Tag: Christian Mroczkowski

The First Test for Kalaber Comes With Questionable Choices

1 year, 1 month, and 27 days ago, Robert Kalaber was named the head coach of the Polish national team. On August 26th, 2021, the Slovakian coach will coach his first IIHF game for team Poland. During that time, we have seen quite a few national team games. These games have all come against pretty weak competition or depleted rosters. The biggest challenges being Hungary and Latvia U23. It was thought his first test would be getting Poland back to the World Championship Group A. Instead, he will have to finish what Tomek Valtonen started with Poland’s path to the Olympics. 

This is the second time in a row that Poland has pulled off an upset in the third round of qualification and earned a shot at the final qualification round. In 2016, Poland lost three straight games as they were expected to. The final scores of those games were 6-1 Slovenia, 5-3 Belarus, and 5-2 Denmark. While not the greatest results. These games were all somewhat close, with Poland even holding the lead over Belarus. 

Poland once again is likely to lose all three games. Their opponents are going to be hard to break. You have team Austria that will be led by top NHL prospect Marco Rossi and a squad of players mostly playing back in Austria’s bet-at-home ICE Hockey League. Next up, you have a Belarus team that continues to improve, who will feature New Jersey Devils breakout star Yegor Sharangovich and an army of KHL talent. The final team and toughest opponent will be Slovakia, a roster featuring talent from all around the top leagues of Europe. 

These games’ goal will be to stay competitive, and who knows maybe they pull off a miracle upset in one of the games. So what is the strategy to do that? Do you go all out on the offensive end and try to outmatch them with firepower or at least fight fire with fire? Do you load up on the country’s best defenders and two-way forwards in the hope of establishing a strong defensive presence and capitalize on a few rare mistakes? 

There are plenty of ways to go, and it seems that Kalaber is taking the second route. When the Polish roster was announced there were three huge forwards missing. Damian Kapica (1st among Polish players in PPG), Radoslaw Sawicki (3rd in PPG), and Christian Mroczkowski (6th in PPG). The Polish squad later announced that Kapica would be missing due to a back injury, but what about two of Poland’s best goal scorers?

Kalaber talked to Hokej.net, saying, “Sawicki and Mroczkowski are offensive players who do better with the puck than without it. At this tournament, we must first and foremost defend ourselves effectively, because there will be players from the NHL and KHL in front of us.” He continued saying that “We are not building an offensive dream team, but the strongest team that will have to play under pressure with extremely demanding opponents. That is why I gave up Radek and Christian and selected forwards who are better in defense than in attack.”

While I can understand the idea that the team will need to be strong defensively, I also have a problem with the final result of the roster. At the end of the day, Poland’s best defensive forwards will not create any match-up nightmares. At the same time, a physical power forward like Christian Mroczkowski could definitely raise some hell. It is hard to argue whom spots you would take away to add the Canadian with a Polish passport or Sawicki to the roster. I do feel you can create strong arguments for Filip Starzyński, Kamil Walega, Mateusz Michalski, and Martin Przygodzki. 

The strongest for Filip Starzyński. Starzyński is a player I believe would be highly debated if analytics were more established in the PHL. He is commonly praised for being strong in the faceoff dot and best in his own zone, but the offense is almost non-existent. Over the past two years, his .30 PPG in 102 games ranks 52nd among all Polish forwards, 163rd among all skaters. 

There is so much talent that is being left on the board. I can’t justify some choices in the idea they make Poland that much better defensively or harder to play against. In the first true test for Kalaber, when his goal is to stay competitive, it is a choice to go in without two forwards considered among the best in Poland. These are the choices that will help define his era and staff. We will have to see how it plays out.

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Three Seas Sweep. Five Thoughts Three Seas Tournament.

The return of five thoughts! I never thought that this year I was going to be able to write five thoughts. After a successful PHL season though, the PZHL hosted the three seas tournament. We got to see the Polish national team in action. Poland took on Estonia, Latvia U23 (or Latvia B, they had a few veterans), and Lithuania. Croatia was also supposed to play in this tournament but dropped out before the tournament began. 

The three seas tournament was an interesting challenge for Poland. It is the second national team event of the year after a couple of exhibition games against Hungary. The last time Poland played Estonia at the Worlds, they beat them 3-2 in OT. While Lithuania is a foe that had given Poland quite a bit of trouble recently. Then Latvia was the wild card. Latvia is a great hockey country that if not for their small size, I believe would be among the best in Europe. Their U23 or B team was a wildcard roster. The team was a mix of borderline Dinamo Riga players, Latvian league and MHL standouts, along with a few vets who played outside of Latvia. Could these wildcards pull off a crazy upset though against Poland? Let us find out! 

Bizacki Breakout

Developing top defensemen has and is still a big problem for Poland. For international tournaments, it is always fun to see which young players have made big strides. Olaf Bizacki took advantage of every opportunity at the three seas tournament. The 5’7 defenseman finished with one goal and three assists in two games. He has also earned himself a spot on Poland’s roster for the national team grouping during May in Slovenia. 

A Top Forward Import

As I was writing this piece it was announced that Kazkasthan added former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Viktor Svedberg to the national team. Poland has added a few forwards to the national team, but none had any major success. In his second appearance for the Polish national team, Christian Mroczkowski once again made an impact. This time recording one goal and two assists in three games. Poland appears to have a long-term impactful import with the Canadian winger. 

Zygmunt the New Prince? 

When a player plays overseas it can be hard sometimes to look at their stats and see them as a step ahead of a lot of Polish players. Zygmunt kinda fits that billing as his stats in the Tipsport Extraliga are not eye-popping. The physical big forward made a huge impact at the three seas tournament. He led team Poland in goals with four and added an assist on top. While his ceiling might have never thought to be as high as other Polish players he deserves to be in the discussion for the best U23 player. 

The Three-Headed Monster in Net.

In recent years, we have seen the national team have quite a few changes in goal. The latest change is Odrobny seemingly being no longer an option for the national team. The three-headed monster was set to be a two-headed one between Murray and Raszka. Murray is soon to be 34-years-old, and Raszka recently turned 31. The national team is going to need to find out who is next behind them. It seems they seem the answer to that is 25-year-old Michał Kieler. He played well at the three seas tournament and got a game earlier in Hungary. 

A Clean Sweep, But No True Test For Kalaber. 

Poland won each of these games, they beat Lithuania 8-1, Estonia 6-1, and then Latvia 4-1 to end it. All convincing victories against teams that really are not the greatest. This was an improvement on how they finished against Estonia at the last world championship Poland played in, but this was a downgraded roster. This was the correct result. This is what Poland needed to do. It really proves nothing though for the national team or Kalaber. They have a huge tournament with a chance to move on to the Olympics coming soon, I’m not saying Poland has to win that, but it needs to be competitive. We don’t really have a bar to see if Poland is better or worse so far under the current coaching staff. Hopefully, the Beat Covid-19 Cup in May will show us that. 

Minor Thoughts

  • Wronka is still the most fun player to watch in hockey and I will see no arguments otherwise. 
  • Pasuit is back in a Polish uniform and it’s good to see. Easily one of the best centers in the country. 
  • Unlucky injuries were a big story for Poland in this tournament, Oskar Jaskiewicz is going to be out for a bit, while Filip Starzynski missed the final games.

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_.

A Small Start To Quickly Becoming A Star in the PHL. Our Interview With GKS Tychy Forward Christian Mroczkowski

This offseason saw a brand new influx of North Americans in the PHL, thanks to the league doing away with import rules. There were many prominent North American free agents to make the jump to Poland, including ECHL All-star Mike Szmatula and former University of North Dakota goaltender Clarke Saunders. Podhale Nowy Targ brought in Canadian coach Phillip Barski. Barski brought in a few North Americans with the common thread of being players that they played in USports, the top Canadian college hockey league. GKS Tychy brought in one Usport player of their own in Christian Mroczkowski. Mroczkowski joining Tychy was not big news in Poland at the time. The Wellesley, Ontario native came to Poland on a try-out later earning a full deal after a strong camp. “My agent Rafal Omasta set it up for me, and I’m really happy I ended up signing here.

His first test in a GKS Tychy jersey would come in the Champions Hockey League as Poland took on Adler Mannheim (Deutsche Eishockey Liga) and Djurgården Stockholm (Swedish Hockey League). Two teams that are well above Poland on paper. “It was a good chance for us to play against the best teams in Europe, and we showed in a few of those games that we can compete with them and can beat them, it has prepared us well for the PHL this year.

Regardless of what you think of the Champions Hockey League as a hockey tournament, the one thing you can’t deny is their great social media presence and digital marketing efforts. There Christian Mroczkowski represented the team in social media videos.

He was also able to show his skills with the Polish language. “My parents taught it to me, and I have a lot of friends from home who speak polish too.” He is probably the first North American import I have seen that can speak Polish that well.

On the ice in the Champions Hockey League, the forward impressed Polish fans with his all-around skill. His offensive and physical efforts were often highlighted by Polish fans. “I would say I’m an offensive player who likes to be creative but can also play the North American style of hitting and defense on the penalty kill.” These skills have served him well as in his first eight PHL games. He has ten points (5-5-10) to start the season. That is good for the most on GKS Tychy and tied for the seventh-most in the league.

In GKS Tychy, that were four other North American teammates to start the season, now three as Mike Smaztula has departed. Americans John Murray and Mike Cichy, along with Canadian Alex Szczechura, have all become veterans of the PHL since signing in Poland during the early 2010s. “They have helped me a lot, especially in the beginning with getting settled here in Tychy.” The three North Americans also have another thing in common as they all obtained a Polish passport and have been able to represent Poland on the international stage. Given his heritage and deal in Poland, I had to ask the question of whether the national team was something he had thought about at all. “Yes, it is something I have thought about and hopefully, I have the chance to play for them one day, but right now, the focus is 100% on winning another championship with GKS Tychy.”

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“The Kings Are Not Being Dethroned” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: GKS Tychy

The back to back champions are on their way to a possible third straight title. The team was able to retain most of their championship core along with adding some big free agents. More young players should also be pushing to become major contributors. The rest of the PHL got a lot better during the offseason and this will certainly be a much more difficult season compared to their last two championship seasons. Will GKS Tychy pull off the three-peat or will a new king rise in the PHL?

Forwards 

Mike Szmatula – Alexei Yefimenko – Christian Mroczkowski

Gleb Klimenko Mike Cichy – Alex Szczechura

Bartlomiej Jeziorski – Filip Komorski  Mateusz Goscinski

 Jaroslaw Rzeszutko – Jakub Witecki – Radoslaw Galant

Other forwards: Adam Baginski, Patryk Kogut

This offense has too much talent and potential. Every line has the potential to produce at a high rate in the PHL. There is just too much talent it is almost absurd. It starts at the top with former ECHL all-star Mike Szmatula, based on his stats in the ECHL and NCAA, he is the biggest North American signing in league history. I wrote earlier about why he might have a chance to claim the PHL scoring record. Despite Szmatula having the more impressive resume, Christian Mroczkowski has been the North American player to hold the spotlight. Mroczkowski has played fast and physical and posted 8 points (4-4-8) in 6 PHL games, which is tied for the lead on GKS Tychy in scoring. Mike Cichy and Alex Szcechurea still make for one of the best duos in Poland, the two North Americans have now played with each other in Poland for five straight seasons. They should be among the top scorers in Poland as always. The best of the Polish players is Filip Komorski. The 27-year-old center is in his fifth year with GKS Tychy and has finished as one of the team’s best scorers each year. Last year, he had a standout performance at the World Championships for Poland. GKS Tychy also has some impressive young talent in Bartlomiej Jeziorski and Mateusz Goscinski. Both forwards are ready to be taking big steps in their professional careers and should be strong contributors. One of the top offenses in the league that is a threat no matter what line is on the ice.

Defensemen

Bartlomiej Pociecha – Michael Kolarz

Bartosz Ciura – Peter Novajovsky

Michal Kotlorz – Mateusz Bryk

Denis AkimotoAlexander Yeronov

Other defensemen: Olaf Bizacki

The defense doesn’t really have a clear identity like GKS Katowice does, rather there are plenty of different styles among its players. You have some very strong defensive only types that are not afraid to get physical if needed, two-way types that are strong passers and electric puck rushers, then game-changing offensive dominant defensemen. The defense features some of the best Polish players at the position on the planet and some of the strongest imports the league has. Bartlomiej Pociecha is a fantastic two-way player and he continues to increase his production in the PHL. He is the perfect type of player to be the leader of any defense. Mateusz Bryk is another prominent Polish player thanks to his strong defensive play, but has some decent skills on the offensive end. For his entire career, he has been a valuable part of some of the PHL’s best teams. The most prominent import to me is Peter Novajovsky. The veteran Slovak defensemen is in his fifth and potentially final year in the PHL, as he has expressed interest in returning to Slovakia. Since he arrived in Poland though, he has always been towards the top in defensive scoring and only two defensemen, Bartlomeij Pociecha and Maciej Kruczek, have more points. Both players also had a 50 game plus advantage on the 30-year-old Slovak. Olaf Bizacki is the young player on the defense that deserves to be highlighted. Watching him at junior events, you could see that he had the makings of a special player. Really sound at both ends of the ice and steadily improving. I think it is only a matter of time before he really makes a huge jump that is going to show he is a big part of the future of Poland on defense.

Goalies

John Murray 

Kamil Lewartowski

Jakub Zawalski

GKS Tychy has it really nice in net. John Murray is one of the best goaltenders in Poland and one of the most important national team players in the PHL. Murray now in his sixth season in Poland is looking for his fourth PHL Championship and will be a major part if GKS Tychy can pull off the three-peat. Behind Murray is two younger goalies in Kamil Lewartowski (21) and Jakub Zawalski (20) both goaltenders have the potential to one day be starters in the PHL. Kamil Lewartowski was able to play multiple games in the Championship Hockey League, where he performed well at times, but also seemed very overwhelmed at moments. Murray should continue to be one of the best in the PHL, while GKS Tychy is developing two potential replacements.

Prediction: 1st

There is just no stopping them. They will be the champions for the third straight year in my opinion. The PHL is getting better as a league and there are a lot of strides being taken to make it more competitive. It should be a great year and with many big changes, but the kings of the league are not being dethroned yet.

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