Polish Puck’s 2020-21 PHL Predictions: The Champions

We have reached the number one spot in our predictions. The shame in making a list in this format is that the champion has already somewhat been revealed if you followed closely enough. The reign of GKS Tychy is over. All hail the new king. 

1. Re-Plast Unia Oświęcim

2019-20 Finish: Second

What a season it was for Unia Oświęcim last year. Their initial head coach left after just a couple weeks to coach in Slovakia. The team hired a new head coach that might be one of the best hires in PHL history. Former Slovenian national team coach Nik Zupančič took over the team. He combined strong Polish talent with quite a few strong imports from his past. The team’s style clicked right off the bat, and the team only got better as the season went on. This resulted in them making it to the semi-finals and a possible chance at dethroning GKS Tychy. Then COVID-19 hit, and all of that went away.

Every PHL team fought or succumbed to the virus, with various cuts and departures that were pretty much out of their control. While the Oświęcim squad saw some critical departures in Andrej Themár, Dariusz Wanat, and Jakub Šaur. These were more regular departures who were replaced by quite a few new stars. In net, the team retained both their goalies. Clarke Saunders was fantastic in the regular season posting a .923 save percentage and somehow was even better in his one playoff series. Behind him, Sebastian Lipiński continues to develop into a future starter for both Oświęcim and the Polish national team. 

On the defense, the team once again retained most of their core, while making a few new substantial additions. On the import side, they are the strongest. Miroslav Zatko is back for his 13th season in the PHL, which has to be some kind of record among imports. Peter Bezuška returned for his sixth season with the club, playing in over 200 matches for the blue and white while bringing a strong two-way presence. Slovenian Klemen Pretnar brought a similar presence and finished tied for second among goals by defensemen last year. The team also added Finnish defensemen Lassi Raitanen, who has yet to debut due to injury. He posted 32 points in 40 Metsis games the previous year. He should help provide offense on the back-end. To replace him during his injury, the team added veteran Canadian defensemen, Ryan Glenn. The 40-year-old defenseman has looked impressive so far, recording seven points in six games. Jakub Wanacki is the Polish leader on this defense and one of the league’s top Polish defensemen. While Patryk Noworyta still has a lot left in the tank. Miłosz Noworyta has a pretty bright future, and his development this year should be fun to watch. 

Offensively you see a club that is rejuvenated completely. They are so exciting and dangerous to watch. The offense didn’t need an overhaul in players, just a bit of tinkering. Alexei Trandin is a guaranteed point per game player, as seen in the past three years in the PHL. Polish veteran Sebastian Kowalówka remains a strong producer. Simultaneously, Slovenia duo Gregor Koblar and Luka Kalan should again post strong production and two-way play. Russians Daniil Orekhin and Semyon Garshin both look to return to their KH Torun production highs, after up and down last years. Martin Przygodzki is still a great offensive addition to any team, with a chance to break out huge numbers if he is consistent. I still believe Łukasz Krzemień has a lot of potential and can show more than he did last year. 

There are a handful of new forwards to the squad as well. Teddy Da Costa has joined the team from GKS Katowice, and the France national team forward remains one of the top players in Poland. The team also added young Finnish winger Jere Helenius, who posted 36 points in the Metsis last year. Patryk Kusak also returns from the Czechia juniors, continuing to help shore up the youth talent in Oświęcim.

The most significant addition was Eliezer Sherbatov. Sherbatov is just pure charisma on the ice. The 5’9 forward is easily one of the most entertaining players in European hockey. He is also Jewish and an Israeli native that is playing in Oświęcim. Many people may know the city better by its German name, Auschwitz, where Germany ran the concentration camp with the highest death total during World War 2. One of the darkest places in human history. Due to this, some felt Sherbatov signing with the team did not feel right. I understand where they are coming from, but for Sherbatov, this is a chance to be a hero in the city and take back the town. The modern-day Oświęcim is not the place it was in World War Two. His play has already made him a fan-favorite in the town, as he attempts highlight-reel moves that are just woven casually into his game. The rest of the PHL and Polish hockey scene also immediately welcomed him to the league and offered their support. 

I think the top three clubs’ skill level is all pretty similar in terms of who is the best. Sometimes having a bit better goaltending or worse defense, but overall it levels out. So why Unia Oświęcim the champions? It comes down to two main reasons. The first is the depth they have. I think, especially on defense. They’re just able to outmatch any team. While some teams may have bigger stars at the top. Up and down every line, Oświęcim is my pick as the best squad. The second reason why is they are more of a cohesive unit than other teams. The team bought into Nik Zupančič’s system last year and only swapped out five players. This is a team built to win, and they don’t have the longest window. I would like to see younger talent featured in the lineup, but it is hard to take away a spot from their roster’s talent. This was a championship-caliber roster last year, and they only improved on it during the offseason. That is why from the start, they were my championship pick.

Role: The Top Dogs

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Polish Puck’s 2020-21 PHL Predictions: Bronze and Silver

The PHL continues, and so do our PHL predictions. We are now at the final three teams that all earn a nice shiny medal. Depending on how you look at it, these medals can be a huge disappointment. The silver meaning you finished second just a couple wins away from winning it all. While a bronze win means you didn’t even make the championship. For our rankings, that Bronze is a step back.

3. GKS Tychy

2019-20 Finish: 1st

The PHL will have a new champion, and it feels insane to be predicting that. On paper, the offseason went as good as it could. They retained the three-headed North American monster of Alex Szczechura, Christian Mroczkowski, and Mike Cichy. Goaltender John Murray once again is holding down the fort in net. While the team added further Canadians in Jason Seed and Jean Dupuy. Ladislav Havlík and Szymon Marzec also joined after solid years in Gdansk. The most significant addition though, was one of the best Polish players on the planet in Patryk Wronka.

So why am I not repeating them as the champions. Because those significant additions are about all that is left on a team that has become a bit stale. They’re not bad by any means, but everyone keeps getting better and better. While GKS Tychy has just slightly altered their roster year by year, sometimes a little better, sometimes a little worse. Murray is a great goalie but beatable, as seen by his beginning five-game stretch to start this PHL season. Their defense is not that good still. It is more offensive focused, but they lost three critical defensemen from last year, and I would say they only replaced two of them.

On the offensive side, they have the big North American trio, Wronka, and Koromski. After that, depth is a bit dry. Jean Dupuy is an interesting import. He struggled in the EIHL but excelled in the Ligue Magnus. Something that doesn’t bold well based on past imports. Bartłomiej Jeziorski and Mateusz Gościński still really haven’t taken the next step in their hockey development, leaving a bit to be desired on the production end. Szymon Marzec is coming off a career year in Gdansk, but I would bet he doesn’t match that production.

On the bright side, there is a wealth of young talent in the GKS Tychy system. This is something that hasn’t been common in past years. In net, both Kamil Lewartowski and Jakub Zawalski have a lot of potential. Each of them has a chance to be a starter in the PHL eventually. Olaf Bizacki has been on my favorite defensive prospects for a bit now. His short stature is always going to limit his ceiling a bit. He has a strong way two-game, and if the offensive side keeps improving, he will find himself on the national team radar. Kacper Gruźla, Jan Krzyżek, and Mateusz Ubowski all appear to be close to being PHL regulars. Ubowski shows a lot of promise to be a great PHL player.

The team is at the top of the PHL mountain, there is no higher to climb, but that just means other teams are climbing and approaching the top of the mountain.

Role: The King Must Fall

2. JKH GKS Jastrzebie

2019-20 Finish: 4th

JKH GKS Jastrzebie is one of the teams that felt like it hasn’t experienced that many shake-ups in recent years. This year though, the team had a major shakeup, and it appears to put them in an excellent position to win a PHL championship finally. Artem Iossafov, Henrich Jabornik, Jesse Rohtla, and Ondrej Raszka all departed the club. Losing Raszka had to be the hardest as he is one of the best goalies the PHL has seen in a long time. The team responded to these losses with some of the most significant transactions, possibly in PHL history.

The first was bringing home Polish national team defensemen Mateusz Bryk after a few years in GKS Tychy. Bryk is the perfect piece to solidify a strong defensive presence in the team’s top 4. The team filled their void in net with former longtime EBEL starter Patrik Nechvatal. Marek Hovorka was the next to join on a two-year pact. Hovorka has been a great player in both the top leagues of Czechia and Slovakia. A highly respected player, his signing was some pretty positive attention for the PHL. Following Hovorka was another Slovak, Roman Rác, having shown a lot of production potential in Czechia.

Just before the season started, they made two more big additions. Jiří Klimíček was first added to shore up the defensive end. He represented the Czech Republic at the U18s and has been a solid player in France the past couple of years. Next was former Minnesota Wild 2011 NHL first-round pick, Zack Phillips. Phillips had a couple of decent years to start his AHL career but never seemed to take well to North American pro hockey. He has shown much more potential in smaller European leagues. He currently is an early pick to take the PHL scoring title.

JKH GKS Jastrzebie is the team that all PHL clubs should strive to be, and no one is ever going to come close to matching their young talent. The time for them to strike is now, as that young talent maybe soon leaving for larger leagues. The defense remains one of the best in the league, which should help some small uncertainties in the net. The offense is going to be so exciting this year. Phillips already has nine points in four games. The young talent is all there and healthy. I’m excited to see how Jan Soltys does in his return after missing most of last year.

So why second place? There is no reason for them to be in second place. They have the depth that only one other PHL club has or can outmatch. I have small concerns about the goaltending situations, but I think they will be more than adequate in net based on early performances. If it isn’t this year, JKH GKS Jastrzebie will win the title soon. Even if they lose a couple of young players, they have more waiting for their shot.

Role: Perennial Contenders

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Polish Puck’s 2020-21 PHL Predictions: Middle of the Pack

Just a few games into the PHL season and I already feel a bit uneasy about my predictions. KH Torun is now undefeated and leading the league while shutting out their opponents twice already. I haven’t changed my predictions though. The five remaining teams all hold a solid chance of winning the PHL championship. Everyone is going all out this season in the hopes of ending GKS Tychy’s reign of terror.

5. Comarch Cracovia Krakow

2019-20 Finish: 5th

This is my hottest take and the ranking I feel I am most wrong about. You just can never count out Krakow. The offseason was rough for the team as they had to say goodbye to basically every non-young Polish player on their roster. In fact of the nine non-U23 Polish players on the team’s roster from last season only two, Filip Drzewiecki and Robert Kowalówka, are returning. The team is solely made up of imports and young Polish talent.

On the Polish side, all the young Polish players are in for larger roles with the holes in the line-up. Dawid Musioł already made his senior national team debut. Łukasz Kamiński and Sebastian Brynkus really needed more time to further their development. Igor Augustyniak, Mateusz Bezwinski, and Patryk Gosztyla all have great chances to earn full-time spots in the PHL.

Now the imports, they have a major Czech flavor with ten of the eleven imports being from Czechia. Five of them are defensemen. Aleš Ježek and Jiří Gula return to the team after solid seasons in the red and white. Michal Gutwald is a big defenseman at 6’3 and spent the last three years in the Elite Ice Hockey League in the UK. Jakub Šaur joins after quite a few strong years with Unia Oswiecim, including finishing fourth in points among defensemen for the 2019 season. Martin Dudáš returns for a third stint in Krakow. Dudáš has been named captain of the team. In net Michael Petrásek will hold down the fort after posting a .918 SV% in the Chance Liga.

On the forward end, five imports join Filip Drzewiecki and Krakow’s young talent. Erik Němec joins after spending a year between the top two Czech leagues, but posted 70 points in 103 EBEL games. Richard Nejezchleb is a former New York Rangers fourth-round pick in 2014, and spent last year in the second Czechia league. Štěpán Csamangó returns to Krakow after spending last year in the Erste Liga. Csamangó previously posted 41 points (22G, 19A, 41 PTS) in 42 regular games during the 2019 PHL season. Tomáš Franek posted a point per game regular season last year with Podhale Nowy Targ. The lone Finnish import is Taavi Tiala, who posted a .40 point per game average in 322 Mestis games.

Damian Szurowski was the only non-import player to join Krakow from another Polish club. Imports can be very hit in and miss in the PHL. Sometimes you get players that are top scorers and key players easily. Other times you get players that don’t even hold up after a few games and are quickly released. That is the risk Krakow is taking, and they don’t have the depth to make up for the handful of players that won’t live up to what the team hoped. But it feels weird counting them out, even after early struggles.

Role: The New England Patriots

4. GKS Katowice

2019-20 Finish: 6th

Every year GKS Katowice has championship expectations but comes up short. Each year this has resulted in quite a few massive roster changes. This year is no exception to that as the team saw quite a few Polish stars like Marcin Kolusz and Oskar Jaskiewicz head abroad. Top imports like Robin Rahm and Teddy Da Costa also departed. There was a lot of talent coming in though.

On the Polish side Bartosz Fraszko, Maciej Kruczek, and Mateusz Zielinski all joined from rival PHL clubs. Polish players were not the only ones jumping ship to GKS Katowice. As the team signed Filip Stoklasa and Matej Cunik from Zaglebie Sosnowiec, while also bringing back Jesse Rohtla after a year with JKH GKS Jastrzebie. The team made their new goalie, former HK Nitra starter, Juraj Šimboch.

Patryk Krezolek is really poised to be a star on this team. The club also made sure to retain key pieces like Grzegorz Pasiut, Mateusz Michalski, and Patryk Wajda. GKS Katowice has a lot of talent. It is also really nice to see how much of the team is Polish national team talent. This roster is one of the top in the PHL, but not one that I can see taking down the teams I have ranked ahead of them in a best of seven series.

Role: Reloading

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Polish Puck’s 2020-21 PHL Predictions: The Bottom Five

Another PHL season is here with the first game day already in the books. The league has a different shape this year as due to COVID-19, there is no PZHL U23. Add in both Stoczniowiec Gdańsk and STS Stanok joining the battle, while PKH Gdansk and Janow departing it. The league is a different world and feels a lot more open than in recent years. Of course, there are still favorites, but it feels like someone might finally dethrone the three-peat champions* GKS Tychy.

10. GKH Stoczniowiec Gdańsk

2019-20 Finish: NA (New to PHL)

Every year the PHL has a team that can only be described as the thing everyone in the world just hates and does nothing but rightfully beat with no mercy. This year that role belongs to GKH Stoczniowiec Gdańsk. This Gdańsk club took the spot of beloved Gdańsk club, Lotos PKH Gdańsk. I wrote more about the disaster that is the Stoczniowiec Gdańsk management staff here.

In the end this team will go as far as their few veteran players can take them. Josef Vítek, Mateusz Rompkowski, and Michał Kieler are really all the team has to offer, besides a few younger players stuck in a rough place.

Role: WASTE OF TIME

9. Zagłębie Sosnowiec

2019-20 Finish: 9th

Zagłębie Sosnowiec is probably going to lose a lot this year. COVID-19 has hit the team very hard. The team lost many key veterans like Filip Stoklasa and Rafal Radziszewski. They may have some of the best young talent in Poland though. Eleven players on their roster were ranked inside our top 50 men’s U23 player list. That is the most in the entire PHL. That eleven includes the huge additions of Igor Smal and Michał Naróg from PKH Gdańsk.

Sosnowiec will need those young players to all take substantial jumps if they want to compete. As most of their imports are not going to be impact players. The exceptions are Danil Kulikov, Maksim Tsitok, and Mikhail Syroezhkin; whom all had shown potential or excelled in the PHL previously. Dominik Nahunko is their best Polish forward right now. Retaining him during the off-season was the club’s biggest priority. The biggest challenge the young team faces is in their youthful goal-tending tandem of Michal Czernik (24) and Marcel Kotula (19) Both goalies have high ceilings, but are not ready to steal any games yet. This whole squad is love-able underdogs.

Role: Young loveable underdogs

8. Ciarko STS Sanok

2019-20 Finish: NA (New to PHL)

This one was really hard to place. STS Sanok returns to the PHL after a few years away. The Sanok roster is pretty similar to the one seen recently in a the third tier of Slovak hockey. That group does include great young players like Karol Bilas, Konrad Filipek, Maciej Witan and Szymon Dobosz. Along with some veterans who had success in the PHL like Marek Strzyżowski. Marek Ziętara then brought promising young players Jakub Bukowski and Tomasz Skokan back to Sanok.. The squad is pretty light on imports, but Sanok did add a solid trio of Finnish imports and former KH Toruń star Patrik Spesny.

They’re the second youngest team in the PHL. This year is the start of something bigger for Sanok hopefully. 2020 is year one of that journey and it is hard to predict them doing well. I am willing to bet they will be a competitive team. I mean in their first game back, Sanok only lost to GKS Tychy by one goal.

Role: The comeback team

7. KH Energa Toruń

2019-20 Finish: 8th

Toruń had an up and down off-season, as per usual for a club that relies strongly on imports. The bad came in the form of losing Bartosz Fraszko, Mateusz Zielinski, and Patrik Spesny. There were further departures when quite a few long time Toruń players retired . The good came in bringing home Kamil Kalinowski, adding back Łukasz Podsiadło, while also grabbing Yegor Rozhkov from Gdańsk.

The Torun team is in usual form with a lot of imports from smaller leagues around Europe. They did bring back quite a few from last year like Denis Sergushkin, Dmitri Kozlov, and Yegor Feofanov, whom were among the team leader in points. Some of the new interesting imports include Swedish goalie Anton Svensson, who has big shoes to fill but has done good so far in early outings. Gleb Bondaruk has a chance to be offensive leader after coming off a point per game season in the Ukraine. While Finnish forward Ville Saloranta is an easy pick to be a star in the PHL, after a solid career in the Mestis. It is hard to predict how high Toruń will go. They could lose one game 7-0, but then beat the league leader the next day. A true wildcard.

Role: The wildcard

6. Tauron Podhale Nowy Targ

2019-20 Finish: 3rd

I believe there are six teams with a true chance to take the PHL championship this year, which makes ranking them so hard. Podhale doesn’t make it in the top five though, by a very thin margin. The biggest thing for me that causes doubt with Podhale is on the defensive end. Their defense has a lot of solid players no doubt, and Ričards Birziņš could be a top import in Poland. I also hope to see Damian Tomasik play a larger role again. I just don’t really see any star power on it though. The club’s defense is going to play rough and make it hell for opponents, but they’re beatable. At least behind them Przemyslaw Odrobny is still a brick wall.

They really rebuilt their offense this year and it looks fantastic. Top scorers Alexander Pettersson and Bartlomiej Neupauer were brought back. Then they brought in a lot from Krakow, Polish national team fowards Kasper Bryniczka and Mateusz Bepierszcz both came aboard, as well as Czech import Michal Vachovec. Vachovec has posted back to back above point per game seasons in the PHL. Former KHL player Andrei Ankudinov and Latvian winger Lauris Rancevs both have the potential to make an impact as well. Podhale also seemingly addressed their lack of younger Polish talent in recent years. The yellow squad returned Ernest Bochnak and Fabian Kapica home to Poland from strong junior leagues in Czechia and Germany. Their biggest signing though happen right before their first game, as top Polish player Alan Łyszczarczyk joined the team, while he waits for the ECHL to start back up.

Role: Not expected to win, but wouldn’t be shocked.

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Iga Schramm Signs in Top Swiss League

One of Poland’s best young forwards Iga Schramm has signed in the
Swiss Women’s League (SWHLA), the top level of women’s hockey in Switzerland. Schramm is joining the Neuchâtel Hockey Academy Dames (NHA) per swisshockeynews.ch. NHA finished third last year in the SWHLA. The team made it to the finals, but they were cancelled due to COVID-19.

Schramm had a standout performance at the U18s this last season. She always seemed to around the puck and making a play when she had possession of it. She posted four points (2G-2A-4PTS) in five games, which was tied with Wiktoria Sikorska for the lead on team Poland. She also managed 21 shots in the tournament, her shot total was second on team Poland. She also had a solid showing at the Olympic Hopes tournament, scoring vs Hungary.

Iga Schramm will be only the second Polish player to play in the league. Kamila Wieczorek made her debut in the league last year for EV Bomo Thun.

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

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

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

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

Goalies

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

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

Defensemen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Conclusion

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

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

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

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.

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Points vs. Date

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #3

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

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

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

3 – Paweł Zygmunt (F), 21, HC Litvinov, (6 +3)

Making it outside of Poland is something that a very few select Polish players ever try, and even fewer succeed at it. You can’t call Zygmunt’s career outside of Poland a success after one year. But unlike a lot of Polish talent that have ventured outside their homeland, this is not a one and done season for Zygmunt. The talented young forward has already re-upped on another one-year-deal with HC Litvinov.

It was quite a busy year for Zygmunt in his first year in the Czechia. He earned a lot of praise from Jiří Šlégr, a former Czech hockey star, and HC Litvinov head coach. In total this year, he recorded four points (1-3-4) in 20 Tipsport Extraliga games, along with three points (1-2-3) in nine Chance Liga games. His season would end in February with a broken hand he suffered while representing Poland at the Olympic qualifiers.

Among U23 players, Zygmunt .20 PPG ranked 32nd, it was 11th among U21 players. His point per game comparables is actually quite an interesting list, with quite a few NHLers and NHL draft picks, like Dominik Kubalik, Dominik Simon, Karel Plasek, and Tomas Nosek. He had a total of 34 matches. A vast majority of which went on to at least play 100 Tipsport Extraliga, or a league of similar status, games. 8 played 100 games in minor leagues around Europe like the PHL or lower Czech divisions. Then the remaining 7 have played 100 plus AHL, KHL, NHL, NL, or SHL games. Overall three-fourths of Zygmunt’s comparables have been able to play a large majority of their careers in leagues stronger than Poland, which bolds very well for Zygmunt.

The big 6’3 Polish forward is only the second Polish player to re-sign with a Tipsort Extraliga team after their debut season. This draws a lot of comparisons to Aron Chmielewski, the only other Polish player to do so. When Chmielewski made the jump to the top Czechia league, he was a few years older than Zygmunt though.

stats

Like Chmielewski, Zygmunt is going to need more time to prove himself in the lower Czech leagues at first. This is just not to earn a spot, but to improve his skills and continue the adjustment to Czech hockey. It may be a couple years before Zygmunt is a full-time player in the Tipsort Extraliga, but he is on the right path.

The Krynica native is one of four Polish national team members slated to the play in the Tipsport Extraliga this year; Chmielewski, Lyszczarczyk, and Raszka the other three. He is the youngest one of them and was the youngest member of Team Poland at the Olympic qualifiers. The Olympic qualifiers were his senior IIHF debut that was unfortunately cut short when he suffered a broken hand in the first period against the Netherlands.

This injury would be the end of his year, as mentioned earlier. It was a very promising year for the big forward. Continuing to use his size to his advantage, and improving his skating will only do him wonders. He turns 21 in November and is already a lot further than most Polish players will ever be. His development will be exciting to watch, but his floor is already leaps and bounds above most players in the Polish system. While it would be great for Poland to have an NHL or KHL player, having a stream of players like Zygmunt that can make it in stronger leagues like Czechia’s top league is a sign of things to come and the first step to NHL quality players.

Player #2

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