Tag: Blazej Chodor

8 Players to Watch on Poland at the 2023 U18s

My favorite month of the year is here! Why is it April? Three of Poland’s national teams are in IIHF action, the sport’s busiest time of the year. With that, getting lost in the hockey action can be easy. So we wanted to list who we will keep an eye on this year at the U18s. I don’t know how I feel about the team this year, but one thing for sure is that they will be quite a different team. This year the team is being led by Belarusian head coach Andrei Gusov. Gusov needs no introduction to Polish fans, previously winning a PHL championship with GKS Tyhcy. On his resume, you’ll also see he is formerly a KHL head coach and member of the Belarus national team staff. Will the new coach and some standout talent be able to keep Poland in Divison 1 Group B?

Igor Tyczyński & Maksymilian Kura

Igor Tyczyński may be the future of the Polish national team in the net. After a strong season in the MHL with Cracovia in 2022, he spent most of the 2023 season with Team Poland U16 in the Czech U17 second league. When we go back to exhibition games in December, he played in both, stopping 38 out of the 41 shots he faced and four out of five shooters in the shootout vs. Hungary. I have a lot of excitement for what is to come with him. He only played in two MHL games this year, one with Janow and one with SMS PZHL Katowice.

Igor Tyczyński saves vs. Hungary. International Exhibition

The starter of SMS PZHL Katowice was last year’s U18 backup Maksymilian Kura, who is also returning to the squad. Kura led the MHL in save percentage with .939 in 15 games and stayed strong in the playoffs. His fantastic MHL performance puts Kura in the lead role for the starter spot. When we look at previous U18 starters, they have all been either the starter or split starter for SMS PZHL Katowice at the past few events.

Maybe a new coach would change that philosophy of thinking. At the most recent tournament in Bytom, Kura started once, posting an 18-save game with 4 goals allowed versus Lithuania. He would back up Tyczyński in the next two games, who pitched a 32-save shutout versus Hungary and a 24-save performance with two allowed versus Estonia. I think these are the two for Poland, and it will be fascinating to see who gets the start. Based on how both have played, I feel Poland is in good hands.

Karol Sobecki

Sobcecki Goal vs. Ukraine. 2022 U18s

Now that we know the net is in good hands, let’s look at the first line of defense. One of the leading defenders that will be returning is Karol Sobecki. Last year at the event, he scored twice and added an assist. His three points tied for third on Poland. This year, he made a jump I didn’t anticipate in turning professional with GKS Tychy. He spent most of the year with the top club, playing in 18 PHL games. That senior experience in such a great club did wonders for his development, and I’m super interested to see him back this year.

Blazej Chodor

Chodor Goal vs. Lodz. 2022 MHL season

Our next defender is also blazing quite a few trails as well. Chodor has good size and can do just about everything on the ice. It was not too much of a surprise when he made the Polish U20 team this year, and that should also make him an automatic lock for a U18 return. Chodor is a player that just needs a breakout moment and is someone I could see strong clubs abroad loving, especially those in North America. This tournament could be it! Of course, Chodor had a strong year at home for SMS PZHL Katowice. In the MHL, he led all defensemen with 30 points (13G-17A-30PTS) in 35 games. Another U18 team defender, Michal Starosciak from Sanok, was behind him with 26 points (10G-16A-26PTS). It seems like Poland will have some solid two-way options at the event.

Tomasz Marzec

Now we go to a player I am watching because I know very little about them, probably like you. Marzec is a defenseman with both Polish and Swedish citizenship. He developed in the Södertälje SK youth system before moving to Järna SK J18 in 2021. He has done well in Sweden’s J18 Div1 with 19 points (4G-15A-19PTS) in 22 games. He also appeared in the year’s first five U18 exhibition matches but did not appear in Bytom during early February. It is hard to know what Poland has in him, but growing up in such a different development system has me more than intrigued.

Krystian Lisowski

Lisowski was one of the Polish forwards we were the most excited to follow this year. In 2022, had a great year in the top level of U18 hockey in Finland, with 38 points in 44 games. This year that production saw a bit of a drop, with nine goals and ten assists for 19 points in 38 games. Now a significant factor was moving from Kiekko-Espoo’s challenger squad to their primary team. That puts him up on another level with some better coaching and teammates. His performance at the U18s could be a good way for him to put a cherry on top of a strong season.

The Suite Life of Jakub and Jonasz

Jakub Hofamn Goal Assisted by Maksymilian Dawid and Jonasz Hofman.

Poland might be looking for twin magic at the upcoming event, as twins Jakub and Jonasz Hofman will likely make their IIHF debuts. The 17-year-old brothers have good size and were a solid scoring threat on SMS PZHL Katowice in the MHL and with Janow in the U18 league. Jakub Hofman finished with 18 points (10G-8A-18PTS) in 24 games. Jonasz just edged out his brother with 20 points (13G-7A-20PTS) in 27 games. The brothers finished sixth and seventh in MHL scoring among U18 skaters. Their Janow and Katowice teammate Maksymilian Dawid was able to edge them out in MHL scoring with 26 points. Given the trio’s chemistry, I imagine they might be a line for Poland at the U18s. Other forward options for Poland include Dawid Lojas, Rafał Drabik, and Sebastian Wojciechowski, who have all performed well for Poland at non-IIHF events.

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!

2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #40-31

We’re now in the top 40! The players in this part mostly grade out as PHL quality players, appearing in middle six for forwards, top four for defensemen, and split starters for goalies. We also see a few young players taking double-digit jumps, including the biggest riser in the entire ranking. The rankings start to take shape at this point, and all players easily made the top 50 while the gaps widen. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 1st, 2022. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 169 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking.

Players 80-51
Players 50-41

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)

40 – Kacper Macias (D), 19, HC Poruba U20, (NR)

Kacper Macias missed out on being ranked last year after he only played in six Czechia U20 2 games. In 2022, with an entire season, he was able to make a quiet impact on Poruba. It is always a bit hard to judge when a player is playing in a country’s second level of junior hockey, but we have seen plenty of Polish players come out of the Poruba system. In total, the 19-year-old defenseman posted 21 points (7G-14A-21PTS) in 43 games. His 21 points were 15th among defensemen in the league. 

Macias primary assist vs. France U20 D1B

Macias also represented Poland at the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships. In five games, he posted a single assist. It was an interesting year, but not one I got a lot of film to watch. When we turn to point production matches, we don’t see much. Most of his matches played in the third level of Czechia hockey or lower, with only 7% playing in the Chance Liga. Macias will have more substantial chances in Poland to play professionally, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a solid PHL defenseman. 

39 – Jan Krzyżek (F), 21, GKS Tychy (42, +3

In a year with so many significant rises and falls due to COVID, Krzyżek only sees his stock rise by three. He split the year between Tychy’s PHL and MHL squads, as most U23 players do. In the PHL, he set a new career-high in games played with 25. In those 25 games, he did record two assists. It gives him one more point than last year. The big body Krzyżek usually played in low-minute defensive roles for Tychy.

Krzyżek Goal vs. ŁKH Łódź MHL

The German-born forward played a lot bigger role in the MHL. There in just 12 games, he recorded 25 points (14G-11A-25PTS). His 2.1 point per game average was the best of his MHL career. But as a player over 20, I don’t give too much weight to MHL numbers. Krzyżek will be staying with GKS Tychy next year. I think his ceiling is a second line forward in Poland, but his size could open more doors possibly. 

38  – Sebastian Lipiński (G), 22, Peterborough Phantoms 2 (24, -14

Lipiński had long been ranked as the top goalie in my list, but that streak has ended. He comes in as our third-ranked goalie. Lipinski left Poland this year for his first season abroad, ending up in the fourth level of British ice hockey, the NIHL 2. In 20 regular season games, the 6’1 goalie posted a .928 save percentage, and he also put up a .908 save percentage in 3 playoff games. His regular season save percentage was the third best among goalies, just behind former Premier League goalie Petr Cech. 

The league is what it is, and I’m not sure how to judge performances in such a low level. His drop in the ranking is primarily due to the competition being much weaker than the PHL. He did get to play a lot this year, and it led him back to Poland in the end. He signed with Zaglebie Sosnowiec for the 2023 season and beyond. He should be able to compete with Patrick Spensy next year for starts.  

37 – Filip Plonka (G), 19, UKH Unia Oswiecim (45, +8

Before I get into the report, I want to note that Plonka’s rise is mainly due to how I valued goalies versus skaters for the 2022 rankings after I believe they were undervalued in past lists. Plonka has continued to serve as the third goalie in Oswiecim while needing more time against senior competition. His only PHL action this year was in October, when he stopped all six shots he faced against Sosnowiec. He was also left off the Polish U20 team for the U20 D1B World Championship. 

Plonka Savs vs. Zaglebie Sosnowiec PHL

 He mostly performed in the MHL for UKH Unia Oswiecim. There in 12 games, he posted a .866 save percentage, which was 2nd among 19-year-old goalies in the league. In the MHL, he often faced close to 40 shots a game, with his lowest total in a complete game being 27 twice. Plonka did finish the year strong, posting a .903 save percentage in the CLJ finals.  His past seasons are carrying a lot of weight in the ranking.

36 – Blazej Chodor (D), 17, SMS PZHL Katowice (78, +42

Chodor is the biggest riser in this year’s rankings. I usually don’t even rank players in their 15-year-old season who just turned 16 in time to be ranked. Last year though, there was no way to me that Chodor was not in the top 80. After another year of success, he now climbs to the top 40. Chodor has excellent size and is a strong skater who isn’t afraid to get physical. He spent the year playing for various Polish junior teams. For SMS PZHL Katowice in the MHL, he posted 14 points (6G-8A-14PTS) in 21 games. This was second among all 16-year-old defensemen. 

Chodor goal vs. ŁKH Łódź MHL

He then went on to play for Poland Team U16, which competes in Czechia U17 2. There, he posted 10 points (3G-7A-10PTS) in 21 games. His .47 point per game average was 17th among all defenders. He also represented Poland at the U18 Division 1 Group B World Championships going pointless in five games. Chodor has a lot of potential and would be my current pick for the Polish junior player to best succeed in North America. He needs more experience in stronger leagues, especially to improve his defensive awareness.

35 – Mateusz Ubowski (F), 21, GKS Tychy (35, +0) 

Ubowski is one of the trio of young Tychy forwards that continue to fight for a shot at playing time with the top club. This year he earned plenty of more chances than last year. He played in 29 games, recording two assists while most playing on the lower lines. He also recorded 11 points (5G-6A-11PTS) at the MHL level. However, it was age 20 season and lower than his age 19 production. 

Ubowski seems like a great fit to be a middle-six forward in the PHL. It will be a prolonged rise up the lineup if he continues to play for GKS Tychy. We saw one of his teammates, Kacper Gruzla, choose to leave for a more significant chance. That might be what Ubowski needs, as it will be hard to see him getting a lot of opportunities unless put on a loan to another club. 

34 – Stanisalw Drozd-Niekurzak (F), 20, Partille HK J20 (59, +25) 

Drozd-Niekurzak has bounced around several junior leagues, teams, and countries over the past few years. He landed back in Sweden with Partille HK J20 for the 2022 season. The 19-year-old forward put up 13 points (5G-8A-13PTS) in 11 games. He also took some baby steps into senior hockey, playing in 10 games in Sweden’s Division 3, where he recorded two goals and three assists. This was his best year in Sweden and the most production he has shown over the past few seasons. 

He capped off his season as the assistant captain for Poland at the U20 World Championships. There in five games, he recorded one assist. It has been hard to get a proper hold of what Drozd-Niekurzak could develop into with his multiple short stints at quite a few clubs. Right now, I believe his ceiling is his second-line forward in the PHL. His wealth of experience in Germany and Sweden should assist him tremendously. 

33 – Krystian Lisowski (F), 17, Kiekko-Espoo U18 Ch (NR) 

Lisowski makes his debut in the top 40, one of the highest debut rankings of all time. He is a player that could rocket into a top spot next year. Lisowski played in the U18 SM-sarja in 2022, the top level of U18 hockey in Finland. There in 44 games, he recorded 26 goals and 12 assists. His 38 points tied for 38th in the league among all skaters, and it was 7th among 16-year-olds. His 26 goals lead all 16-year-old skaters and are seventh among all skaters. He also played in one game at the U20 level where he scored one goal. He also represented Poland at the U18s, where he went pointless in five games. 

Lisowski has a more significant amount of production comparables and they show a lot of promise. 3.5% of his matches went on to become NHL players. Included in the group are Markus Hännikäinen and Rasmus Kupari. Quite a few of his matches were recent NHL draft picks as well. While the NHL chance is low, it’s still great for Polish players and one of the highest among all Polish skaters this decade in their age 16 seasons. What I find more promising is that 50 percent of his matches went to at least play one entire season in the Liiga or NHL. Even then, 79.3% of his matches played in the Metsis or above. Lisowski appears to have a strong chance at being a very impactful player in Finland or worldwide. 

32 – Jakub Worwa (F), 23, Podhale Nowy Targ (47, +15) 

Jakub Worwa is a player I have watched the past few years, waiting for a season when he finally put it all together. This year, he scored five goals and assisted on six in 31 games. Podhale Nowy Targ was in a rough state for 2022, and his point total was fifth among forwards on the squad. The Italy-born forward posted a point per game average of .36. Which was the highest of his career and the fourth best among U23 skaters in the PHL.

Worwa goal vs. GKS Tychy PHL

When looking at production comparables for the PHL only, most of his matches have gone on to post career point per game averages of around .40 in the PHL. At this point, a middle-six forward in Poland seems to be his ceiling. It will be interesting to see where he ends up for next PHL season.

31 – Miłosz Noworyta (D), 23, Unia Oswiecim, (30, -1

Noworyta has now appeared in the PHL in parts of seven seasons. He has only become a full-time PHL defenseman in the past few seasons. This year was a new career high in games played with 52 games. In his fifty-plus games, he recorded three assists, which is also a career-high in points. The stay-home defenseman plays his role well but still finds himself in Oswiecim’s bottom pairings. The floor is a bottom-six defender in Poland, and he will have a long line of stay-at-home defenders to beat to rise the ranks.

Noworyta primary assist vs. Zagłębie Sosnowiec PHL

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!

5 Players to Watch on Poland’s U18 Team

In 2019, the Polish U18 pulled off a perfect performance at the 2019 Division 2 Group A U18 World Championships. The team scored 36 goals while only allowing four in route to an excellent 5-0 record. Unfortunately, after two years in a row of the lower division U18 World Championships being canceled, we never got to see some of the team defend their gold and promotion to Division 1 Group B. It will be an all-new roster for Poland at the U18s, with zero of the squad having any previous U18 IIHF experience.

Poland will face some prominent opponents, as they will match up with the under 18 squads from Austria, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, and Ukraine. It will be an interesting test to see how the Polish U18 program has grown since 2019. Poland did make it back to Division 1 in 2017 but was promptly relegated back to the second division. Now the goal for this team will be to stay in Division 1. This team will be led by former national team member and long-time GKS Tychy forward Łukasz Sokół, making his IIHF head coaching debut. His assistants will be Adam Bagiński, Tomasz Kowalczyk, and Sebastian Owczarek. Bagiński is a current GKS Tychy assistant coach, and long-time player, while Kowalczyk is the former women’s U18 head coach. The well-experienced staff should help these young players compete and potentially catch the eyes of scouts. With that in mind, here are five players to watch at the U18s for Poland.

Adrian Gromadzki

A big scoring winger performing well in the Czech junior system is pretty uncommon for Poland. Gromadzki produced strongly in Poland, so he moved to Germany. He played great in Germany, so he moved to Czechia. He is a player whose stock continues to rise, as he just scores no matter where he goes. His ten points in 29 Czech U20 games is the first time he is not a point per game player in his career. Though he did post 26 points in 20 Czech U20 2 games. I have no doubt Gromadzki should be able to post some big numbers at the IIHF U18s.

Aleks Menc

Menc long looked like Poland’s next top hockey prospect after some ridiculous numbers at the young levels of Polish hockey and representing Poland at the youth Olympics. After some impressive years for his age at the top junior levels of hockey in Poland, Menc moved over to Sweden. Playing in the second level of Swedish U18 hockey, Menc has posted 18 points (12G-6A-18PTS) in 34 games. While not eye-popping numbers, they rank third on his squad. This will be our first chance to see the talented center on the IIHF level.

Blazej Chodor

Chodor has been tearing it up in Poland for a while now, and he does it as a 16-year-old defenseman. He posted the second-most points of all 16-aged players in the MHL while adding eight more points in just 17 games with Poland U16 in the Czechia junior system. It will be great to see the talented offensive defenseman at the U18s and against tough competition. He possesses the size scouts love already at 6’2, and would be my pick for the player to most interest scouts around Europe.

Krystian Lisowski

We don’t see many Polish prospects play in Finland, which is no surprise given how high the level of hockey is in the country. Lisowski has made himself at home in the Finnish junior ranks, scoring 38 points (26G-12A-36PTS) in 44 games with Kiekko-Espoo U18 Ch. Kiekko-Espoo plays in the top level of the Finnish junior ranks, where Lisowski’s point total ranks seventh among 16-year-old skaters. The Sanok native also played one game in the top U20 league, where he scored a goal.

Krzysztof Macias

It is not very often that Poland has two studs in one junior league outside of Poland. Macias has been a force in Czechia while playing most of his junior career there. At only 17-years-old, the Polish winger posted 36 points (14G-22A-36PTS) in 48 games with HC Vitkovice U20. This was tied for 65th among all skaters in the league while being tied for 11th among U18 skaters. It is a similar production range to some members of Czechia U18, who play in the IIHF’s elite division. Macias also has IIHF experience, as he represented Poland at the 2021 U20 World Championships, recording two assists.

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_.