Justyna Żyła Signs in Sweden with Almtuna IS

Justyna Żyła is the next top women’s prospect heading abroad for Sweden. She has signed with Almtuna IS. She will be the sixth Polish player to appear in the Swedish league.

The 16-year-old Oswiecim native has been a top women’s prospect for a bit in Poland. She has been playing in Poland’s senior league since 2018. Last year was his career-best year as she recorded 20 points (11G-9A-20PTS) in 17 games. She also is the captain of the Poland U18 team, which will be competing in their first tournament in a couple of years in September. She previously represented the U18 squad at the 2020 U18s.

Almtuna IS plays in Sweden’s NDHL (Division 1), the second level of women’s hockey in Sweden. The club has played in Division 1 their entire existence. For 2023, Olle Öhrqvist will be taking over as head coach after coaching AIK 2 in Division 1 for the past three years.

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_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

Filip Starzyński Re-Signs With GKS Tychy

GKS Tychy is getting close to finishing off their offseason and now has re-signed a leader of their bottom six. Starzyński has re-upped on a one-year pact with Tychy, and it will be his second season with GKS Tychy.

The 29-year-old Warszawa native is considered one of the best defensive forwards in Poland and is acclaimed in the faceoff circle. Last year he recorded two goals and one assist in 38 games. He also represented Poland at the Olympic Qualifiers and Division 1 Group B World Championships. Before signing with Tychy, he spent three seasons with GKS Katowice. For his career, he has 48 points (26G-22A-48PTS) in 176 games. Before that, he played for four years at Northern Michigan University in the NCAA.

GKS Tychy continues to build its roster with championship ambitions, and 2012 was the first time the team failed to win a medal. While retaining most of their core, the team did add Polish national team members Filip Komorski and Jakub Bukowski, along with imports Alexandre Boivin and Ondrej Sedivy.

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_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

Kamil Sikora Re-Signs with Zaglebie Sosnowiec

Zaglebie Sosnowiec continues to keep its Polish core intact. The team has now also re-signed Polish forward Kamil Sikora. The Sosnowiec native re-upped with the team on a one-year pact.

The 25-year-old winger appeared in 45 games and produced five goals and eight assists. Four of his assist came in the five playoffs game versus GKS Katowice when Sosnowiec was eliminated in round one. The Pole with Czech heritage has been with Sosnowiec most of his career but did have PHL stops in KH GKS Katowice, Polonia Bytom, and Orlik Opole. In total, he has already played 260 PHL games in his seven-year professional career. During his junior career, he represented Poland at one U18 World Championship and two U20 World Championships.

For Zaglebie Sosnowiec this was a key re-signing to help keep their bottom-six intact. The team has still yet to address their big import losses in top Russian forwards, but continues to improve on its depth on offense.

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_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

Ukrainian National Team Defenseman Filipp Pangelov-Yuldashev Signs In Poland

As the war in Ukraine continues, we expect to see more and more Ukrainian free agents in the PHL, maybe even possibly a whole team down the line. Ukraine national team defenseman Filipp Pangelov-Yuldashev has officially joined Unia Oswiecim. The agreement is for a year and will end in April.

Before joining the blue and white, Pangelov-Yuldashev played in Donbass Donetsk. There he was one of the league’s top players, even taking home both MVP and defensemen of the year during the 2021 season. In total the 28-year-old defender posted 59 points (14G-55A-59PTS) in 108 games during three years in Ukraine’s top league. Before signing in Ukraine, the Kyiv native mostly played in Russia’s second league, the VHL. There he appeared in 165 games across four years. He has represented the Ukrainian national team in three IIHF events, including the most recent Division 1 Group B World Championships held in Poland.

Unia Oswiecim continues to look to build upon its second-place finish during the 2022 season. The team is still without a head coach, but that has not stopped some major offseason moves. The club also added two all-time PHL greats in the North American duo of Alex Szczechura and Michael Cichy.

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_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

Patryk Kogut Joins Zaglebie Sosnowiec

Zaglebie Sosnowiec has continued their busy offseason as they now add veteran PHL forward Patryk Kogut. Kogut is joining Sosnowiec on a one-year deal after spending last year with KH Torun.

Kogut spent last year in KH Torun, where he recorded 19 points (7G-12A-19PTS) in 37 games. This was his best production since the 2018 season when he recorded 22 points. Before joining Torun last season, Kogut was with GKS Tychy for seven seasons. He has also PHL stops with JKH GKS Jastrzebie, Naprzod Janow, and Orlik Opole. He has recorded 196 points (94G-102A-196PTS) in 477 PHL games. He also represented Poland at two U18 and U20 IIHF Championships while representing the senior team at a non-IIHF event in 2015.

Sosnowiec will count on Kogut, hopefully repeating some of his past production. The team will be without the Russian scorers who primarily led the team in points last season. They also added Polish forward Jakub Witecki and Ukrainians Dmytro Danylenko and Nikita Butsenko. It may be hard to replace the offensive firepower, but their overall depth has improved.

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_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

Canadian Alexandre Boivin Joins GKS Tychy

A new North American is joining the PHL, Canadian Alexandre Boivin has signed with GKS Tychy. Tychy signed Boivin to a one-year deal as a team looks to get back to their championship-winning ways. The center finished ninth last year in assists with 33 in France’s Ligue Magnus.

The 27-year-old from Canada’s capital has spent the last two seasons in France’s top league. Over the past two years, he has recorded 64 points (20G-44A-64PTS) in his 63 games. His 33 assists last season were the ninth most in the league. Before moving over to France, Boivin had played four years for Carleton Univ. in Canada. He split his junior hockey days between the Québec Remparts in the QMJHL and with two teams in the CCHL.

The playmaking center should instantly fill a big hole in the GKS Tychy lineup. The former back-to-back Polish championship said goodbye to long-time North American forwards Alex Szczechura and Mike Cichy. Szczechura was tied in the lead for assists on GKS Tychy with 31.

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_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

So You Want To Play Professional Hockey In Poland? 2022

One of the most common things I get emailed about is players asking me what to expect when playing hockey in Poland and if I had any connections to help them get their foot in the PHL door. While I love to see players’ excitement and hope they succeed in their hockey careers, 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.

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 were confused by my question and seemed to think Poland was a city in Germany…

Poland has a long hockey history, and they have been members of the International Ice Hockey Federation since January 1926. Poland sends teams to all five levels of IIHF hockey. The most significant success came in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Poland regularly competed in the Elite division 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. After an upset win over Kazakhstan, the group recently advanced to the final round of Olympic qualification, and there they would upset Belarus before falling to Austria and Slovakia. The national team would finish off the year winning gold and promotion at the Divison 1 Group B World Championship after defeating Japan 2-0 on the final day. Some current prominent players include former Minnesota fifth-round NHL draft pick Marcin Koulsz who plays in the Polska Hokej Liga, along with Alan Łyszczarczyk, Aron Chmielewski, and Pawel Zygmunt who play in the Tipsport Extraliga.

The Top 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 import limit. Going into 2022, the import limit still does not exist, but there are some requirements on who appears in the lineup. In 2022-2023, each team will be required to have six Polish players in the lineup, foreign players with a polish passport count as Polish. If a team has a foreign goalie, their backup will need to be a Polish goalie. Teams will also need to keep two youth Polish players in their lineup.

Nine teams are expected to compete in the PHL next year. The season will be split into five rounds with 40 games. Poland will likely have 9 teams, but due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, there have been talks about including Ukrainian teams. Many clubs in Poland have also said they will be not signing Belarusian or Russian players for the 2023 season. In 2022, they made up about 20% of the League. So there are plenty of open spots in Poland.

The Teams

KH GKS Katowice – The most recent champions of Poland! Katowice is one of the premier teams in the PHL. Expectations are always high, but it is an excellent environment in a beautiful city. The team is coached by legendary former Polish player Jacek Plachta, who has coached professionally in Germany and Poland. Katowice will also be competing in the Champions Hockey League, a competition among the best teams in Europe due to being the Polish champions. After a strong year in Katowice, forward Anthon Eriksson was able to turn his PHL success into a deal in Sweden’s top hockey league.

Unia Oświęcim – They are a club on the rise, with quite a few recent second-place finishes in the PHL, including in 2021-22. 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 town. 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. The team has attracted quite a few exciting imports the past few seasons, with former NHLers Gilbert Brule, Ty Wishart, and Victor Bartley appearing for the club.

JKH GKS Jastrzebie – Jasztrzebie has been the talent factory of Poland recently. No club had produced more young talent than they have. Current national team head coach Robert Kalaber is at the helm. A great team that uses imports to supplement and grow their homegrown talent. They are a considerable threat to win every year. While they don’t have the most significant budget in Poland, they use what they have exceptionally well, and their homegrown talent keeps them at the top. They won the bronze medal during the 2022 season.

GKS Tychy – The premiere team of Poland. They have made it to the finals in all but two years since 2014, and in that time, they won three championships. GKS Tychy is a top organization all-around with a substantial budget as well. There are not many better clubs in Poland or Europe, as seen by their behind-the-scenes staff taking home some hardware from the Champions Hockey League. After two years of falling to the bronze medal game, Tychy is loading up to make a run back to the top.

Cracovia Krakow – Cracovia 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 Poland’s largest and most exciting cities, and the team also has one of the most significant budgets in Poland. They were primarily made up of Russian imports in the previous seasons but have committed to not signing any for the 2023 season.

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, and their club has a smaller budget than most PHL teams. Club leadership deserves a lot of credit for finding diamonds in the rough. Torun can always find a few players in the lower leagues of Eastern Europe that become PHL stars. They do go through imports quickly, and in the past, many players were just brought in for tryouts.

STS Sanok – A proud hockey team that has returned after falling off the hockey map for a few years. They mix their young talent with a heavy import presence, mainly those with Finnish backgrounds. While they may not be the best team, they will never go down easy. The team is led by former Finland U20 assistant coach Miika Elomo. They have one of the biggest fanbases in Poland, finishing first in PHL attendance with 1,568 average fans per game, 200 more than then second place Oswiecim.

Zaglebie Sosnowiec – They have been hard hit by COVID-19 and have a much smaller budget than most PHL teams. They will always have a good mix of veterans and young players, but not enough depth to win right now in the PHL. Their fan base is also on the smaller end, as they finished with the third-lowest attendance at 565.

Podhale Nowy Targ – One of the most historic clubs in Poland has had a bit of an up and down ride lately, with some financial struggles. The team has relied highly on its young players over the past couple of seasons.

The following players all made a jump to a stronger league after playing in Poland during the last decade. (Player, Year in Poland, League after PHL)

Anthon Eriksson (2022, SHL), Anton Svensson (2021, HockeyAllsvenskan), Aron Chmielewski (2010-2014, Tipsport Extraliga), Brett McKenzie (2021, AHL), Cody Porter (2021, Liiga), Jakub Ferenc (2015, Tipsport Extraliga), Luka Kalan (2020-21, ICE Hockey League), Marek Kalus (2014-15, Tipsport Extraliga), Pawel Zygmunt (2016-2019, Tipsport Extraliga), Samson Mahbod (2013-14, Liiga & KHL), and Tadej Čimža (2020, ICE Hockey League)

The 2nd League

Poland has a second league called the MHL, and it is a weird mixture of U20 teams and senior clubs. Teams in this league that may recruit import talent include ŁKH Łódź, Naprzod Janow, and Polonia Bytom. These clubs all operate on a much smaller scale than the PHL, and the deals would likely only provide housing and other minor benefits. But they offer chances to be seen by PHL clubs. We did a more considerable 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.

“Most PHL teams present a good sports level. There are many top Polish hockey players in the teams, supported in large numbers by foreigners who previously were in KHL, NHL, SHL, Liiga, or the Czech and Slovak Extraleague. The game in Poland is physical, quite fast, with not many fights. The victory of Cracovia Kraków in the last Continental Cup proves the strength of Polish teams. As for the sports level, I would place PHL on the same shelf as the Swedish Allsvenskan or the Belarusian League, and over such leagues as French, Danish, and Norwegian. Polish clubs are constantly developing and presenting quite a good level as organizations, but in this field, they are still a bit behind the European leaders. A lot of devoted fans come to the halls, but the sport is not very popular in Poland (apart from the final matches, no television broadcasted last season). PHL is worth choosing because of the country itself, its people, cuisine, history, architecture, and environment. In this matter, every foreigner will feel very well in Poland.” Przemysław Nasiukiewicz of Hockey Progress Management

“I’ve had clients in the PHL over the past ten years. Most have held EU or Polish passports, but I’ve also had a few North Americans in the League. I enjoy working with teams in the League. The PHL allows an unlimited number of import players, which makes it interesting to see how each team constructs their roster. The level of the League and development of young Polish players as a result also has increased over the past few years. The League does not have many North American imports, as they are generally expensive due to visa and travel costs. Only a couple top paying teams in the League will usually sign a few North Americans each season, while most import players come from Russia, Eastern Europe or Nordic countries. That is not to say most of the League does not want to have North Americans. For a North American player to come to Poland, if they are not desired by the top paying clubs in the League, the player may have to accept a lower salary than they would ideally prefer on the market. The nature in which some Polish teams try to sign imports to “tryout contracts” in the past has made the League a tougher sell over other comparable leagues. That aspect is fading, which is great for the league reputation moving forward. If all Polish clubs operate in a professional manner with players, the League will keep improving its market value to top talent. Many of my clients in Poland have had good experiences, and I hope this will continue!” – 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

Estimated Salaries from 2112 Agency.

What the Players Say

I have talked to countless players about their experiences in Poland. Some players really enjoy it and want to stay for the long term, and 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.

“I think right now because of big number of imports level of the League is pretty high. You can find there very experienced players and quite a few young ones who are trying to make their name. It’s more technical but not as physical as in the UK” Sebastian Lipinski, PHL Goalie from 2018-2021

“I can highly recommend playing Poland. Of course, it depends where u play. There is a couple of places where the city or organization is very bad, like Sosnowiec or Torun (the city is beautiful). Fans are amazing in Poland. That was one of my best memories for myself. Everything is there really cheap (food, drink, etc) Alltough I get fired and they didn’t pay everything back for me, I still enjoy my time in Poland also. Level of life was for me a good surprise. Poland is a modern European country nowadays.”Anonymous former PHL Forward

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 defenseman. Player did add he wouldn’t be against returning.

What Staff Say

“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 an impact quickly. North Americans are a bit rare. There is strong comradery in the locker room, and staff, fans, and players are highly passionate. Depending on the club, I would put the level between the US SPHL and ECHL. Top clubs could compete against the better leagues of Europe. – Anonymous former PHL Head 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 positive things from when talking to players and have had multiple players in Poland.

Name (Based) – Links (Agents are Listed in Alphabetical order)

2112 Hockey Agency (Canada) – 2112hockeyagency.com │ Twitter│ Elite Prospects Page

83 LLC (USA) – 83llc.com │ Twitter │ Facebook │ Elite Prospects Page

93 Hockey Services (North America) – Facebook │ Twitter | Instagram | Elite Prospects Page

BB Sports Agency (Finland)bbsports.at | Facebook | Instagram | Elite Prospect Page

Hockey Progress Management (Poland) – hockeyprogressmanagement.com | Facebook│ Elite Prospects Page

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

The NHL Players Who Played In Poland. Part 5

We are back to looking at the players who reached the highest peak of the hockey world by playing in the National Hockey League and then played in Poland. How they ended up in Poland, how they performed, and where they are now. I paused this series for a bit when I initially was writing it. Part five was supposed to be the final part. Over the last couple of seasons, many former NHL players have found themselves in Poland primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Free-agent options were slim for plenty of great imports. Before we get to the Covid years, we have to close out the 2010s. This group of players saw something uncommon from the previous one. Most of the players featured in this part were first or second-round NHL draft picks. In fact, at one point, Poland had more top picks from the 2000 NHL draft than any other league.

Part 4

Jaroslav Kristek

Jaroslav Kristek moved up the Czech hockey system very fast. At 17-years old, he already found himself as a full-time forward on HC Zlín in Czechia’s top senior league. His performance at the U18 World Championships led to the Buffalo Sabres taking him 50th overall in the 2nd Round of the 1998 NHL entry draft. He would immediately head over to North America, playing two seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Tri-City Americans. In 2001, he signed his entry league deal with the Buffalo Sabres. He would mainly play in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans. In the AHL, Kristek recorded 49 points in 125 games. He would get one cup of coffee in the NHL, playing in six games during the 2003 season.

After 2003, Kristek would return to Czechia. He would play in Czechia for the next seven years and won the Extraliga championship in 2009 with HC Energie Karlovy Vary. After over 400 games in the Extraliga, the veteran forward would start to move around Europe with stops in the Kontinental Hockey League with Lev Poprad and a few various teams in Belarus’ top league. In 2017, he would sign in Poland with GKS Tychy. The high-scoring Czech winger would play a valuable top 6 role in Poland, scoring 18 goals in 42 games while helping Tychy to a second-place PHL finish and a Polish Cup victory. He would leave Tychy after one year and spend the next few seasons in the lower divisions of France. He appeared to retire after the 2021 season but returned at 42-years-old in 2022 to play for HC Brumov-Bylnice in Czech’s fourth division.

Krys Kolanos

Krystofer Stanley Kolanos, better known as Krys Kolanos, proved to be one of the top prospects in hockey during the early 2000s. After recording a 32-point rookie year for Boston College, Kolanos was drafted 19th overall by the then Phoenix Coyotes in the 1st Round of the 2000 NHL entry draft. Krys dominated the college level for another year before making his NHL debut in the 2002 season. The Canadian forward recorded a 22 point rookie season in just 57 games. Unfortunately, on January 29th, 2002, Kolanos would suffer a nasty concussion and be knocked unconscious after being hit from behind by Buffalo Sabres defensemen Václav Varaďa. The concussion affected the rest of Kolanos’ career, and he ended up only playing two games during the 2003 season. He returned at the end of 2003 to represent Canada at the World Championships, winning a gold medal. From 2002 to 2013, the Calgary native with Polish roots played in 151 NHL games and 362 AHL games. He was a dominant AHL player recording a .93 point per game average during the regular season.

His North American career would come to a close after the 2013 season. He would have two short stints in the KHL, playing in only 11 games across two seasons with two clubs. He took the entire 2016 season off but returned the next year, playing in Germany and Italy. To start the 2018 season, Kolanos would sign in Poland with GKS Tychy. The former Coyote was a significant signing in Poland given his heritage and NHL past. He would play in 16 PHL games, recording 16 points, and helping Tychy win a Polish Cup! Shortly after, he would leave Tychy and return to Italy, where he played seven more games before retiring.

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Tomas Kana

Continuing the trend of high picks, Tomas Kana was the top junior player in the HC Vítkovice system. In 2016, Kana became a full-time player in the Extraliga and played for Czechia at the Wolrd Juniors. The cherry on top of his season would be the St. Louis Blues selecting him in the second round, 31st overall of the 2006 NHL entry draft. Kana was the first pick outside of the first round, which meant the Blues had to have high hopes for the Czech center. After another year in Czechia, Kana would sign his entry league deal with the Blues in May of 2007. He mostly spent his time with the Blues’ ECHL affiliate the Alaska Aces. During the 2010 season, he found himself traded to Columbus Blue Jackets and finally found his groove in North America. After only one point in 18 games with the Blues’ AHL affiliate, he quickly amassed 28 points, including 15 goals, in just 50 games in the Blue Jackets system. This earned him a call up to the NHL, where he recorded two assists in six games. He would return to the Jackets organization the following year but struggled again in the AHL.

He returned to HC Vítkovice for the 2012 hockey season but did not make much of an impact in the Extraliga. Since then, he has bounced around the Czechia hockey system playing for plenty of teams at all three levels, along with stops in Germany, Kazakhstan, Romania, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. From 2012 to 2017, he played for 13 different teams. He would finally land in Poland with Zaglebie Sosnowiec. Kana was trusted to be a leader in Sosnowiec and delivered on the ice, recording 33 points in 42 games, which was second on the team. Sosnowiec would fall to almost last but win in the relegation round to stay in the PHL. Kana did not return to Sosnowiec and has since played in England and the Czech third division.

Pavel Vorobyov

The 2000 NHL draft was loaded with Russian talent. Forty-two Russian players would be taken in the draft, with eight being taken in the first round alone. One of the first Russians taken was Pavel Vorobyov. Vorobyov was born in Kazakhstan but grew up in Russia and developed in the Yaroslavl system. The Chicago Blackhawks drafted him 11th overall in the first round after he recorded eight points in six games at the U18 World Championships. The Hawks brought him over to North America for the 2014 season. He went up and down between the NHL and AHL. He had a decent amount of success with multiple long NHL stints and over 100 AHL points. Despite recording 21 points in 39 games during his final NHL season, he would return to Russia.

After returning, Vorobyov would play in the KHL from 2007 to 2014. After a couple years in Russia’s second league, he would spend the next two years with the Edinburgh Capitals in the United Kingdom’s top league. After Edinburgh was eliminated from the EIHL playoffs in 2018, Vorobyov was given his release from the club. He would be a late addition to Cracovia Krakow for their PHL playoff run. Vorobyov would be quite the clutch performer recording 14 points in 13 PHL playoff games. After the playoff run, he would not return to Krakow and would play for three more years between Romania and Ukraine. In 2022 he began his coaching career and currently coaches junior hockey in Russia.

Jason Bacashihua

Next in the trend of top draft picks is Jason Bacashihua, who was drafted 26th overall in the 1st round of the 2001 NHL entry draft. The Dallas Stars made the big pick after the Michigan native led the Chicago Freeze in the NAHL. He would only spend one more year at the junior level leading the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL and Team USA at the Worlds Juniors. At the end of the 2002 season, he would sign his entry league deal with the Stars. This would be the start of his journeyman career, as he would appear in multiple different NHL organizations, mainly as their AHL starting goalie. He would play in 38 NHL games from 2007 to 2008 with St. Louis; he also represented Team USA at the World Championships during those seasons. He played in over 300 AHL games across 11 different seasons, winning a Calder Cup in 2010.

After his 2012 season in the Philadelphia Flyers organization, he would pack his bags and head to Europe. Over the next three seasons, he would be the starting goalie for the Straubing Tigers in Germany’s top senior league, the DEL. Following that, he would be the starter for HC Banska Bystrica in Slovakia for two seasons before a season in South Korea. Bascashihua didn’t sign right away to start the 2018-19 season but would head to Poland to join Cracovia Krakow in late September. Krakow needed a goalie after not re-signing Polish legend Rafal Radziszewski. Jason Bacashihua would only play five games in Poland, recording a .906 save percentage. It wasn’t a fit between the two sides, and Krakow would go with the next player on our list. Bacashihua would finish the season in Germany’s second league. He has played in England, Hungary, and Italy over the past few seasons.

Miroslav Kopřiva

Miroslav Kopřiva breaks our streak of top picks, as he was only a sixth-round selection of the Minnesota Wild in the 2003 NHL draft. The big goalie had been one of the best goalies in the Czech U20 league but had yet to play at the senior level. The Wild allowed him to stay in Czechia and start to take his baby steps in senior hockey. The team would bring him over to North America for the 2006 season. He would appear up and down the North American professional hockey levels over the next two years. He posted strong numbers in the third between the CHL and ECHL but posted lackluster numbers in the AHL. He never did appear in an NHL game but served as a backup in both seasons.

Kopřiva tried to stay in North America for the 2008 season, signing with the Austin Ice Bats of the CHL but would leave the team and return to Czechia after 10 games. He would spend the next nine seasons in Czechia and Slovakia, even appearing in the KHL for HC Slovan Bratislava. In 2018, he joined the Coventry Blaze of the EIHL in England. He would be beat out for the starting job throughout the season by another former Wild goalie in Matt Hackett. Kopřiva would then join Cracovia Krakow in Poland for the end of the 2019 season, replacing Jason Bacashihua. The Kladno native then played some of the best hockey of his career. He was lightning in a bottle for Cracovia, helping the team to a silver medal after recording a .926 save percentage in 14 playoff games. He would re-sign with Cracovia for the following year. He remained the starter for the red and white, posting a .916 sv% in 40 games. He did not return for a third season in Poland and never signed anywhere. In 2022, he resumed his career and returned to Czechia with HC Letci Letňany in the Czech third division.

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The One-Line Team. 2022 Division 1 Group B U18 World Championships 5 Thoughts.

We can all wait for some moments. After two years of covid cancellations, the Men’s Senior team finally returned to the Worlds and won gold. Part of me really does believe that the three years it technically took to get back in Group A makes it all the sweeter. Unfortunately for other age levels, two canceled years means players aged out of eligibility and didn’t have a chance to finish what they started. Poland had no returners from their 2019 squad that earned a promotion to Division 1, it was now up to an entirely new roster to try and stay in the division, but could they do it?

Poland quickly saw the reality they faced in game one when offensive powerhouse Ukraine beat them 6-1. Ukraine would score 5 or more goals, including 12 against Austria, against every opponent besides one. Next up was Poland’s eternal hockey rival Hungary, who saw off Poland pretty quickly, 5-2. Hopefully, it would have been more smooth sailing for Poland with the top two teams in the tournament out of the way. In a back and forth contest against Itlay, Poland would fall 8-5 in the best chance to grab points. Poland would close the tournament with a 5-2 loss to Austria and then a 6-1 defeat against Slovenia.

A Rough Week in Net

You saw the scores, so let us address it right away. It was a very rough tournament for Poland’s goaltending, particularly for starting goalie Jakub Ciucka. While there were a couple own goals and some significant defensive lapses at times. This was a rough tournament, and there were some plays where all you can say is “oof’. Ciucka finished with a .820 save percentage, while his backup Maksymilian Kura finished with a .762. sv%. Especially in the game against Italy, Poland could have won. They scored five goals and still lost by three.

Keeping Pace

While Poland was the inferior team in each game. They were not actually as bad as the scores portray. Usually, when you see blowout scores, you also expect a similar disadvantage in the shots. Only in one game was Poland killed in the shot department as they were outshot 45-15 against Austria. Poland outshot Italy 28-27 while losing the shot battle by less than five against Ukraine. They also were tied with Austria in goals for at the tournaments. Poland did their best. It wasn’t enough. As the team improves, I see them staying in Division 1 as a very likely outcome. They mostly looked like they belonged. Not saying I’m expecting them to win a medal yet, but fourth and fifth place finishes should be on the table.

Czech Stars

In 2022, Poland only had 10 players in Czech junior leagues at the U17 level and above. That is down from the 16 that Poland had during the 2021 season. Five of the 2022 players made Poland U18. Of Poland’s top five skaters in points, four of them played in the Czechia junior system. Krzysztof Macias finished first with 7 points (2G-5A-7PTS), Dominik Kolat second with 6 points (4G-2A-6PTS), Michal Kusak was third with 3 points (2G-1A-3PTS), and then tied for fifth was Adrian Gromadzki with 2 points (0G-2A-2PTS). The top line of Kolat, Kusak, and Macias was one of the best lines in the tournament. Even when Kusak was moved down for Gromadzki to join the top line, Kolat and Macias didn’t miss a beat with their Czech junior league counterpart.

Master Macias

I usually don’t want to use two thoughts on one player in an article, but Krzysztof Macias deserves his own closer look. Macias was involved in seven goals on a team that scored 11 total goals. His 7 points were also tied for fifth in the tournament. Given that Hungary and Ukraine scored a combined 49 goals him cracking the top five is significant, in my opinion. The Polish captain also fired off 19 shots, about 20% of Poland’s total shots on goal, and tied for the fourth-most in the tournament. Given he only scored twice on those 19 shots, I believe he got a bit unlucky on his goal amount. Macias proved that he is Poland’s best U18 prospect and maybe even the best U20 prospect. A reminder, his two assists on Poland U20 put him second in scoring and tied for the lead in assists.

The Expected Result. Now What?

I saw some people a bit stunned about the results of the Polish team. Particularly about the result versus Ukraine. Poland’s junior system is inferior and years behind almost all top European countries. Poland is one of only a few countries in Division 1 to not have a fully dedicated U20 league. Ukraine especially has been impressive in its youth development. They even defeated Austria with a score of 12-4. Poland being relegated was the expected result, even if Poland’s performance in their own end didn’t help.

Poland will be relegated to Division 2 Group A next year. Their opponents will be Estonia, Great Britain, Lithuania, Romania, and Croatia. Poland often faces a familiar list of teams in Division 1 at the Senior World Championships. It will not be a cakewalk for the U18 squad, especially as they will be returning only 4 skaters. The good news is two of them are their top defenders in, Blazej Chodor and Karol Sobecki, while Finnish junior league forward Krystian Lisowski will also return. The most significant addition the team will have is goaltender Igor Tyczynski. Tyczynski was very impressive in nine MHL games and had an outstanding performance at recent U16 events.

Quick Thoughts

– Karol Sobecki showed off really well at this tournament. The 16-year-old was easily Poland’s best defender in the five-game showing.

– Another defender I liked was Blazej Chodor. He has ideal size and wasn’t afraid to get physical. But it did put his team in some rough places at times. As he gains more experience, his awareness will improve and he’ll pick better times to step up for the big hit.

– While the team was led mainly by the Czech stars on the offensive end, Paweł Pisula put in a great tournament on the forward side. His two-assist placed him tied for fifth in points.

– In his IIHF coaching debut, I thought Łukasz Sokół put in a good performance. The team stayed competitive, maybe a bit too hesitant to switch goalies at times. Based on how Kura did play in his limited minutes, I can’t blame him for that.

– This tournament will make a significant impact on my rankings for the year, while only five games. These are the five best opponents I will see most players play against all year.

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Time To Celebrate! 2022 Men’s Senior World Championship Division 1 Group B 5 Thoughts

After two years of Covid cancellations, we were finally back to IIHF tournaments. It has been a wild year, and one with a lot to celebrate in Poland regardless of how the Men’s Senior performed at this tournament. Despite that, failure would not be an option for team Poland at the event. The team that was on the cusp of playing in the Elite during the mid-2010s was stuck in Group B for a second straight tournament. Poland needed to get back in Group A, or sweeping changes were bound to occur.

Poland started off the tournament in a strong fashion. They would shut out their first opponent Estonia in a 3-0 win. In the following game, Poland took on Ukraine. Ukraine, despite playing during an extremely difficult time in their country, put up an extremely strong fight. Poland and Ukraine would stay even until the end, when eventually Poland won in a shootout. The third game was a blowout victory versus Serbia that ended 10-2. Poland and Japan were meeting on the final day with gold and promotion on the line. While Poland was the favorite, Ukraine took them to overtime and Serbia posted two goals against them. Japan was a strong team, and Poland was not unbeatable. In the end, Murray held strong and Lyszczarczyk carried the offense. Poland defeated Japan 2-0 to win gold and promotion!

GOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLDDDDDDDDD

We can break down every game and the concerns of the future, but first, let us take a chance to take a breath and enjoy the moment. Poland won gold. It feels good, Japan and Ukraine were great wins for the team. We all wanted to see progress out of the national team, and they no doubt showed that this year. The team was full of youth and was missing three veterans in Kapica, Kolusz, and Pasuit. We saw the new core of the team step up and win gold. Five members of the roster were making their World Championship debuts, while five more were in their second appearance. Only 12 skaters appeared with Poland at the 2018 Division 1 Group A World Championships. Poland won gold, let us be happy.

The Wall of Murray

Everyone’s favorite American in Poland did it again. Murray stopped 88 of the 90 shots he faced. He shutout both Estonia and Japan en route to Poland’s gold. He only allowed two goals against Ukraine, while also only allowing one Ukrainian shooter to score during the five-round shootout. Poland didn’t make it easy for him as well. Poland was outshot versus both Estonia and Ukraine and only outshot Japan by three. Against Japan and Ukraine, Poland only held a 2-goal lead for a minute, making every save crucial.

Powerplay Woes

Poland went 1 for 15 on the powerplay, including 1 for 5 against Serbia. Poland scored 9 even-strength goals against Serbia. If Poland wants to stay in Group A, the powerplay is going to need a major overhaul. Poland had plenty of chances to close out the games against Japan and Ukraine on the powerplay but kept coming up short. Against Ukraine, this was really bad as the game was in sudden death overtime, where one goal was all that was needed. Instead, Poland’s powerplay expired, and then they gave Ukraine a powerplay of their own.

The Next Powerplay QB

One of the reasons for the powerplay struggle might have been the fact that Poland really lacks a dynamic offensive defenseman. For most of the years in Division 1 Group A, Pawel Dronia patrolled the line and racked up 29 points in 40 games. Then Marcin Kolusz switched over to the defense, revitalizing his career. Neither was at the tournament for Poland, and we might not see them play again for the national team. Only one defenseman on the national team roster finished top 10 in points among defensemen in the PHL. Maciej Kruczek finished with 21 points, which was 8th among defensemen. Only two more were top 20. Bryk finished 13th, while Jaskiewicz was 19th. As I say this though, it was a defenseman who scored the gold-winning goal for Poland.

What is Next?

Poland now heads back to Division Group A for the first time since 2018. While we can try to speculate on their opponents, we will have to see how the IIHF handles Russia and Belarus, along with changes they made with those two teams being suspended due to their invasion of Ukraine. The 2022 Group A tournament will take place from May 3rd to May 8th in Slovenia. The 2023 edition of the tournament will take place from April 23rd through April 30th in a to be determined location.

Quick Thoughts

– Poland’s team at the tournament had an average age of 27.36. While the oldest in the tournament, it is the youngest team Poland has had since 2014.

– David Zabolotny became only the fifth goalie to start a game at the World Championships for Poland since 2010.

– Dominik Pas had a really good tournament, especially against Ukraine. He was always on the puck, and a huge thorn in their side.

– Poland’s penalty kill was equally as good as their powerplay was bad. Opponents went 1 for 15 against Poland’s penalty kill unit.

– Poland’s top seven scorers all played at least one season abroad as a senior. Going outside Poland helps development no matter the age of the player; Filip Komorski in his age 30 season is a completely changed player after one year in Czechia.

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_.