Tag: GKS Tychy

The Most Interesting Import on Every PHL Team

Every year there are fresh faces in the PHL. Sometimes import signings are big-name players with NHL or KHL experience, while others are from lower North American or European minor leagues looking to take the next step in their careers. Some become team staples, while others are gone in less than a month. I always enjoy checking out every import signing in the PHL. Today I wanted to look at each team’s most interesting new foreign player—keyword interesting, not the most impactful or best signing. 

Cracovia Krakow – Ben Blood

Ben Blood is an American defenseman with an impressive resume. In 2007, he was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round of the NHL entry draft. He would then spend four years at the University of North Dakota. Following his college career, he would bounce around the North American minor league system, playing 80 AHL games and 50 ECHL games. He would primarily play in Liiga starting in 2015 and, in total, appeared in 300 Liiga games. The 6’4 defensemen spent last year in Austria in the ICEHL. The physical defenseman will surely be a force in the PHL this season. 

GKS Katowice – Shigeki Hitosato

Hitosato is only the third Japanese player to appear in Poland, and he was very impressive at the World Championships that Poland hosted earlier this year. Over the past three seasons, the 5’6 forward has been one of the top producers for the Tohoku Free Blades in the Asia League and Japan Cup. The Tomakomai native was the captain of the Japan U20 squad and has since transitioned into one of the top scorers for the Japanese senior team. He already scored his first PHL goal two games into the year. 

GKS Tychy – Alexander Younan

Finding good defensemen is more challenging than finding skilled forwards. Younan already has 228 games in the Hockey Allsvenskan and spent one season in the SHL. That kind of resume is not something you commonly find in the PHL. He is only the ninth defenseman to play in the PHL after playing at Sweden’s top level. Last year was his first year outside of Sweden, and he spent it in the ICEHL. 

JKH GKS Jastrzebie – Bence Bálizs

With Patrik Nechvátal retiring, there was a need for a new number one in Jastrzebie. The new netminder came from an unlikely source in one of Poland’s biggest rivals in Hungarian Bence Bálizs. The Hungary national team goalie has spent his entire career in his home country, playing in the national league and for Hungarian teams competing in the ICEHL and Tipos Extraliga. You don’t see many players take their first trip abroad during their age 32 seasons. The five-time Hungarian league Champion is only the fifth Hungary-born player to play in the PHL. 

KH Torun – Ervīns Muštukovs

Ervīns Muštukovs is the definition of a journeyman goalie. The 38-year-old has played in 13 professional leagues for 20 teams. He has represented Latvia at the Elite Division of the World Championship and reached the KHL with Latvia’s Dinamo Riga. Not only is he the clubs’ goalie, but he will also serve as goaltending coach for Torun’s MHL team. He is adding another two things to one of the longest resumes I have ever seen in hockey. 

Podhale Nowy Targ – Lukáš Hvila

Lukáš Hvila is a legend in Slovakia’s top league. He has the fifth most games played in league history, with 969 games over 19 seasons. The 40-year-old hasn’t just played in his home country either. He made stops in Czechia, France, Kazakhstan, and Slovenia. That longevity as a player is extremely impressive. A couple of months into this year, he will turn 41 and play his first season in Poland. It also is his 24th season of playing professional hockey.  

STS Sanok – Vladislav Lysenko

Vladislav Lysenko has a unique history in international hockey. The defenseman was born in Ukraine but developed in the Russian junior system. His time in Russia led to him eventually representing the Russia U18 team at the IIHF U18s and Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. He has played in his birth country for the past two seasons and has not represented Russia since 2013. It’s an interesting background, given Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine. This invasion led to Russians being pretty much blocklisted from the PHL. The 27-year-old defenseman has spent most of his career in Russia’s second league, the VHL, but has appeared in five KHL games. 

Unia Oswiecim – Pavel Padakin

Ukrainian hockey had fallen a bit in a similar way to Polish hockey. Not many high-end players, but Pavel Padakin broke through the ceiling most Ukrainians faced. The Kyiv native worked his way up in Ukraine and earned a chance in the USA’s NAHL. He got noticed in the NAHL and would be drafted in the CHL import draft by the Calgary Hitmen. Following his junior career, he would attract the attention of the Philadelphia Flyers and sign with their American Hockey League club. After one year in the AHL, he would head to Russia and sign to the KHL. He would play in the KHL from 2016 to 2021, recording 76 points in 206 games, and earning all-star game honors in 2018. 

Zaglebie Sosnowiec – Nikita Butsenko

Our last team didn’t bring in a lot of imports and is among the leaders in Polish players in the PHL. A lot of their imports are also familiar faces to PHL fans. One of those is Nikita Butsenko, who returns to Poland for the third time. The 32-year-old center has split his career between Ukraine and Poland, along with one season in Romania. He has recorded 77 points in 110 PHL games with Polonia Bytom and Sosnowiec. Butsenko is a leader of the Ukrainian national team and has always received interest from Polish teams every offseason.

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2022-23 PHL Standing Predictions

The hockey season is officially in full swing. The season finally starts after a crazy offseason involving wars complicating players and teams, teams backing out and then backing in, and everything else in Polish hockey. This year, in my opinion, should continue to show the strength of the PHL and how it has improved. That should already be seen across Europe with last year’s champions, GKS Katowice, beating the runner-ups of Switzerland, ZSC Lions. Will they repeat as champions, or will a new team take the crown?

9. Podhale Nowy Targ

Podhale will most likely be repeating as the worst team in the PHL. But this time, it is not an easy guess. Podhale is much better this year, especially with the additions of Kevin Lindskoug and Martin Przygodzki. Last year, Podhale won only three games, so their one win in four games this year is a promising sign. New head coach Juraj Faith has a lot of challenges to face, but they have done a solid job of assembling a roster of PHL veterans, young talent, plus quite a few random imports. While I think they will finish last in the PHL, I don’t believe they’ll be as bad as the last-place teams of the past.

8. Zaglebie Sosnowiec

Zaglebie Sosnowiec had an up-and-down off-season, which is how this season will probably go. I see them finishing in eighth place, where they were last year. Much of that will come down to how Patrik Spesny and Sebastian Lipinski perform in net. Spesny had a rough year in Sanok last season, while Lipinski has never had extended PHL playing time. The offseason additions of Jakub Witecki and Nikita Butsenko will be relied on heavily for the offense. I like what they’re doing on defense with some young additions that will finally get big chances. I approve of where they are going, but it is just not a winning team right now.

7. STS Sanok

Sanok had the roughest offseason of any team. Not due to anything with roster building, but their main sponsor’s building burned down. They originally had to back out of the PHL due to funding but were saved just a minute before midnight. The team brought in a whole new batch of Finnish players who will once again be relied on as team leaders. Ville Heikkinen has the potential to be a really solid producer while getting Kalle Valtola from GKS Katowice should really help on the backend. Unfortunately, losing the PHL’s leading scorer Jakub Bukowski and Radoslaw Sawicki is something I don’t think they added enough to overcome. In the third straight repeat, I have Sanok finishing seventh.

6. KH Torun

I have KH Torun also repeating their place from last year. While not exciting, that is just the bottom of the PHL. Only three players from their top ten scorers are returning this year. The Kalinowski brothers will be relied on heavily to step up their production. While young, Mark Viitanen is a big-body forward and has a lot of potential to be an impactful winger. The strength of this team is on defense. The addition of Jakub Gimiński will be a major key to competing with top clubs, and I am really excited to see the sophomore year of Eryk Schafer. The true key will be how well veteran Latvian goalie Ervīns Muštukovs holds up in net. Depending on how young players produce or imports turn out, Torun could stun a few teams.

5. JKH GKS Jastrzebie

JKH GKS Jastrzebie is the top team to me that had the most disappointing offseason. In net, I am very wary of Bence Bálizs as the starting goalie taking over for Patrik Nechvátal. Vitālijs Pavlovs, who was a key player last year, was surprisingly dismissed this season after one game. The team brought the well-traveled Josef Mikyska to replace Pavlovs in that top center role. Mikyska should be close to a point-per-game player in the PHL. Losing Frenks Razgals, Martin Kasperlík, and Roman Rác hurts a lot, and the forwards they brought in the replace them doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The big news was being able to retain star forward Dominik Pas. A strong Polish core should keep them towards the top, but I don’t know about contending.

4. Cracovia Krakow

Cracovia’s roster strength might change since I don’t doubt one or two players might be here just for the Champion Hockey League games. Still it was quite the offseason for Poland’s New York Yankees as they raided other PHL teams of top forwards like Martin Kasperlík, Mateusz Michalski, Patryk Wronka, Radoslaw Sawicki, Robert Arrak, and Roman Rác. Combine that with talented imports including Jack Walker, Marek Račuk, and Vojtěch Polák, and it is hard to see Cracovia not having a top offense. They retained their strong defensive core based around Ales Jezek, Jakub Saur, and Jiri Gula, and I’m really intrigued by the addition of American Ben Blood. In net Rok Stojanovič and David Zabolotny should be more than enough to lead this team to a potential title.

3. Unia Oswiecim

Oswiecim has a chance to lead the league in goals for. The additions of the acclaimed North American duo Alex Szczechura and Mike Cichy should guarantee them two top scorers. Pavel Padakin also has a chance to make a major impact in the PHL this year. These new imports add to already established top forwards Krystian Dziubiński and Teddy Da Costa who should lead the charge. Defense is not the strongest point of the team, but I really like the offensive potential of Pylyp Pangelov-Yuldashev from the back end, while veteran Latvian Aleksandrs Jerofejevs should provide stability. Linus Lundin is taking the starting role in goal, and while he boasts a .905 sv% in 106 HockeyAllsvenskan games, he has struggled with consistency in his career. The offensive firepower should be enough to carry this team to the top, with title dreams if they hold up defensively.

2. GKS Tychy

It feels like a season of transition for the former back-to-back champs. Last year, they finished fifth in the PHL and would lose in the bronze medal series. The team said goodbye to a lot of major imports and team leaders. Tyhcy brought in more than enough major replacements. National team members Bartosz Ciura, Filip Komorski, last year’s regular season goals leader Jakub Bukowski, and Oskar Jaśkiewicz all joined the team this offseason. Ondrej Sedivy and Roman Szturc should be solid imports addition to help the forward core. On the back end, getting Ciura back along with import Alexander Younan and Jaśkiewicz should be able to replace the losses there. Tomas Fucik has long been one of the best PHL goaltenders and I don’t see that changing. GKS Tychy is an easy pick to finish in the top two.

1. GKS Katowice

The reigning PHL champions did have a lot of talent stolen in the offseason, but I don’t see that preventing them from re-claiming their title. First, it starts in net, John Murray is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. They retained their national team core, which included Marcin Kolusz not returning to Podhale Nowy Targ after his loan last season. Niko Mikkola should also be an interesting addition to the team and give them an another offensive defensemen to pair on the power play with Kolusz.

Grzegorz Pasiut should continue to lead the team on the forward end, while Bartosz Fraszko and Patryk Krezolek are among the best young Polish forwards. Christian Blomqvist and Teemu Pulkkinen should be relied on heavily to produce. While Brandon Magee brings a lot of energy and should help drive play. Japanese forward Shigeki Hitosato was impressive at the Division 1 Group B World Championships, so I am excited to see what he is going to be in Poland. The team has to hope Igor Smal and Jakub Porkurat will take another step forward and contribute more offensively. It is hard to see the Champs not being the major favorite to repeat.

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Former Liiga Defender Olli Kaskinen Signs with GKS Tychy

Another day, another Finnish signing in the PHL. GKS Tychy has added to their defense with former Liiga defensemen Olli Kaskinen. He is the 14th Fin to sign in Poland this offseason.

The 23-year-old defender was a pretty decent prospect in Finland. He developed in the TPS junior system. He also represented team Finland at quite a few non-IIHF junior events. In 2018, he started playing at the senior level with TPS in the Liiga, playing 10 games while also playing 13 games in the Mestis on loan to TUTO Hockey. He would spend the entire 2019 season in the Liiga, playing in 53 games and recording two goals and three assists. Kaskinen would lose his role in the top league and mainly play in the U20 league over the following two seasons. He played in 79 Liiga games while putting up two goals and four assists. He spent the 2022 season away from Finland for the first time. He played in Italy in the Alps Hockey League. In 44 games with Cortina, he posted 28 points (6G-22A-28PTS).

GKS Tychy has seen a significant shift this offseason on defense. Kaskinen is the fifth defender added to the squad this offseason. The team is looking to get back to championship glory. The young Finnish defender is going to be an exciting addition. His experience sticks out on his resume, and Tychy must be hoping it will make the young defender a crucial part of their defense.

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Swedish Defenseman Alexander Younan Joins GKS Tychy

GKS Tychy is getting close to finishing a busy offseason and has added their eighth defensemen to the roster in Swede Alexander Younan. Younan signed a one-year agreement with the club, and he is the fifth import to join the former back-to-back champions this offseason.

Younan was a highly regarded defensive prospect in Sweden during his junior time. He represented the Swedish U18 team at the IIHF U18 World Championships and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. The 6’1 defenseman played in the HV71 junior system before his final junior season with Frolunda in 2016. In 2017, he turned professional, signing with Rögle BK. He would spend the first year of the deal in the HockeyAllsvenskan but would reach the SHL in 2018. In his lone season with the top Rögle BK team, he would play in 46 games, recording seven points (3G-4A-7PTS). Starting the following season, the Jönköping native played for Västerås IK in the Allsvenskan for three seasons. The 25-year-old spent last year with Orli Znojmo in the ICE Hockey League. For his Allsvenskan career, he has played in 228 games and posted 19 goals, 37 assists, and only 40 penalty minutes.

A player with his resume is rare to see in the PHL, and he will be only the 27th player to have played in the SHL to appear in the PHL. For Tychy, Younan is likely the most significant defensive addition of the offseason in what has been a busy one for the club. Only two defensemen regularly in the 2022 lineup are returning for 2023. Tychy also added national team denders Bartosz Ciura and Oskar Jaśkiewicz, and Slovakia import Emil Bagin.

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GKS Tychy Signs Two Junior Players to First Contracts

As GKS Tychy continues its preparations for the 2023 season, it has added to the team’s depth by signing two junior players to their first professional contacts. Defensemen Karol Sobecki and goalie Mateusz Kubiaczyk both agreed to terms with the team. Both players are expected to mainly play in the MHL.

Goalie Mateusz Kubiaczyk will be serving as the team’s third goaltender this year behind starter Tomas Fucik and backup Kamil Lewartowski. The 18-year-old goalie started for MOSM Tychy last year. In 12 games, he posted a .859 save percentage with a 1-6 record as a starter. He played for Tychy at the CLJ Finals and at the U18 level.

Karol Sobecki will turn 17-years-old when the season gets underway. The young defensemen played in 26 MHL games, scoring three goals and assisting on three. He also made his PHL debut during the playoffs appearing in a single match for GKS Tychy. He also represented Poland at the Division 1 Group B U18 World Championships, posting 3 points (2G-1A-3PTS) in 5 games. His father, Arkadiusz Sobecki, was a longtime GKS Tychy goalie, winning one PHL Championship and four Polish Cups. After retiring, the elder Sobecki worked as Tychy’s goaltending coach from 2016 to 2022. He now serves in the same role for GKS Katowice and Poland’s national team.

GKS Tychy looks to get back to championship-winning ways after falling to the bronze medal game the past two seasons. While both Kubiaczyk and Sobecki likely won’t play a PHL role next season for the team, they are part of Tychy’s great youth talent pool right now.

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Filip Starzyński Re-Signs With GKS Tychy

GKS Tychy is getting close to finishing off their offseason and now has re-signed a leader of their bottom six. Starzyński has re-upped on a one-year pact with Tychy, and it will be his second season with GKS Tychy.

The 29-year-old Warszawa native is considered one of the best defensive forwards in Poland and is acclaimed in the faceoff circle. Last year he recorded two goals and one assist in 38 games. He also represented Poland at the Olympic Qualifiers and Division 1 Group B World Championships. Before signing with Tychy, he spent three seasons with GKS Katowice. For his career, he has 48 points (26G-22A-48PTS) in 176 games. Before that, he played for four years at Northern Michigan University in the NCAA.

GKS Tychy continues to build its roster with championship ambitions, and 2012 was the first time the team failed to win a medal. While retaining most of their core, the team did add Polish national team members Filip Komorski and Jakub Bukowski, along with imports Alexandre Boivin and Ondrej Sedivy.

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Canadian Alexandre Boivin Joins GKS Tychy

A new North American is joining the PHL, Canadian Alexandre Boivin has signed with GKS Tychy. Tychy signed Boivin to a one-year deal as a team looks to get back to their championship-winning ways. The center finished ninth last year in assists with 33 in France’s Ligue Magnus.

The 27-year-old from Canada’s capital has spent the last two seasons in France’s top league. Over the past two years, he has recorded 64 points (20G-44A-64PTS) in his 63 games. His 33 assists last season were the ninth most in the league. Before moving over to France, Boivin had played four years for Carleton Univ. in Canada. He split his junior hockey days between the Québec Remparts in the QMJHL and with two teams in the CCHL.

The playmaking center should instantly fill a big hole in the GKS Tychy lineup. The former back-to-back Polish championship said goodbye to long-time North American forwards Alex Szczechura and Mike Cichy. Szczechura was tied in the lead for assists on GKS Tychy with 31.

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Bartosz Ciura and Filip Komorski Sign With HC Ocelari Trinec

I have had players tell me before that some foreign clubs don’t sign Polish players due to the poor reputation of Polish hockey. One team that is certainly not scared to take a chance on Polish talent is HC Ocelari Trinec. The club of Aron Chmielewski has added a pair of players from GKS Tychy in Bartosz Ciura and Filip Komorski per Hokej.net. Both players have signed one-year deals that will have them splitting time between HC Ocelari Trinec and HC Frydek-Mistek.

Bartosz Ciura is a stay-at-home defenseman with some physical chops. The 28-year-old captained team Poland at the three seas tournament, where he recorded three assists in three games. The three-time Polish champion with GKS Tychy recorded one goal and four assists this year in 46 games. He has played for Tychy since 2016.

Filip Komorski also joined the squad and is one of the most underrated Polish forwards, in my opinion. The sniper from Warszawa is one of the best goal scorers for the Polish national team, recording two goals at the three seas tournament. Since 2013, when Komorski debuted in the PHL, he is eighth in goals with 153. This included 20 goals and 20 assists in 45 games this year with GKS Tychy.

Both players are more than likely to start the year with HC Frydek-Mistek. HC Ocelari Trinec is one of the best clubs in the Czech Republic, winning the Tipsport Extraliga championship in 2021. They are technically back-to-back champs since no champion was awarded in 2020. HC Frydek-Mistek finished 14th in the Czech second league this past season. This is their fourth straight season where the club missed the playoffs. Bartosz Ciura and Filip Komorski are the third and fourth Polish players to sign abroad this year. Previously, Filip Stopinski signed with IceFighters Leipzig, and Michael Luba re-upped with Cholet.

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One Young Player To Watch on Every PHL Team

The PHL season is fully underway. With plenty of teams facing a COVID-19 related cut to their roster. This left plenty of roster spaces open for young players to earn. COVID-19 also caused PZHL U23 to be left out of the plans for the hockey year. It also left many players without a way to play a sizable amount of games in the PHL, which is an excellent development experience. If a player were going to get meaningful minutes in the PHL, they would have to prove it to their clubs’ coach that they are ready to contribute in the league.

I think those conditions make it the perfect time to check in on the young talent for each PHL club. I also am setting a goal to pick players that are not as traditionally regarded as a top player. Sure Dominik Pas is a great young player, but he has also been in the PHL for years now. So I am setting a rule of less than 50 PHL games coming into the year.

Cracovia KrakowPatryk Gosztyla. In the past couple of years, Krakow started to make an apparent effort in bringing in young talent. Gosztyla was part of that initial group. The 6’2 defensemen got a bit lost in the shuffle in 2019 after returning to Poland from the Slovak junior system. This year though, he has cemented himself as part of the Krakow defensemen lineup, already topping his games played total from last year. The 20-year-old also has posted five points (1G-4A-5PTS) in six games in the Polish second league. Honorable Mention: Igor Augustyniak

GKS Tychy – Kacper Gruźla. Gruźla had a breakout year last year in the Polish second league. This earned him a long term spot with PZHL U23 and an appointment to the Polish U20 squad. This year he has run with it playing in six games for GKS Tychy. Since then, he has already impacted the boxscore, recording two goals and two assists. If the 6’1 forward continues his upward trend, he could find himself with a larger PHL and national team role. Honorable Mention: Jan Krzyżek

JKH GKS Jastrzębie – Dawid Wróblewski. Jastrzebie has the most young talent of any team in Poland. With that, a lot of the talent has already played more than 50 games, as a lot of the talent has long been promoted to the PHL. Wróblewski saw a lot of action across different Polish junior teams putting up solid production wherever he went. This year, with Jastrzębie not having a team in Poland’s second league, the 6’4 forward was loaned to Polonia Bytom. There he has put up six goals and six assists in eight games. He should be able to start trying to force his way into the Jastrzebie roster. Honorable Mention: Marcin Płachetka

KH GKS Katowice – Maciej Miarka. Miarka joined the Katowice squad after seeing the logjam of goalies in Jastrzebie. In Katowice, the former Poland U18 and U20 goalie should play quite a few games in the PHL this year. In Katowice, the Łódź native will be backing up veteran Slovakian goalie Juraj Šimboch. So far, in two PHL games this season, the 6’1 goalie has a .912 SV%. Including stopping all seven shots, he faced in relief against defending champs GKS Tychy. Honorable Mention: Marcin Wyśnik

KH Energa Toruń – Oskar Bajwenko. Before we knew if this hockey year would go on at all, Toruń had a team mostly of junior players with a few imports and returning veterans. One of the few junior players from that group to earn a contract was Oskar Bajwenko. Bajwenko is a smaller defenseman but not afraid to go into the corners and get physical. He has received a small amount of junior national team consideration. He is a project. He could develop into a tremendous physical defenseman with two-way abilities. He has only played in one game so far in the PHL, but with the start the club has had this season, it is understandable they may not want to change up the lineup. Honorable Mention; Filip Mazurkiewicz

Podhale Nowy Targ – Ernest Bochnak. Nowy Targ came into this season, emphasizing finding new Polish talent and has already tried out quite a few new young players. This includes Ernest Bochnak. Bochnak comes over after time in the Czech and Finnish junior systems. Last year he played most in the third level of Czech hockey, recording two goals and four assists in twenty-two games. Bochnak has long been one of the best Polish junior players. He now has a chance to show that in Podhale. Through eight games, he has two points notching both a goal and an assist. Honorable Mention: Fabian Kapica

Stoczniowiec Gdansk – Michał Zając. I have many feelings about the club and how they will be as a place for developing young talent. The team will undoubtedly provide a lot of value to young players in terms of ice time. Zając is taking advantage of that, playing in each of the team’s games so far. In those ten matches, he has recorded one goal and three assists. This matches his production from last year with PZHL U23 but in a much smaller role. He is making the most of his opportunities. The 6’1 forward would have easily made the Polish U20 squad if not for COVID. Honorable Mention: Bartosz Wołoszyk

STS Sanok – Jakub Bukowski. Sanok is one of the youngest teams in the PHL, leaving many options for this choice. For their pick, I went with Jabuk Bukowski as he is probably the most pro hockey ready. He showed up well in the pre-season and has done well so far in the regular season. He has three goals and one assist. His point total is tied for third on Sanok. The talented forward showed a lot of potential in smaller Czech and Swiss leagues and now has a great chance to show his skills in Poland. He has been given many top line chances in Sanok, giving him an excellent opportunity to develop further. Honorable Mention: Maciej Witan

Unia Oswiecim – Sebastian Lipiński. While I tried to pick less known players for this list, the gap between Lipiński and the rest of the Oswiecim roster was too big. Lipiński is one of the best young goaltenders Poland has seen in a long time, with few rarely even able to play the amount of PHL games he has at his age. So far, in his lone game this season, he posted a 15 save shutout vs. Gdansk. Honorable Mention: Patryk Kusak

Zaglebie Sosnowiec – Marcel Kotuła. Sosnowiec is another team packed with a lot of young talent, but most of their young talent are seasoned veterans of the PHL. As mentioned in Lipinski’s paragraph, young goalies don’t get those chances in the PHL. This season Marcel Kotuła will compete with 24-year-old Michal Czernik for reps. Last year Kotuła led all goalies in save percentage for the Polish first league. So far through four games between the PHL and Polish first league, he has a .917 SV% along with one shutout. Honorable Mention: Szymon Luszniak

Polish Puck’s 2020-21 PHL Predictions: Bronze and Silver

The PHL continues, and so do our PHL predictions. We are now at the final three teams that all earn a nice shiny medal. Depending on how you look at it, these medals can be a huge disappointment. The silver meaning you finished second just a couple wins away from winning it all. While a bronze win means you didn’t even make the championship. For our rankings, that Bronze is a step back.

3. GKS Tychy

2019-20 Finish: 1st

The PHL will have a new champion, and it feels insane to be predicting that. On paper, the offseason went as good as it could. They retained the three-headed North American monster of Alex Szczechura, Christian Mroczkowski, and Mike Cichy. Goaltender John Murray once again is holding down the fort in net. While the team added further Canadians in Jason Seed and Jean Dupuy. Ladislav Havlík and Szymon Marzec also joined after solid years in Gdansk. The most significant addition though, was one of the best Polish players on the planet in Patryk Wronka.

So why am I not repeating them as the champions. Because those significant additions are about all that is left on a team that has become a bit stale. They’re not bad by any means, but everyone keeps getting better and better. While GKS Tychy has just slightly altered their roster year by year, sometimes a little better, sometimes a little worse. Murray is a great goalie but beatable, as seen by his beginning five-game stretch to start this PHL season. Their defense is not that good still. It is more offensive focused, but they lost three critical defensemen from last year, and I would say they only replaced two of them.

On the offensive side, they have the big North American trio, Wronka, and Koromski. After that, depth is a bit dry. Jean Dupuy is an interesting import. He struggled in the EIHL but excelled in the Ligue Magnus. Something that doesn’t bold well based on past imports. Bartłomiej Jeziorski and Mateusz Gościński still really haven’t taken the next step in their hockey development, leaving a bit to be desired on the production end. Szymon Marzec is coming off a career year in Gdansk, but I would bet he doesn’t match that production.

On the bright side, there is a wealth of young talent in the GKS Tychy system. This is something that hasn’t been common in past years. In net, both Kamil Lewartowski and Jakub Zawalski have a lot of potential. Each of them has a chance to be a starter in the PHL eventually. Olaf Bizacki has been on my favorite defensive prospects for a bit now. His short stature is always going to limit his ceiling a bit. He has a strong way two-game, and if the offensive side keeps improving, he will find himself on the national team radar. Kacper Gruźla, Jan Krzyżek, and Mateusz Ubowski all appear to be close to being PHL regulars. Ubowski shows a lot of promise to be a great PHL player.

The team is at the top of the PHL mountain, there is no higher to climb, but that just means other teams are climbing and approaching the top of the mountain.

Role: The King Must Fall

2. JKH GKS Jastrzebie

2019-20 Finish: 4th

JKH GKS Jastrzebie is one of the teams that felt like it hasn’t experienced that many shake-ups in recent years. This year though, the team had a major shakeup, and it appears to put them in an excellent position to win a PHL championship finally. Artem Iossafov, Henrich Jabornik, Jesse Rohtla, and Ondrej Raszka all departed the club. Losing Raszka had to be the hardest as he is one of the best goalies the PHL has seen in a long time. The team responded to these losses with some of the most significant transactions, possibly in PHL history.

The first was bringing home Polish national team defensemen Mateusz Bryk after a few years in GKS Tychy. Bryk is the perfect piece to solidify a strong defensive presence in the team’s top 4. The team filled their void in net with former longtime EBEL starter Patrik Nechvatal. Marek Hovorka was the next to join on a two-year pact. Hovorka has been a great player in both the top leagues of Czechia and Slovakia. A highly respected player, his signing was some pretty positive attention for the PHL. Following Hovorka was another Slovak, Roman Rác, having shown a lot of production potential in Czechia.

Just before the season started, they made two more big additions. Jiří Klimíček was first added to shore up the defensive end. He represented the Czech Republic at the U18s and has been a solid player in France the past couple of years. Next was former Minnesota Wild 2011 NHL first-round pick, Zack Phillips. Phillips had a couple of decent years to start his AHL career but never seemed to take well to North American pro hockey. He has shown much more potential in smaller European leagues. He currently is an early pick to take the PHL scoring title.

JKH GKS Jastrzebie is the team that all PHL clubs should strive to be, and no one is ever going to come close to matching their young talent. The time for them to strike is now, as that young talent maybe soon leaving for larger leagues. The defense remains one of the best in the league, which should help some small uncertainties in the net. The offense is going to be so exciting this year. Phillips already has nine points in four games. The young talent is all there and healthy. I’m excited to see how Jan Soltys does in his return after missing most of last year.

So why second place? There is no reason for them to be in second place. They have the depth that only one other PHL club has or can outmatch. I have small concerns about the goaltending situations, but I think they will be more than adequate in net based on early performances. If it isn’t this year, JKH GKS Jastrzebie will win the title soon. Even if they lose a couple of young players, they have more waiting for their shot.

Role: Perennial Contenders

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