Another PHL season is in the books. It was a historic one as Katowice took home the Championship for the first time in 52 years. The Silver medal went to Unia Oswiecim, who made it to the finals for the first time since 2005. Last year’s championships, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, had to settle for bronze, while constant contenders Krakow and Tychy went home with nothing. It indeed was a changing of the guard season potentially in Poland. That change may continue as a few teams will have significant roster shake-ups.
As the war in Ukraine continues, it is unlikely that many Belarusian and Russian free agents will be brought back or into the PHL. Cracovia announced they will not be carrying any Russian players next year after having 12 on their Continental Cup-winning roster. We will see a lot more Poles as well in the PHL, with most imports now likely coming from Czechia, Finland, and Slovakia. We may also see the import level rise as many players won’t be venturing into Russia or Belarus’ top leagues next year. On top of all that, it will be interesting to see who is at the helm of each club; we already know Tom Coolen won’t be returning to Oswiecim.
With all that happening in Poland, there are always a few players who leave Poland after the season. Polish national team defensemen Oskar Jaśkiewicz already left for Sweden after Sosnowiec was eliminated from the playoffs. Last year, we saw Dominik Pas, Jan Soltys, and Kamil Walega try their hand abroad in Czechia and Slovakia. While Pas and Soltys returned home, Walega became an essential player for HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas. Here are a few players that should attempt to follow in their footsteps.
Probably the most obvious one on the entire list. Bukowski broke out this year in the PHL with 29 goals in 45 games. This was tied for the second-most goals by a player in their age 21 season, the most since Kacper Guzik scored 29 in 2015. Bukowski is no stranger to playing outside of Poland, as he played a majority of his junior career in Czechia and Switzerland. His stock will never be higher than it is this season, and it would probably be the best for him to take a shot outside Poland after being the third-best goal scorer in Poland.
A big reason why I would want Bukowski to take the jump now is you never know how the next season will shake. Krężołek was the last young player to put up eye-popping goal numbers after scoring 37 goals between the 2020 and 2021 seasons. In 2022, he only managed 12 goals as a stacked GKS Katowice won a championship. He really turned it up in the playoffs, where in just 16 games he scored five of his goals and added eight assists. He has the size and ability to play outside Poland and maybe hit his ceiling in Katowice.
One of the better puck-moving defensemen in Poland, the 25-year-old Tomasik, has played the last two years on a poor Podhale squad. He has also seen his production dip from his U23 seasons. In 2018 alone, he posted 27 points, compared to just 11 points over the past two years. He did miss most of the season in 2021, but still only two points in 15 games. Already represented by Hockey Progress Management, which has given plenty of other Poles chances abroad, it may be time for the former national team defenseman to try a new location to refresh his career.
A bit of a cheat here, as we have Polish Candian Christian Mroczkowski. Mroczkowski has a great story of coming to Poland on a try-out from USports and becoming one of the most dominant power forwards in the country. He also gained Polish citizenship and began to represent Poland internationally. Since Robert Kalaber took the head coaching reign, Mroczkowski has been left off most national team rosters. He has proved himself in Poland with 173 points in 154 games. Rumors already suggest he gets plenty of offers to go abroad, and if the national team is not going to utilize him, it may be time to take one.