In what is a crazy year that continues to be spontaneous for Poland’s best player. Alan Łyszczarczyk has found himself traded to the Tulsa Oilers. The Orlando Solar Bears have been pretty quick to make moves this year, so this trade comes as no surprise. It seems it was be traded or be cut for the prince of Poland, as the Solar Bears traded him for only future considerations, likely nothing in the ECHL.
Łyszczarczyk started the year with Podhale Nowy Targ in the PHL. He did well in the blue and yellow, recording ten goals and eight assists in 23 games. His return to the ECHL has not been as strong as the forward only has two goals and one assist in 13 games. He has not recorded a point in his past eight games. The 23-year-old recorded 46 points (19-27-46) in 57 games the previous year with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL.
The Tulsa Oilers will be Alan’s third ECHL team. The Oilers are the ECHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL, and with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL. They currently sit fifth in the Western Conference of the ECHL with 15 wins, 14 losses, and three overtime losses. They currently are second to last in goals for in the ECHL this year with 72. (Fort Wayne has less, but they have only played 14 games.) They have to be hoping Łyszczarczyk can recapture his scoring touch.
Alan Łyszczarczyk will be returning to the USA, and back to playing the in the ECHL. The top Polish forward started the year playing in Poland for Podhale Nowy Targ. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the ECHL to delay their season til late 2020. Before the season, Łyszczarczyk’s rights were traded to the Idaho Steelheads by the Fort Wayne Komets. The Steelheads though forfeited his rights, once it was announced they won’t be apart of the of the first ECHL start date. In his lone PHL season, he recorded 10 goals and 10 assists in 23 games. He would often play in the bottom forward lines for Podhale, as the team prepared for a future without him. That future has come as the team announced that Łyszczarczyk was returning to the USA.
Hokej.net is now reporting that his return is to be with the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. It is an interesting move as the Solar Bears is the ECHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that has taken their development in the minor leagues very seriously. The previous year, Alan played with the Fort Wayne Komets putting up 19 goals and 27 assists in 57 games. One of the best seasons among ECHL rookies. Recently some his teammates from that Fort Wayne team signed in Poland. Former Canucks draft pick Brett McKenzie, who played on a line with Łyszczarczyk, signed in Unia Oswiecim, while defensemen Taylor Doherty signed in Krakow.
The Orlando Solar Bears are off to a good start with four wins in their first five games. The team finished fifth in the ECHL last year, but the playoffs were cancelled due to COVID. The team’s head coach and GM is Drake Berehowsky. Berehowsky is a former long time NHL player with over 500 NHL games to his resume. He also has a connection with Łyszczarczyk, as Berehowsky was an associate coach with the Sudbury Wolves from 2015 to 2017, the same years that Alan played for the OHL club.
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.
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.
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.
Despite all that seems to go wrong in Polish hockey the light at the end of the tunnel has been the amount of great young talent that Poland has in their system right now. This is the deepest depth of young talent Poland has had this century. Regardless of what happens in regards to management and coaching with the talent that Poland has coming, they should be able to push forward. In this list, I wanted to rank Poland’s young talent to create a better picture of what the future look likes. In this part, we look at the player ranked second.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team
1 – Alan Lyszczarczyk (C), 21, Mississauga Steelheads – Was there ever going to be any doubt about who the number one player was? Lyszczarczyk maybe the top player in Polish hockey regardless of U23 status. There is simply no player that caries the hype or status that Lyszczarczyk brings. He is the king of Polish hockey right now, and his success could have a tremendous impact on hockey in Poland.
Lyszczarczyk was born in Wellington, New Jersey. His dad Darius Lyszczarczyk was a long-time Polish National team player and forward for Podhale Nowy Targ. Lyszczarczyk returned to Poland though where he played in the Podhale Nowy Targ junior system. Impressive performances in Poland led to him getting to play in the Czech Republic for the junior team of Pirati Chomutov. In his first season in the Czech Republic at 14, he recorded 36 goals and 42 assists for 78 points in 40 games at the U16 level. The next year he continued his strong production with 66 points in 32 games at the U16 level, plus 30 points in 21 games at the U18 level. 2014-15 was his huge breakout year though as he led the Czech U18 league, as a 16-year-old, in points with 69 in 40 games.
This had Lyszczarczyk generating some buzz for the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. Lysczarczyk would not be drafted though, he would sign with the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) as a free agent. “Alan was a kid whose name came up on a pretty frequent basis from some pretty reputable hockey guys, so he was garnering some interest at that time. I know Sudbury, as well, was a team that was interested in him. But then, as the league did some homework on their own, they discovered that Alan, because his parents are living in the United States, that was their place of residence and it had been for a few years, he was not eligible for the import draft. That opened the door for him to be a free agent and paved the way for us bringing him to training camp,” Barclay Branch, then Sudbury Wolves General Manager, said in an interview to The Sudbury Star.
Lysczarzcyk had quite the debut season in the OHL. He recorded 17 goals and 33 assists in 50 points in 67 games. We reached out to Sudbury Wolves writer Ben Leeson and asked him about Lyszczarczyk’s first year, “Lyszczarczyk kind of came out of nowhere in his first season with the Wolves. No one had heard much about him when he arrived at training camp, but of course, a quick glance at Elite Prospects suggested there was plenty of skill there. And he showed that skill, more and more as the year went on, eventually becoming a top-line forward later in the season. While there were things to work on, such as his skating and shot release, he had very good offensive instincts, was an effective passer and was quite strong on the puck, despite not being the biggest player, and had a non-stop motor. He was also very coachable — I remember Sudbury’s staff at the time saying he was never a guy you had to worry about, a guy who just went out and did his job without complaining. He kept things light in the room, too, always smiling, making jokes, funny faces and sounds, leading his teammates to affectionately call him Cartoon.”
Lyszczarczyk was generating some NHL draft interest. He was projected to be drafted anywhere from the 4th round to the 7th round.
Another good sign that Lyszczarczyk would be drafted was the fact that 84.3% of players with similar production had been drafted. TheDraftAnanlyst.com wrote, “He can play in the trenches and shows interest in fighting tooth and nail for loose pucks, but building upper-body strength and learning the intricacies of three-zone play will make him tougher to deal with beyond the puck artistry and hard shot. Lyszczarczyk is at this point a one-dimensional point producer who can be entrusted with power play duties but nothing during penalty kills and late-game lead holds.” In the end, his name was not called at the NHL entry draft.
“I wasn’t sure if Alan would be drafted in his first year of eligibility, though I certainly wouldn’t have been surprised if he did, after such a strong season and a fairly smooth adjustment to North American hockey. I just wasn’t certain he had the kind of speed and skating ability NHL teams had begun to look for, and his shot was still a work in progress — he has since come a long way in that area, I should say, so perhaps a team should have taken a chance on him. I did believe he would earn himself opportunities at a professional career, whether in North America or Europe and could see him opening a lot of doors with his worth ethic.” Ben Leeson on if he expected Lysczarzcyk would be drafted. Lyszczarczyk would be invited to the Maple Leafs development camp following the draft.
Some things needed to improve in Lyszczarczyk’s game, but he still had a lot going for him. I mean it was only his first year in North America, the Wolves had some really nice talents in Dmitri Sokolov and David Levin, and Lyszczarczyk continued to get better and better as the year went on. His second season did not go well at all though. His production dropped to 10 goals and 22 assists in 61 games. The Wolves were a better team, ice time was harder to come by, and Lyszczarczyk struggled with consistency. “Despite the dip in Lyszczarczyk’s numbers, he still scored some big goals, made some great plays and rounded out his game in some other areas, but he definitely had a few dry spells, and I think it led him to grip the stick a little too tight, as they say. He also had to share the ice a little more with older players as the team tried to make a push for playoffs. I was always sure that he’d find his touch again, though, possibly as a 19-year-old.” Ben Leeson told us about Lyszczarczyk’s 2016-17 season.
In the offseason, the Wolves would trade Lyszczarczyk and goaltender Zach Bowman to the Owen Sound Attack for a handful of draft picks. Owen Sound was going to be a fresh start for Lyszczarczyk. The team was loaded on forward talent, where while Lyszczarczyk maybe wouldn’t get the most ice time he would be surrounded by top talents like NHL draft picks Aidan Dudas, Jonah Gadjovich, Maxim Sushko, and Nick Suzuki. Lyszczarczyk had an improved season posting 21 goals and 20 assists in 59 games. He really had a great postseason posting 8 goals and 5 assists in 11 games. His production was better, but still just below his rookie year. You could definitely see his improved shot.
For 2018-19 this was Lyszczarczyk’s overage year and final OHL season. It didn’t look like he would return to Owen Sound at first after trying out for HC Energie Karlovy Vary of the Tipsport Extraliga. He ended up deciding to stay in the OHL for his overage season. Owen Sound still had a strong roster, but a couple top 6 spots had opened up meaning more ice time. Owen Sound was over the overager limit. This would mean that one of the overage players would have to sit out. Lyszczarczyk made the most of this situation at first recording 4 goals and 7 assists in 10 games despite numerous healthy scratches. The situation was fixed though when Lyszczarczyk was dealt to the Mississauga Steelheads.
The trade to the Steelheads can easily be called the best thing to happen in Lyszczarczyk’s OHL career. He caught fire with the team being able to play a lot of ice time with top players. Lyszczarczyk put up new career highs for every statistical category. His season totals were 39 goals and 43 assists in 64 games. He had 2 goals and 2 assist in 4 playoff games as well. He was truly for the first chance, given the chance to be one of the top stars on a team and flourished in the role. Even after the team traded away high NHL draft picks Owen Tippett and Ryan Mcleod, Lyszczarczyk continued to produce at a high rate.
His season point total of 82 was tied for 18th in the OHL. His goals were 13th in the league. He also had the 4th most shots in the league at 305. Yes, he was an overager in the OHL, but all his stats ranked within the top 10 for overagers.
His play has come a long way since his rookie days notably the vast improvement of his shot and development to his defensive game. Last year, he was even able to get some time on the penalty kill. His game has become more complete and rounded. He may be the best offensive talent Poland has had since Mariusz Czerkawski. He is willing to go into the corners and will never quit. There is still work to be done at on defensive game, but it is good enough for the next level. What is the next level is the big question for him? His point per game comparables most likely play at least 100 games in the ECHL or a lower European league like the Tipsport Liga. Though a decent amount go on to play 100 games in the American Hockey League or a top European league like the Kontinental Hockey League. None have gone on to play 100 games in the NHL yet.
It seems that comparables were right in this case as Lyszczarczyk signed an ECHL deal with the Fort Wayne Komets. He was also invited to the Chicago Wolves (AHL) training camp. I could see Lyszczarczyk earning a contract with Wolves out of training camp, but still most likely spending most of his time to start the year in the ECHL. This is mostly because of his playstyle. He needs to play the most minutes he can, and he probably won’t get that in the AHL. He needs to adjust and learn how to produce offensively against men. That development is going to come a lot easier in the ECHL.
Since Fort Wayne entered the ECHL for the 2012-13 season, they have only had fours rookie forwards. Those four forwards all posted point per game marks above .60 for their ECHL career. Three of the four also made it to the AHL pretty quickly, while the other lead the Elite Ice Hockey Leauge in assists for the 2017-18 season. It seems that when Fort Wayne signs a young forward they expect them to produce strong numbers and put them in a position to succeed. It will be the first time a Polish player has played in the ECHL since Adam Borzecki in 2005. I think signing in the ECHL is the perfect place for Lyszczarczyk to continue his career.