The First Test for Kalaber Comes With Questionable Choices

1 year, 1 month, and 27 days ago, Robert Kalaber was named the head coach of the Polish national team. On August 26th, 2021, the Slovakian coach will coach his first IIHF game for team Poland. During that time, we have seen quite a few national team games. These games have all come against pretty weak competition or depleted rosters. The biggest challenges being Hungary and Latvia U23. It was thought his first test would be getting Poland back to the World Championship Group A. Instead, he will have to finish what Tomek Valtonen started with Poland’s path to the Olympics. 

This is the second time in a row that Poland has pulled off an upset in the third round of qualification and earned a shot at the final qualification round. In 2016, Poland lost three straight games as they were expected to. The final scores of those games were 6-1 Slovenia, 5-3 Belarus, and 5-2 Denmark. While not the greatest results. These games were all somewhat close, with Poland even holding the lead over Belarus. 

Poland once again is likely to lose all three games. Their opponents are going to be hard to break. You have team Austria that will be led by top NHL prospect Marco Rossi and a squad of players mostly playing back in Austria’s bet-at-home ICE Hockey League. Next up, you have a Belarus team that continues to improve, who will feature New Jersey Devils breakout star Yegor Sharangovich and an army of KHL talent. The final team and toughest opponent will be Slovakia, a roster featuring talent from all around the top leagues of Europe. 

These games’ goal will be to stay competitive, and who knows maybe they pull off a miracle upset in one of the games. So what is the strategy to do that? Do you go all out on the offensive end and try to outmatch them with firepower or at least fight fire with fire? Do you load up on the country’s best defenders and two-way forwards in the hope of establishing a strong defensive presence and capitalize on a few rare mistakes? 

There are plenty of ways to go, and it seems that Kalaber is taking the second route. When the Polish roster was announced there were three huge forwards missing. Damian Kapica (1st among Polish players in PPG), Radoslaw Sawicki (3rd in PPG), and Christian Mroczkowski (6th in PPG). The Polish squad later announced that Kapica would be missing due to a back injury, but what about two of Poland’s best goal scorers?

Kalaber talked to Hokej.net, saying, “Sawicki and Mroczkowski are offensive players who do better with the puck than without it. At this tournament, we must first and foremost defend ourselves effectively, because there will be players from the NHL and KHL in front of us.” He continued saying that “We are not building an offensive dream team, but the strongest team that will have to play under pressure with extremely demanding opponents. That is why I gave up Radek and Christian and selected forwards who are better in defense than in attack.”

While I can understand the idea that the team will need to be strong defensively, I also have a problem with the final result of the roster. At the end of the day, Poland’s best defensive forwards will not create any match-up nightmares. At the same time, a physical power forward like Christian Mroczkowski could definitely raise some hell. It is hard to argue whom spots you would take away to add the Canadian with a Polish passport or Sawicki to the roster. I do feel you can create strong arguments for Filip Starzyński, Kamil Walega, Mateusz Michalski, and Martin Przygodzki. 

The strongest for Filip Starzyński. Starzyński is a player I believe would be highly debated if analytics were more established in the PHL. He is commonly praised for being strong in the faceoff dot and best in his own zone, but the offense is almost non-existent. Over the past two years, his .30 PPG in 102 games ranks 52nd among all Polish forwards, 163rd among all skaters. 

There is so much talent that is being left on the board. I can’t justify some choices in the idea they make Poland that much better defensively or harder to play against. In the first true test for Kalaber, when his goal is to stay competitive, it is a choice to go in without two forwards considered among the best in Poland. These are the choices that will help define his era and staff. We will have to see how it plays out.

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2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #40-31

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

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

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking. Players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a report.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alan Łyszczarczyk Returns to the Czech Republic

The offseason continues to be in full swing and we have the next home of the Polish Prince. Alan Łyszczarczyk will be playing with HC Frydek-Mistek in the Change Liga according to the team’s website. He will be playing for them on a loan from top Czech league team HC Ocelari Trinec.

While this return had been previously reported about for the Podhale native. I was curious to see if anything would change after a fantastic end to season that Łyszczarczyk had with Fort Wayne, including winning the Kelly Cup. Overall Łyszczarczyk played the most games of anyone in professional hockey last year recording 52 points (22G-30A-52PTS) in 84 games across the ECHL and Polska Hokej Liga.

Łyszczarczyk will be reuniting with his countrymen and Polish national team members Bartosz Ciura and Filip Komorski. Both players signed similar deals earlier in the offseason. Last year HC Frydek-Mistek finsihed 14th in the Chance Liga, missing the playoffs. This was the team’s worst finish since being promoted to the 2nd league. It makes sense the team added three Poles with winning experience.

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

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #50-41

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

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

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

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking. Players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A move back to Fort Wayne Saved Łyszczarczyk’s Record Setting Season

As we were drawing close to the end of this hockey year, it was looking like it was going to be a year to forget for Alan Łyszczarczyk. It was not the follow-up year that many had expected out of the Polish Prince. 

In 2020, the Podhale native lit up the ECHL as a rookie. He racked up 46 points in 57 games before the rest of the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was he offensively on fire, but during the year he gained the trust of his coaching staff to earn opportunities late and in more defensive situations. The only thing that was missing was an American Hockey League call-up that never came. 

The pandemic created a rocky offseason with no one knowing who was going to be playing or what opportunities would actually be there. The Komets had made Łyszczarczyk a restricted free agent, but later traded his rights to the Idaho Steelheads. As those transactions were happening in the ECHL, Łyszczarczyk was making moves back in Europe. He had signed a tryout deal with HC Litvinov in the Tipsport Extraliga. 

This was Alan’s second tryout in the top level of Czech hockey. It ended like the first with no deal in place. Podhale Nowy Targ then brought him home, signing him to a deal with the knowledge that he would be opting out eventually to play in North America. 

Despite the fact that his time in Poland may be short, as there was a lot of uncertainty in the United States. It seemed like a star signing for Podhale, especially given how players with even less ECHL success had performed in the PHL. While he was definitely one of the team’s better forwards, he often was stuck on the lower lines of the team. Not getting many chances to truly break out. Can you blame the team though? They knew he wouldn’t be there late in the year. Still, during his 23 games, the Polish prince managed 10 goals and 8 assists. 

I don’t want to call his time in Poland a disappointment, but it felt like it should have been a bigger deal. The best Polish player of this generation was in the PHL. Especially in a year where players like Dziubinski, Kolusz, and Zygmunt played outside of Poland. The PHL lacked some Polish star power. 

2020 had come to an end and on January 2nd, it was a new chapter for Łyszczarczyk. It was announced by Podhale Nowy Targ, that he would be leaving the club and returning to North America. Łyszczarczyk was declared a free agent by the ECHL, after the Idaho Steelheads opted out of playing in the 2021 season. The soon-to-be 23-year-old signed with the Orlando Solar Bears, the ECHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

The Lightning are one of the best at developing through all levels of the minors. It seemed like a great fit. Łyszczarczyk was also off to a hot start scoring two goals and an assist in his first five games. He would then go scoreless in his remaining eight games with the club. He often found himself a healthy scratch during this time as well. 

On March 14th, the young Pole found himself on his technically fourth club of the year as he was traded to the Tulsa Oilers for future considerations. It was probably a welcomed change, as Łyszczarczyk struggled to get into the lineup in Orlando. 

Things would get even worse though in Tulsa. Łyszczarczyk was snake bitten, as he rocked a 0.0% shooting percentage on 38 shots. He would record a whole 4 assists in 18 games with the Tulsa Oilers, three of the assists coming in his final three games. Those final three assists were the first sign of life in his ECHL campaign in a while. 

Earlier in the year, Podhale brought Łyszczarczyk back home to where he was born. On April 19th, Fort Wayne brought him back to his ECHL home. Trading defenseman Curtis Leonard for Łyszczarczyk in a one-for-one deal. 

Ben Boudreau, the Fort Wayne Komets head coach, was once again in charge of Łyszczarczyk. The pairing worked out really well the previous year, as Łyszczarczyk’s all-around game took a huge step forward. In 2021, it was like the Polish Prince never left. In 19 regular-season games for the Komets, Łyszczarczyk recorded 7 goals and 9 assists, over double his point total with the Oilers and Solar Bears combined. 

His production continued into the playoffs, where he has recorded another three goals and four assists in the opening rounds. One of those three goals being the magic goal to send the Fort Wayne Komets to the ECHL finals. After such a long and daunting season,  Łyszczarczyk secured the Western Championship for Fort Wayne. 

His dominance continued into the finals, where he posted five assists in a three-to-one series win over the South Carolina Stingrays. The Fort Wayne Komets are the 2021 Kelly cup Champions! And one of the most crucial moves in achieving that feat was potentially an all-time franchise trade in reacquiring their Polish fan favorite. In his 30 games with the Komets, Łyszczarczyk recorded 10 goals and 17 assists. Between Poland and his first two ECHL clubs, he had 12 goals and 13 assists in 54 games. 

No one has played more than Łyszczarczyk this year, which is insane to think about. A five-team 84 game season, not including the preseason. It is 88 games, if you include his four games at the Ceska Cup with HC Litvinov. It rightfully ends with him as a champion. The first-ever Polish player to win the Kelly Cup. Also, the first to win a championship in North American hockey since Oliwa won the Stanley Cup. 

Łyszczarczyk is nicknamed the Polish Prince in Fort Wayne. Poland is his home, where he leads the next generation of the national team. It is clear though that there is just something about Fort Wayne that clicks with the prince. Almost like a second home for Łyszczarczyk.

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Radosław Sawicki Signs in Belarus

The departures from JKH GKS Jastrzebie continue, as the team has lost another one of their top Polish forwards. Radosław Sawicki has made the jump to go abroad signing with Shakhter Soligorsk in Belarus. This will be Sawicki’s second trip away from Poland in his career, after spending a junior season in the USPHL Elite.

Sawicki has long been considered a top young Polish forward, but only truly started to breakout in the past couple of years. After spending the early part of his career in Poland with GKS Katowice and KH Sanok, he moved over to JKH GKS Jastrzebie. In his two years with the team, he produced two above point-per-game seasons including 45 points (23-22-45) in 44 games in 2021. The 25-year-old also helped the green and white to their first PHL championship this season.

The 5’11 center in total recorded 177 points in 254 games with three clubs in Poland. On top of his one PHL championship, he also won a silver medal and and two bronze medals in the league. While I had my doubts about his 2020 season and how many points came up against weak teams. His 2021 season contained no such flaws. Its clear that the skilled center has high goals, as he told the Belarusian Extraleague A website, “In Jastrzęba I have achieved everything that can be achieved in Poland. I want to develop, so I must raise the bar for myself. I think Shakhtar and the Belarusian extraliga are very good places for this. I will come to a new country, a new culture and I will develop in hockey. Awesome! If I play as I expect, I will have a chance in the KHL – as part of Dynamo Minsk.

Shakhter Soligorsk has been a force in the Belarusian Extraleague A since their arrival in 2010, the team has made 4 final appearances winning one championship. Last year the team finished second in the regulars season, eventually losing in the semi-finals. Sawicki will be the first Polish player in Shakhter Soligorsk’s history. The Sanok native will be the sixth Polish player overall to play in the top level of hockey in Belarus.

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JKH GKS Jastrzebie To Lose their Trio of Young Stars

JKH GKS Jastrzebie was able to reach to the pinnacle of the PHL last season. It can be lonely at the top though, as the talent factory of Poland has suffered quite a few losses this offseason. The losses started at the top when top import Zack Phillips departed the team to move to the blue and white in Oswiecim. Then 23-year-old defensemen Jakub Michałowski departed for GKS Tychy. Now it appears their young trio of stars made up of Dominik Pas, Kamil Walega, and Jan Soltys will be trying their hand abroad.

Dominik Pas has signed with Tipos Extraliga squad HK Dukla Michalovce. They finished bronze last year in the top level of Slovak hockey. The team is coached by a familiar face in former Poland national team head coach Tomek Valtonen. The deal is a one year deal with a two month trial period. The home-grown Jastrzebie native recorded 10 goals and 22 assists in 49 games.

Meanwhile Kamil Walega is trying out with HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas of the Tipos Extraliga He will be training with the club and playing in preseason matches in the hopes of earning a contract with the club. HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas finished last place in Slovakia last year with only 6 wins and 44 losses. Last year the 6’0 forward, recorded 8 goals and 11 assists in 45 games.

The final piece of hte trio Jan Sołtys is also training with HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas. He is exploring a few options in the Tipos Extraliga and Czech first league though. Sołtys is the youngest of the three forwards at 20-years-old. The two-way forward recorded 8 goals and 7 assists in 39 games this year.

Thanks to agencies run by former PHL players, we have certaintly see a huge rise in the amount of Polish talent taking their talents outside of Poland. For all three of these players it is a great chance to improve their skills, along with with reputation of Polish hockey. For JKH GKS Jastrzebie though, there depth as taken a major hit and as team gets ready to compete in the Champions Hockey League it will interesting to see how the team reloads.

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

Jakub Lewandowski Makes NCAA Commitment

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

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

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

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

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

Three Seas Sweep. Five Thoughts Three Seas Tournament.

The return of five thoughts! I never thought that this year I was going to be able to write five thoughts. After a successful PHL season though, the PZHL hosted the three seas tournament. We got to see the Polish national team in action. Poland took on Estonia, Latvia U23 (or Latvia B, they had a few veterans), and Lithuania. Croatia was also supposed to play in this tournament but dropped out before the tournament began. 

The three seas tournament was an interesting challenge for Poland. It is the second national team event of the year after a couple of exhibition games against Hungary. The last time Poland played Estonia at the Worlds, they beat them 3-2 in OT. While Lithuania is a foe that had given Poland quite a bit of trouble recently. Then Latvia was the wild card. Latvia is a great hockey country that if not for their small size, I believe would be among the best in Europe. Their U23 or B team was a wildcard roster. The team was a mix of borderline Dinamo Riga players, Latvian league and MHL standouts, along with a few vets who played outside of Latvia. Could these wildcards pull off a crazy upset though against Poland? Let us find out! 

Bizacki Breakout

Developing top defensemen has and is still a big problem for Poland. For international tournaments, it is always fun to see which young players have made big strides. Olaf Bizacki took advantage of every opportunity at the three seas tournament. The 5’7 defenseman finished with one goal and three assists in two games. He has also earned himself a spot on Poland’s roster for the national team grouping during May in Slovenia. 

A Top Forward Import

As I was writing this piece it was announced that Kazkasthan added former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Viktor Svedberg to the national team. Poland has added a few forwards to the national team, but none had any major success. In his second appearance for the Polish national team, Christian Mroczkowski once again made an impact. This time recording one goal and two assists in three games. Poland appears to have a long-term impactful import with the Canadian winger. 

Zygmunt the New Prince? 

When a player plays overseas it can be hard sometimes to look at their stats and see them as a step ahead of a lot of Polish players. Zygmunt kinda fits that billing as his stats in the Tipsport Extraliga are not eye-popping. The physical big forward made a huge impact at the three seas tournament. He led team Poland in goals with four and added an assist on top. While his ceiling might have never thought to be as high as other Polish players he deserves to be in the discussion for the best U23 player. 

The Three-Headed Monster in Net.

In recent years, we have seen the national team have quite a few changes in goal. The latest change is Odrobny seemingly being no longer an option for the national team. The three-headed monster was set to be a two-headed one between Murray and Raszka. Murray is soon to be 34-years-old, and Raszka recently turned 31. The national team is going to need to find out who is next behind them. It seems they seem the answer to that is 25-year-old Michał Kieler. He played well at the three seas tournament and got a game earlier in Hungary. 

A Clean Sweep, But No True Test For Kalaber. 

Poland won each of these games, they beat Lithuania 8-1, Estonia 6-1, and then Latvia 4-1 to end it. All convincing victories against teams that really are not the greatest. This was an improvement on how they finished against Estonia at the last world championship Poland played in, but this was a downgraded roster. This was the correct result. This is what Poland needed to do. It really proves nothing though for the national team or Kalaber. They have a huge tournament with a chance to move on to the Olympics coming soon, I’m not saying Poland has to win that, but it needs to be competitive. We don’t really have a bar to see if Poland is better or worse so far under the current coaching staff. Hopefully, the Beat Covid-19 Cup in May will show us that. 

Minor Thoughts

  • Wronka is still the most fun player to watch in hockey and I will see no arguments otherwise. 
  • Pasuit is back in a Polish uniform and it’s good to see. Easily one of the best centers in the country. 
  • Unlucky injuries were a big story for Poland in this tournament, Oskar Jaskiewicz is going to be out for a bit, while Filip Starzynski missed the final games.

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

Bartosz Ciura and Filip Komorski Sign With HC Ocelari Trinec

I have had players tell me before that some foreign clubs don’t sign Polish players due to the poor reputation of Polish hockey. One team that is certainly not scared to take a chance on Polish talent is HC Ocelari Trinec. The club of Aron Chmielewski has added a pair of players from GKS Tychy in Bartosz Ciura and Filip Komorski per Hokej.net. Both players have signed one-year deals that will have them splitting time between HC Ocelari Trinec and HC Frydek-Mistek.

Bartosz Ciura is a stay-at-home defenseman with some physical chops. The 28-year-old captained team Poland at the three seas tournament, where he recorded three assists in three games. The three-time Polish champion with GKS Tychy recorded one goal and four assists this year in 46 games. He has played for Tychy since 2016.

Filip Komorski also joined the squad and is one of the most underrated Polish forwards, in my opinion. The sniper from Warszawa is one of the best goal scorers for the Polish national team, recording two goals at the three seas tournament. Since 2013, when Komorski debuted in the PHL, he is eighth in goals with 153. This included 20 goals and 20 assists in 45 games this year with GKS Tychy.

Both players are more than likely to start the year with HC Frydek-Mistek. HC Ocelari Trinec is one of the best clubs in the Czech Republic, winning the Tipsport Extraliga championship in 2021. They are technically back-to-back champs since no champion was awarded in 2020. HC Frydek-Mistek finished 14th in the Czech second league this past season. This is their fourth straight season where the club missed the playoffs. Bartosz Ciura and Filip Komorski are the third and fourth Polish players to sign abroad this year. Previously, Filip Stopinski signed with IceFighters Leipzig, and Michael Luba re-upped with Cholet.

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