always felt like anything I was doing was pointless, and I couldn’t find joy in anything. Polish Puck was something that I could barely ever bring myself to do in the early years of it. The only reason Polish Puck was able to survive is because of Mike Danton.

Well, he is a controversial figure in hockey and especially Polish hockey, him following me on twitter kinda gave me new energy to continue the page. It felt like validation that I actually was doing something good. Yes, a twitter follow is a tiny insignificant thing, but at the time it meant a lot to me.

I continued to add more coverage for the prospects and just spend more time on Polish Puck overall. More and more research into Polish hockey. The purpose of Polish Puck became clear to me. There are tons of Polish Americans and Canadians or people with Polish heritage who I think would follow the national team if the coverage was there.

I feel you see a lot of that for other large European hockey countries. There are English blogs for Russia, Sweden, or just general European hockey. I also saw how passionate people in America are for the Polish National “soccer” team or for Polish teams and athletes during the Olympics. It was a small niche audience, but one I thought was there and wanted to pursue.

The blog was set up in December, and the first post talked about some recent North American signings in the PHL. North American imports felt so much more common when I first started compared to now. The blog was fully started because I didn’t want to do constant threads on Twitter anymore. I felt bad blowing up peoples timelines to tell them about the newest small roster move.

The blog really didn’t get too much attention for the first three years of existence. I wasn’t the most consistent poster at it to be fair, but overall there was a lack of interest in the blog for sure. I can remember writing game day pieces on the u20 world championships getting zero views and feeling absolutely crushed. The game day pieces were pointless in a way. I had already tweeted the score if not live-tweeted the game. The twitter account was my only way of promoting articles, so if someone followed me there was really no reason to read the recap.

At the end of the day news can just always be tweeted or posted to Facebook in a couple hundred characters there is no need for articles on it in my format unless the news is just that big. I have to give people more of a reason to read my stuff. I switched my writing to more giving analyst and trying to do more out there pieces. Finding even more niche topics in a niche topic.

Since I made this change in 2018, I had a new high in views and visitors to the site. Furthering this approach even more in 2019, resulting in more views than the first four years of the blog combined and its only July. Polish Puck is on pace to exceed over 15,000 views and visitors in 2019. It is truly astounding to me how far the blog has come from the days of zero views. I am an analytical person, and numbers really speak to me. So seeing the growth that the blog has had has been an amazing accomplishment for myself.

Why I write about Polish hockey doesn’t have a single answer. First, it’s my passion for hockey in the country, and I want to see it grow and thrive. I have interacted with so many great people and fans of the game from Poland that deserve to celebrate a strong national team and league. So many great players, coaches, and staff that deserve a bigger stage to show their ability. Second, I feel I am filling the hole of coverage for people who want to follow the national team, but can’t find coverage or don’t speak the language. This isn’t just fans, but other writers or hockey players, coaches, etc. Third, I believe I am contributing something new and different for Polish fans. I feel I can provide more and different coverage then great sites like hokej.net, hokejfan.pl, and planetofhockey.com. Last I just enjoy doing it. It’s been a lot of fun. I have had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with some wonderful people through the blog. Each time staying up all night or getting up extremely early to watch games, or giving up weekends for events has been worth it. I even watched during my own graduation.

The purpose of my work may not have a point to most people, but it does to me and that is why I write about Polish hockey.

What If You Made A Team of Players That Chose Another Country Over Poland? Welcome to Team Not Poland.

Sometimes you just need to step on a lego, stub your toe, or pull your own teeth out. The pain makes you feel alive. Today we are going to be just doing that as we make a team out of players that chose another country over representing Poland. The rules are a bit lose here as some players never actually made a choice. Basically, if a player has a Polish flag on their page in elite prospects and doesn’t play for Poland, they’re qualified. Alright time to start pouring lemon juice mixed with salt in our cuts.

The Offense

1st Line: Wojtek Wolski – Stéphane Da Costa – Teddy Da Costa
2nd Line: Jacob-Micflikier – Evan McGrath – Jordan Pietrus
3rd Line: Wojciech Stachowiak – Kamil Sadlocha – Adrian Grygiel
4th Line: Bartek Bison – Krys Kolanos – Jakub Borzecki

Okay, let us get that pain started with first line winger Wojtek Wolski. Wolski and Da Costa are two of the best imports in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). They will form a lethal duo on the top line. Joining them on the top line is Teddy Da Costa, the brother of Stephane and a member of GKS Katowice. Wolski was born in Poland but his family left when he was about 3. He represents Canada internationally playing for them at the 2018 Olympics. Both Da Costa brothers were born in France to a French father and Polish mother. Teddy Da Costa has played hockey in Poland during 8 seasons in his career with his upcoming season for GKS Katowice being number nine. His wife is Polish and he lives in Oswiecim during the offseason. Both Da Costa brothers are longtime members of the French national team.

That second line features quite a few players who have made their way around various European minor leagues. Jacob Micflikier was a top scorer in the AHL, before moving to Europe in 2012, since then he has played in the KHL, Swedish Hockey League (SHL), and National League (NLA). He has represented Canada at multiple Spengler Cups and non-IIHF international events. Evan McGrath has had a similar career to Micflickeir, being a solid AHLer, before moving to Europe. He has played in Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom in that order. McGrath represented Canada at the 2004 U18 World Championships. The final piece of this line is a familiar one to Polish fans as Jordan Pietrus played for Sanok in 2014. He was a high scorer in the ECHL before moving to Poland. Since then he spent three seasons in the United Kingdom and played last year in Denmark.

The third line is quite an interesting one. Wojiech Stachowiak and Kamil Sadlocha both play in the NCAA. They were both born in Poland, but chose to represent different countries. I did a more in-depth piece about their careers here. Stachowiak represents Germany, while Sadlocha wears red, white, and blue. Adrian Grygiel is the babysitter veteran of this group. Grygiel played over 900 games in the DEL from 2000 to 2019, an extremely long career. He is tied for the 9th most ever games played in the DEL. His streak ended when he signed with Eispiraten Crimmitschau in the DEL2 midseason last year. He has re-signed with them for this year. He represented Germany at multiple U20 World Championships and one U18 World Championship.

The final line is the wild card, not really sure what to expect out of it. Bartek Bison is a promising young player for the Netherlands. He has played in the North American Hockey League, United States Hockey League, and Western Hockey League. He has represented the Netherlands at the World Championships and U20 World Championships. Former NHLer Krys Kolanos will be centering the fourth line. Kolanos has faced quite a few injury problems during his career. He played 151 NHL games with the Coyotes, Oilers, and Wild. Kolanos played for GKS Tychy during the 2017-18 season. That 2017-18 season was also the most recent in his hockey career, as he did not play in 2018-19. He represented Canada at the 2003 World Championships. The last player is the son of Polish hockey legend Adam Borzecki. Jakub Borzecki holds American, German, and Polish citizenship. He was born in New York, while his father was playing for the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. Borzecki and his family moved to Germany in 2005, where Adam Borzecki continued his career. Jakub Borzecki developed in the German system and has represented Germany at the U16, U17, and U18 level, including the 2019 U18 World Championships.

The Defense

1st Pairing: Lukas Ogorzelec – Arkadiusz Dziambor
2nd Pairing: Damian Szurowski – Maksymilian Szuber
3rd Pairing: Alexander Andrews – Oskar Pulaczewski

While the offense was impressive the defense is vomit inducing. I had to break some of my rules just to field a full defense. I went back to 2013 trying to find a decent defenseman to take a spot, but nothing.  This defensive core is extremely weak. 23-year-old Lukas Ogorzelec is one of two non-junior players on the defense. He has played 169 in the Oberliga for ECC Preussen Berlin. He is paired with Arkadiusz Dziambor, a 17-year-old, defenseman in the Jungadler Mannheim system. He was born in Pyskowice, Poland. Dziambor has played for Germany at the U16 and U17 level. Damian Szurowski has played in Poland the last two years with Cracovia Krakow. While Damian never made a choice he is eligible for Poland, but it is unlikely he would make Poland or Sweden. Maksymilian Szuber is a top German prospect for the 2021 draft. The 16-year-old defenseman has already played for the German U16, U17, and U18 team. He was born in Opole, Poland but has spent most of his junior career in the Austrian system playing for RB Hockey Akademie and EC Salzburg. He is the youngest member of our defense. The final pairing is the worse of the three. It is made up of Alexander Andrews, a Canadian Polish GMHL player,  and Oskar Pulaczewski, a 20-year-old, who plays in Germany’s 5th tier of hockey for Weserstars Bremen II. I also believe that Oskar Pulaczewski is eligible for Poland, but he has spent most of his junior and youth hockey days in Germany and we needed bodies for this defense.

The Goalies

Starter: Will McEwen

Back up: Maksymilian Jan Mojzyszek

Our two goaltenders are both young and pretty inexperienced in professional hockey. McEwan is committed to play for Gustavus Adolphus College in NCAA III. He split the last two years in the U.S. junior leagues between the Western States Hockey League and Eastern Hockey League. McEwan was born in Connecticut and played his entire junior career in the states. Mojzyszek is the back up for the team. The 19-year-old goalie plays for Nittorps IK in Sweden after starting his career in Iceland. He has represented Iceland at the U18 and U20 World Championships multiple times.

The Big Question

The big question to me is could this team beat Poland. When looking at the two teams, team non-Poland has the advantage on offense, but Poland has them beat on defense and in the net. The large advantage in net should be able to slow down the fierce offensive attack of team non-Poland. While Polish stars like Aron Chmielewski, Damian Kapica, and Patryk Wronka should slice through the weak defense and goaltending. I’ll give it a final score of 5-3 for Poland.

It is hard to think of all the offensive talent that Poland has lost. So many great players that would instantly be among the top forwards for Poland. On defense, there are not many huge professional losses, but so many great young future pieces. In net Poland is great and players who have chosen another country would be unlikely to make Poland.  The goal for Poland going forwards needs to be convincing top talents to play for Poland, while not all of these players ever had the option to play for Poland it still remains something Poland needs to pay attention to. If Polish hockey is going to advance they can’t lose players like Wojciech Stachowiak or Adam Kiedewicz.

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