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.
The top 50 list continues to march on as the hockey season as already started. We are starting to hit the big names on the list. In this list, I separate players into four tiers based on their floors. The fourth and last tier are players ranked 80-50. These are players I feel will have a chance to make the PHL, but no guarantee. The third tier is players I think will have PHL careers but will not be your top-line players. The second tier is players I view with a chance to become top liners in Poland. The first and final tiers are your players I feel can be good players or stars outside of Poland. Right now, we are just about at the end of tier 3.
The next set of players are primarily big risers. Only two of the following ten players fell in our rankings. When I say big risers, I mean it as well. Some of the players next up are the players I underestimated the most. We got to see a majority of the players spend their entire season in the PHL.
Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty 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 report.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)
30 – Miłosz Noworyta (D), 22, Unia Oświęcim, (27, -3)
Noworyta has made appearances for Oswiecim for the past three years, working his way to a full-time roster member last season. This year, he still spent more than a majority of his time with the senior squad. But found himself mostly relegated to the fourth line of defense with his older brother. He also missed a few games and played a couple of matches at the MHL level. His defensive play is the most notable highlight of his game, while his offensive game is lacking. While with the team, Unia Oswiecim has become more and more of a force in the PHL. They have continued to bring in better defenders ahead of him, which has played a part in dampening his development.
29 – Konrad Filipek (F), 22, STS Sanok (32, +3)
Filipek has slowly been working his way up the Sanok system playing with the club in the MHL and third tier of Slovak hockey. Now this year, he finally got a full-time shot at the senior level of the PHL. He responded with a goal and five assists in 36 games. It was 6th among points for players his age. His late birthday allowed him to play at international events in Poland as one of the most mature players. Which always helped him stand out a bit. Now he is showing that was not the only reason why though. He does turn 22 in the middle of the season, he will need to show he belongs higher up the line up soon.
The Gdansk situation was not going to be an easy one for most players. A couple of players smashed it out of the park though, one of them was Krystian Mocarski. Mocarski had an excellent year for the blue and white in northern Poland. In total, he recorded eight goals and seven assists in 36 games. It was tied for 9th among U23 PHL players in terms of points, and his .42 PPG game average was 11th among U23 skaters. It was also second on all of Gdansk for points. Plus his total was also tied 44th among all Polish forward since the 2010 season in points per game. Next year Mocarski is moving to a much better Sanok team, and I’m excited to see how it goes.
27 – Jakub Blanik (F), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec (20, -7)
Last year Blanik went to Sosnowiec in search of more chances after he was deemed too small for JKH GKS Jastrzebie. It was a breakout year for the 5’7 forward who posted 7 points in 17 games with Sosnowiec, though he was also pointless in 13 games with PZHL U23. This year, he was scheduled to get a more significant role with Sosnowiec on their weaker roster. Blanik was one of the players that suffered from a watered down roster, as he posted a meager two goals and one assist in 31 games. His .10 point per game average was 30th among U23 PHL forwards. This was a rough year for a good player, who should be able to recover.
26 – Adrian Gromadzki (F), 17, HC Dynamo Pardubice U17 (NR)
Gromadzki would have been ranked last year if he met the age requirement. He was, unfortunately, playing in a Czechia junior system that shut down less than ten games in. He recorded three goals and four assists in his five games, Which were 9th among players in points per game that played five games in their draft-eligible -2 season. He has got the size and offensive touch that will get him attention outside Poland. He is set to play at the Czech U20 level next season.
25 – Jakub Bukowski (F), 21, STS Sanok (64, +36)
Bukowski has long been a good player for a long time abroad, but it was mainly in the second level of junior leagues in Czechia and Switzerland. Still, he has shown a lot of promise, and we put him as the U23 player to watch on Sanok. Bukowski delivered on that with five goals and six assists in 40 games. The second most points by a player in the draft-eligible +2 season. His ceiling is hard to tell, and he will need to continue to bulk up. The more time we get with him on Sanok, especially as the team improves, will help see what he can fully become. Right now, it appears his floor is a solid PHL middle-six forward.
24 – Sebastian Lipiński (G), 21, Unia Oswiecim (31, +7)
I think imports have a considerable place in Polish hockey, but there is no doubt that there is starting to be a problem with how few young goalies are playing. Lipiński is our top-ranked goalie who played four games in the PHL last year. He recorded a save percentage of .900, which is the highest of his career in the PHL. The rumors suggest that Lipiński will be playing in the U.K.’s NIHL, the second level of men’s hockey in the country. Not much else to say about it. There is a problem with Polish goalie development in a significant way. There is nowhere for them to play appropriately.
23 – Kacper Gruzla (F), 22, GKS Tychy (49, +26)
From barely making the top 50 to being right smack dab in the middle, Gruzla comes in at 23. Gruzla forced the Tychy staff to play him as much as possible. This was the first big taste of the PHL for the Mikolow native. He had previously played 14 games with PZHL U23, but only one with GKS Tychy. This year, he found himself with 22 games and responded with five goals and three assists. His nine points tied him for the 13th best point per game average among all U23 skaters, it is tied 9th among Polish players. Gruzla went from a young player looking to make an impression to a part of GKS Tychy’s everyday lineup.
Libik is a player I like a lot and I see a chance for Poland to have something their lineup often lacks. Which is a defenseman good enough to play in leagues stronger than the PHL. Libik worked his way up to the top junior leagues of Norway. In the end, his lack of experience, inconsistency, and quick changing of teams has resulted in a player with mixed development. This past year Libik managed a goal and an assist in seven games with Vålerenga U21, his third U21 junior team.
Now next year, he will be turning professional in Norways’ 2nd league. This is the perfect place for him to gain constant playing time against senior talent while developing. Hopefully, his flaws should not bite his game as much.
Bezwiński’s improvement seems to get larger and larger every year. As the soon-to-be 20-year-old finished 5th in points among U20 skaters with three goals and three assists in 19 games, it was 3rd in points per game. In the MHL, he recorded 12 points in nine games, which is a tad bit better point per game average than the previous year. This is a bit more notable because of how many players lost points from the year prior. Krakow has a large batch of young forwards; hopefully, Bezwiński’s growth rate continues. He no doubt would have been one of the leaders at the U20s this year for Poland.
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 Krakow – Patryk 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