This year was a pivotal year for Polish hockey. For many players that frequented the list last year or in the years past it was onto full-time professional hockey in Poland or testing their skills in another countries highest junior league, while plenty of players arose to challenge and cemented themselves as future pillars of the national team plenty of players couldn’t live up to their expectations causing drastic changes to the rankings.
This is not the time I wanted to start the list, as the World Championship and U18 World Championship are a great way for players to improve their stock, the U18 World Championship being the first significant exposure for a lot of players. Due to the coronavirus, there are no more tournaments, and hockey is done for the year. Polish hockey itself faces an uncertain future as the virus will leave a lasting effect for years to come.
The real world is a very dark and scary place right now, but I want to look forward to the future while stuck at home. The future of the Polish national team is something that fans should be excited about. I have maintained for years that Poland has more young talent right now then it did any other time this century. I still stand by that opinion today. Poland saw their ace prospect prove himself in professional North American hockey, another NHL draft prospect rise, and a vast increase in depth. Today we start our ranking of the top 50 Men’s U23 players in Poland.
Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on March 27th, 2020. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While a majority of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. 140 players were considered for the list and scouted. 80 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 scouting report.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking
15 – Igor Smal (F), 20, Lotos PKH Gdansk, (22, +7)
Smal continues the steady rise up the ranks of Polish players. Smal originally was playing junior hockey in Sweden but returned to Poland in 2017 to continue his career. This year the center set a new career-high in PHL points with 12 (6-6-12). 2019-20 was also a new career-high in games with 47. He possesses good size, keen offensive awareness, with great hands. The 6’0 Gdansk native has the makings of a promising player. He started off strong but fell off as the season went on. Consistency is the biggest thing about his game that will need to improve. Smal is in an excellent situation for this as well. As he was able to move up and down the Gdansk lineup last year, even getting a go on the top line at times. Gdansk is the exact kind of opportunity that will allow him to play a lot of valuable minutes. Smal was also a valuable part of team Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he recorded six points (3-3-6) in five games.
14 – Jakub Prokurat (F), 19, Krefelder EV 1981, (40, +26)
A Polish player being one of Krefelder U20’s leading scorers is a very common trend, and that continued with Jakub Prokurat. This season the 18-year-old forward led Krefelder in points after posting 43 points (18-25-43) in 32 games. His production also never dropped off and continued to rise during the year. This was good for fifth in the entire DNL U20, the top U20 league in Germany. It was fourth in points per game, among players with 15 games played. The top-level DNL U20 has been in effect for three seasons, and Prokurat’s year ranks as the 12th best season by an 18-year-old skater for points per game. I like to see how players with similar production faired. There are two matches for Prokurat; German Sebastian Hon and Latvian Patriks Marcinkēvičs. This season, Hon was able to turn pro in the DEL2, while Marcinkēvičs was a top scorer in the American NCDC.
His production in the DNL U20 bolds well for his development. Prokurat also made the Polish U20 squad this year but would go pointless in five games with two shots. I don’t believe he was given a significant role with the team, through the games I was able to stream, but I still would have hoped to see him produce against some lower competition. It will be interesting to see where Prokurat plays next year. I hope he would be able to get some reps in the Oberliga for Kredfleder’s U23 team. His patience with the puck at times is an attribute that should really benefit him at the pro level. His size may be a concern for some senior teams.
13 – Bartłomiej Jeziorski (F), 22, GKS Tychy, (10, -3)
Jeziorski has long been one of Poland’s best forward prospects, but as he turns 22, his PHL career has not progressed like I thought it would. Jeziorski has played in the PHL since 2015-16 when he was 17. In the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the forward posted over 20 points. In 2019, he posted 17 points in 55 games. This season, Jeziorski posted 20 points (11-9-20) in 47 games. He really started the year off strong, looking good in the Champions Hockey League, and really an offensive force during the beginning of the PHL season, but fall off after the season went on, which was really a common trend among young Polish players this year. Jeziorski really needs to be able to consistently make an impact. He has a lot of great tools at his disposal, being 6’3, great hands, good skater, and an accurate shot. There are times like this goal here versus GKS Katowice, where you see his skill on display.
There is just too often where his play like that is nowhere to be found. Often his goals come from his solid net-front presence and bounces going his way. He has the ability to drive plays, so I would like to see that more. Jeziorski definitely has impressed national team head coach Tomek Valtonen though, who included Jeziorksi on all three senior national team rosters this year, including the Olympic qualifiers.