Tag: Jakub Michalowski

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #9

This year was a pivotal year for Polish hockey. For many players that frequented the list last year or in the years past it was onto full-time professional hockey in Poland or testing their skills in another countries highest junior league, while plenty of players arose to challenge and cemented themselves as future pillars of the national team plenty of players couldn’t live up to their expectations causing drastic changes to the rankings.

This is not the time I wanted to start the list, as the World Championship and U18 World Championship are a great way for players to improve their stock, the U18 World Championship being the first significant exposure for a lot of players. Due to the coronavirus, there are no more tournaments, and hockey is done for the year. Polish hockey itself faces an uncertain future as the virus will leave a lasting effect for years to come.

The real world is a very dark and scary place right now, but I want to look forward to the future while stuck at home. The future of the Polish national team is something that fans should be excited about. I have maintained for years that Poland has more young talent right now then it did any other time this century. I still stand by that opinion today. Poland saw their ace prospect prove himself in professional North American hockey, another NHL draft prospect rise, and a vast increase in depth. Today we start our ranking of the top 50 Men’s U23 players in Poland.

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on March 27th, 2020. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While a majority of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. 140 players were considered for the list and scouted. 80 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 scouting report.

Players 50-41 Players 15-13
Players 40-31 Player 12
Players 30-21 Player 11
Players 20-16 Player 10

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking

9 – Jakub Michałowski (D), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (25, +16)

The son of a boxer was already guaranteed a substantial rise in the rankings this year after continuing to cement himself on the Jastrezbie back end. He is a very talented defensive first guy that will give forwards trouble as they try to rush to the net.  His rise on my list only became bigger with his late appointment to team Poland at the Olympic qualifiers. Poland had their back against the wall when national team regulars Kamil Górny and Mateusz Bryk both dropped out of the tournament so close to the first match. Poland went into the tournament naming only one replacement in Jakub Michałowski. The red and white eagles only had a total of six defensemen at the tournament, there were no backups at all.

jakub goal
Jakub Michałowski goal vs. Tychy

Facing a KHL team in your IIHF senior debut is quite the task for a young player. Michałowski had already been starting to become a frequent player on the Polish men’s team with appearances at non-IIHF events. Still, now he had to make his senior IIHF debut on a large stage with almost zero room for any mistakes. In the first two games, when Poland faced lesser competition in the Netherlands and Ukraine. Michałowski really did well and held his own. You saw why even at such a young age, he already has over 150 PHL games, but in the final game against Kazakhstan, as the speed was ramped up, you saw the creeks in his game start to form, as he takes part of the blame on both of the blue and yellow’s goals.

On the first Kazakhstan goal, the speed of another Kazakhstan forward beat Michalowksi in a footrace around that net. He was then able to again get a pass past him, which resulted in an easy tap in. Though on that goal, his partner should have the scorer tied up, I’m not really sure what is going on in the slot.

kazak goal 2

Later the speed of the Kazak forwards pushed the Polish defensemen into an awkward situation. Michałowski tried to play the middle and then get low to try and block any pass that was going to potentially come through, but the pass beat him, and he fell in a desperate attempt to stop it. Kazakhstan failed to score on the initial play, but both Polish defenders were now vastly out of positions, and Kazakhstan banged in an easy rebound. Either way, it became clear watching that game, that Michałowski was pretty overwhelmed at times.

kazak goal 3

Valtonen still relied on Michałowski heavily. He finished fourth on team Poland in ice time with just under 18 minutes a game. On the boxscore, he recorded one assist and four shots at the tournament.

The 6’2 Jastrzebie native recorded seven points (2-5-7) in 48 games this season with JKH GKS Jastrzebie. He also had two assists in nine games at the Visegrad Cup. As he has continued to gradually improve his skills, the shutdown defensemen has earned his spot on team Poland. When pushed to his extremes against a literal KHL team in Kazakhstan, there were cracks in his game, but I would expect that from any young defensemen. Despite the plays, I pointed out there were plenty of strong moments in those games as well.

assist jakub
Jakub Michałowski assist vs. Janow

He also more than held his own in the PHL this year. He has the size, is a good skater, and has good awareness. His offensive skills have also come a long way, though it will never be a significant part of his game as of the shutdown role he is usually given. The more experience he gets versus top opponents, the better he will be. This was really the first season he had numerous tests against stronger opponents outside of Poland. Michalowski has the potential to be deployed against other team’s top lines, but still has ways to go to reach that spot.

Player 8

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2019 Top 50 Polish Men’s U23 Players. #26-21

Despite all that seems to go wrong in Polish hockey the light at the end of the tunnel has been the amount of great young talent that Poland has in their system right now. This is the deepest depth of young talent Poland has had this century. Regardless of what happens in regards to management and coaching with the talent that Poland has coming, they should be able to push forward. In this list, I wanted to rank Poland’s young talent to create a better picture of what the future look likes. This is part 2 of the series as we look at the players ranked 26 through 21.

Players 50-45

Players 44-39

Players 38-33

Players 32-27

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team

#26 – Marcin Plachetka (F), 18, JKH GKS Jastrzebie U20. I like to judge players more on their club season than IIHF and international events. Plachetka was the 6th leading scorer on SMS PZHL Katowice and 10th in point per game among players in Poland’s U20 league. Both of these are impressive feats, but he is ranked above many of the players who finished above him. This is because of just how impressive Plachetka was during his stint with Poland U18. In the four exhibition games before the U18 World Championship, Plachetka managed two goals and two assists. Then at the U18s, he had two goals and three assists in five games. He was consistently Poland’s best forward. Whether that was killing penalties or being trusted with top offensive roles. 

 

 

#25 – Jakub Michalowski (D), 21, JKH GKS Jastrzebie. One of Poland’s finest young defensive defensemen. Michalowski has already earned a full-time defensive role in the PHL. He played a lot with the national team this year, getting five games at non-IIHF events. Michalowski’s biggest battle will be beating out other defensemen for a spot on team Poland. He is a strong skater, and he can shut down any opposing top line. His lack of offensive skills will hurt him as Poland continues to move more and more towards two-way defensemen. Michalowski has shown some decent puck skills, but not a threat to rush the puck. The strongest credit to him and why I would like to see more of him at the top level is the ability to break the puck out.

#24 – Dominik Jarosz (LW), 21, JKH GKS Jastrzebie. Long regarded as one of the best young players in Poland Jarosz has been representing Poland at IIHF events since he was 16. He always played above his age and at high levels for his age. This made his transition to the top level of hockey in Poland during 2015-16 season expected. At 20-years-old he has already played 154 regular season and playoff games in the PHL. He has been a good player in the PHL, that always feels like a candidate to break out offensively. He continues to be outproduced though by other younger PHL forwards like teammates Dominik Pas or Jan Soltys. Jarosz has a lot of the key abilities that Poland is looking for in forwards; speed and size. He already is good enough to make team Poland with his game away from the puck and was given those chances by Valtonen this year. If Jarosz can begin to produce offensively at a higher level, he would easily be a top 6 forward for Poland for years to come.

#23 – Olaf Bizacki (D), 20, GKS Tychy. Bizacki is a special defenseman with a complete toolset. He just needs to keep maturing his game. He has been named the best player on team Poland at the U18s, and the best defensemen at the 2018-2019 Division 1B U20 Championship. He has been one of the top players for Poland at the junior levels. The next step in his game is just to improve his all-around skill set against men’s teams. He will continue to have a lot of competition when it comes to getting chances on GKS Tychy’s defense. It may be a few years before we see Bizacki appear at a World Championship, but expect him to slowly earn a spot on team Poland. I imagine he will get some senior games this season.

 

#22 – Igor Smal (C), 19, MH Automatyka Gdansk. Smal turned pro full time this year at just 18-years-old and proved that he may be one of the top centers of the future for Poland. He had the 7th most points by a U20 player in the PHL. In the second league, he really showed off with nine goals and twelve assists in eight games. His 2.63 points per game were the second highest by any U20 player behind Kamil Walega. He played for team Poland at the U20 World Championships. His excellent offensive play continued there. Smal has performed well beyond his age and could begin to start getting senior international games as early as next year. The true question about Smal is what his ceiling is? It may not be as high as other forwards, and that is why he ends up outside the top 20.

 

 

 

#21 – Patryk Krezolek (F), 21, GKS Katowice. Krezolek recently earned a three year deal with GKS Katowice. Krezolek has been able to produce strong numbers in the PHL, despite his age. His 27 points were tied for the most by a U23 player in the PHL. He was able to recover strongly after not playing a lot during the 2017-18 season.  A player of outstanding offensive ability, Krezolek is extremely smart and always seems to be in the perfect position to make something happen. I would expect him to start consistently being a part of team Poland at international events. 

Players 20-17

Players 16-13

Players 12-10

Players 9-8

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