The top 50 is underway and we’re now on to the players ranked 40-31. The last group is hard to make. As you have to cut a few players from getting a report. Until you get to your 20s, in my opinion, the difference between most players is not that major. A lot of them are very minor and could realistically flip with another month of play, or even a few more games.
This next batch of players is an interesting group. It’s a mixture of some newcomers tearing it up around Europe and a few players that improved their stock in the PHL. It was definitely a trend this year in the PHL, due to covid, that some teams relied on younger players more. In some cases that worked great and players took a huge jump. In other cases the larger role with a poor supporting cast hurt young players and their numbers fell.
Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking. Players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a report.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings
40. Bartosz Florczak (D), 19, STS Sanok, (38, -2)
Florczak’s quick climb in the rankings came to an end, as he slides a minor two down the rankings. This fall more comes down to quite a few newcomers and other players taking a larger jump. He is also definitely a player that would have benefited from a few international tournaments. A strong two-way defender definitely had run into problems of low ice time, and poor supporting cast. Still the 18-year-old was able to post 2 assists in 30 PHL games. The third most points by any skater in their draft-eligible season. While a sample size of six games, his 1.67 points per game average was the best among U20 defensemen in the MHL.
39. Krzyzstof Macias (F), 17, HC Vitkovice U17, (Not Ranked)
Macias had a really great season for HC Poruba in 2020. His 21 goals were the 13th most among U16 players in the Czech U16 league. The Podhale native had played for HC Poruba most of his junior career, but after the breakout year, HC Vitkovice picked up the talented Polish forward. It appeared he was going to be a great pick-up as well with 6 goals and 5 assists in just 7 games. This had him tied for 17th among all skaters in terms of points. Its going to be exciting to see what he does at the U20 level, and should shoot him up the rankings.
38. Armen Khoperia (D), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (41, +3)
Khoperia’s ranking has kinda stayed the same over the years. That is not to say he is not making progress and developing as a player. He is best in his own zone and continuing to develop into a great defenseman. He went up and down the Sosnowiec lineup as they struggled with a rough year. He started playing top-line minutes to begin the year but went down in the lineup as the season went on. He would rebound though as he and Eduard Kaščák formed Sosnowiec’s top paring for the home stretch of the season. In total, he posted four assists in 36 games.
37. Aleks Menc (F), 17, KS Naprzod Janow, (Not ranked)
Menc has long been considered a top Polish prospect. If you have been following my account for long enough you have probably seen some of the ridiculous point totals he has posted in Polish hockey’s junior divisions.
Menc really has the potential to be a special player. This year, he was finally getting out of Poland and headed over to Sweden. The 16-year-old suited up Kiruna AIF J20 in the second level of U20 hockey in Sweden. He only got in a total of two games before the season was canceled, recording both a goal and an assist. This made him one of only five U17 players to post more than one point. He then suited up for Janow in Poland recording 3 points (1-2-3pts) in 6 MHL games. Along with 35 points in 17 lower junior games, but only a goal and assist in 8 CLJ games. Next year he will be representing Strömsbro IF J18 in the second level of Swedish U18 hockey. The team has a close relationship with the top Swedish club Brynas IF.
36. Marcel Kotula (G), 20, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (44. +8)
Kotula was one of two young goalies in a rough Sosnowiec situation. There was no way any goalie was going to thrive there. It was also a familiar place for Kotula, who saw similar action with PZHL U23. Sosnowiec would later add another goalie as well, at the PHL level, and had talented Lithuania Tadas Ramanauskas at the MHL level. This made playing time a bit hard to come by, but Kotula fought for his minutes. In five PHL games, he recorded a .871 save percentage up from his .829 mark the previous year with PZHL U23. While at the MHL level, he posted a .909 SV% the fifth-best among all MHL goalies. Definitely lost a few big international starting spots due to COVID-19, and I hope to see him with a few more PHL games next year.
35. Mateusz Ubowski (F), 21, GKS Tychy, (28, -7)
Ubowski had a really strong year in 2020 making his debut for GKS Tychy along with being a key member of PZHL U23 recording 5 points in 23 games. This year, he only managed one assist in 6 games. Along with seeing his MHL point total drop from 48 points in 24 games to 28 points in 20 games. The MHL was a lot better league this year and points was not easy to come by.. His 28 points still were the tenth most in the MHL for 2021, when they would have been tied for 19th in 2020. Still, this was his final U20 season, the talented forward will need to start translating his skills over at the senior level in a hard Tychy lineup to crack.
34. Maciej Miarka (G), 21, GKS Katowice, (42, +8)
Goalies were given more slack in the rankings this year, as I think in past years I jugded them too hard. That said Miarka did earn his ranking improvement. The Lodz native moved from Jastrezbie to Katowice this year to serve as the team’s primary backup. While he didn’t get too much action in the green and black, his .891 save percentage was the best among U20 goalies, and fifth among U23 goalies. It is also a nice bump up from the .847 he recorded with PZHL U23 the previous year. John Murray will be the starting goalie next year in Katowice, which will be a great veteran for Miarka to learn and grow behind.
33. Michał Cychowski (F), 19, Krefelder EV 1981 U20, (30, -3)
It was a unfortunate year for Cychowski. He was set to be a key player for Poland at junior international events along with his first full season in the DNLU20, the top junior league in Germany. Instead, he played a whole five games for Krefelder EV 1981 U20. Not really much else to say about his year. He was recently named to the U20 team for training camp and a tournament in August
32. Michał Zając (F), 20, Stoczniowiec Gdansk, (43, +11)
Zając flashed some skills in 2020 in short runs with PZHL U23 and Polonia Bytom. With Stoczniowiec Gdansk this year, he was able to get a lot of playing time due to the lack of veteran talent on Gdansk. A common thing in the PHL this year, but Zajac excelled in the situation. He posted 11 points (4G-7A-11) in 36 games. This was the most points by a U20 player in the PHL this year. Since 2000, it is the 21st best season for a player in their draft-eligible plus 1 season in the PHL. It also sets him up with some nice production comparables like Pawel Zygmunt, Mateusz Michalski, and Patryk Krezolek. Though the average for most of the comparables is a .31 PHL point per game average career.
31. Michał Bernacki (F), 23, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (22. -9)
From one player who really flourished in a larger role with a talent-strapped team to one who saw their production drop. In 2020, Bernacki posted a 20 point season, but in 2021 his point total dropped 5 (2G-3A-5PTS) points in 28 games. A rough season after he looked good in some pre-season matches including a double goal game against Podhale, which matches his total for the season. He started the year as well mostly on the second line, eventually missing most of January and falling to the bottom 6. Bernacki is a solid forward with good size, and I have confidence that his production will bounce back. Especially as the talent around him in Sosnowiec improves.