Tag: Kacper Gruzla

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #30-21

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.

Players 50-41

Players 40-31

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.

28 – Krystian Mocarski (F), 22, Stoczniowiec Gdansk, (55, +27) 

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. 

22- Klaudiusz Libik (D), 20, Vålerenga U21 (12, -10)

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. 

21 – Mateusz Bezwiński (F), 20, Cracovia Krakow, (26, +5)

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.

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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

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #50-41

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.

Honorable Mentions (In No Order): Adrian Gromadzki (Not eligible due to age, but would have made top 50 if old enough), Bartosz Woloszyk, Adrian Duszak, Wiktor Bochnak, and Patryk Gosztyla

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

50 – Patryk Wysocki (D), 21, Antwerp Phantoms, (16, -34)

We start this year’s list off with a major fall. Wysocki started the year in the top Russian junior league with ORG Junior Beijing. The promising stay at home defensemen finished last season with the Chinese junior team that plays in the top Russia junior league after being recruited by Andrei Parfenov, the former head coach of the Polish junior program. Parfenov took a job in the VHL for the 2020 season. While new head coach Yevgeni Yesaulov gave him a chance, in the beginning, the 5’11 Gdansk product eventually disappeared from the lineup.  He played his last game for the team on October 10th, where he played just under six minutes. In early December, he showed up in the Belgium league, recording four assists in 14 games for the Antwerp Phantoms. A step back year for a defenseman that is good enough to be at the top level, but not enough to secure a permanent spot.

49 – Kacper Gruzla (F), 20, MOSM Tychy (Unranked)

Gruzla makes his debut on the list after a promising performance at the U20 World Championship and solid junior league season. Gruzla posted two goals for Poland, one an empty netter,  at the U20 World Championship. He also made his senior debut for GKS Tychy, along with playing in the PHL for PZHL U23. In 15 PHL games, he posted both a goal and assist. His best offensive success came with Mosm Tychy, where he recorded 22 goals and 19 assists in 26 games in Poland’s MHL, which was eighth in the league. Lots of flashes of potential, but he is someone who needs to play against stronger talent more.

48 – Szymon Radzieńciak (D), 20, HC Ocelari Trinec U20, (66, +18)

Radzieńciak is mirroring the development of his brother Grzegorz Radzieńciak. While his brother Grzegorz has flashed more of a two-way game, Radzieńciak is more one dimensional with defensive being his specialty. The 6’2 defensemen represented Poland at the 2018 U18s and was under consideration for a spot on this year’s U20 squad. The long time HC Ocelari Trinec junior player had two assists in 30 DHL games, along with appearing in two games for the PZHL U23 squad.

47 – Mateusz Zieliński (D), 23, KH Torun, (70, +23)

Zieliński took a big jump this year, becoming a larger part of the KH Torun defense. Coming into this season, Zieliński had 11 points in his previous 125 PHL games, this year in 50 games, the 6’0 defensemen had 12 points (3-9-12). This was second among all U23 defensemen for points. He played more and more than handled that challenge, especially as Torun tested plenty of import defensemen that he was able to outplay.

Zieliński

46 – Igor Augustyniak (F), 19, Cracovia Kraków, (59, +13)

Augustyniak moved to the Krakow program this year after spending his entire junior career with Polonia Bytom. In his first year with Krakow, he was able to play more in the PHL, recording six games with Krakow, along with playing nine games for PZHL U23, where he recorded a goal and an assist. This came on top of a great junior league season, where Augustyniak posted 34 points (21-13-34) in 21 games, tied for twelfth in the league. The 5’9 forward should have a strong chance at making Poland’s U20 squad next year.

45 – Szymon Dobosz (F), 18, UKS Sanok, (43, -2)

Dobosz is one of the players that probably suffered the most from the cancellation of the U18s, as he would have no doubt been a leader on that squad. At an earlier U18 tournament in Hungary, he recorded four points (1-3-4) in three games. This year his season was split between PZHL U23, along with both Sanok’s U20 team and their Sovak second Liga team. In the PZHL U23, he recorded one assist in seven games. In Slovakia, he recorded eight points (4-4-8) in 16 games, down from 14 points last year. In limited U20 action, the career Sanok junior player recorded 15 points (8-7-15) in nine games. Dobosz already received U20 squad consideration this year, so I would say he has an outside chance at making it next year.

44 – Marcel Kotuła (G), 19, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (79, +35)

Last year I feel I didn’t give enough credit to goaltenders on the list, and I wanted to change that for this year. Statistics really don’t paint young goalies in a good light in Poland, given they face 40 plus shots in PZHL U23 games. Kotuła was a victim of that posting a .829 sv% in eight games with PZHL U23. When not on loan to the Polish U23 squad, he was much better. He saved 16 out of 17 shots against Janow in his lone PHL game for Sosnowiec this year and posted a .912 sv% in 18 U20 league games. His .912 sv% was the best among goalies with at least ten matches. He received some U20 squad consideration this season and most likely will have a spot on the squad in 2020.

Kotula

43 – Michał Zając (F), 19, Polonia Bytom, (67, +24)

Zając had a great year despite not being able to log minutes for a club in the PHL. In ten games with PZHL U23, he posted 4 points (2-2-4). In a season where PZHL U23 didn’t have many consistent offensive options, this was tied for third on the team in scoring. He also appeared on the Poland U18 team that plays in the Czech third-tier u20 league, where he posted eight points (5-3-8) in seven games. He also played for Polonia Bytom in Poland’s MHL recording another eight points (3-5-8) in ten games. He had some early U20 consideration and should be a strong candidate for next season. He is a good goal scorer, but a lot of his game needs refinement.

42 – Maciej Miarka (G), 19, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (51, +9)

The main reason why Miarka is rising this year is me wanting to give goalies more credit, but I would call this a season Miarka might just want to bury and forget. It seemed no matter where the Lodz native went, he was lit up with not much help. He posted a .847 sv% for PZHL U23 in ten games as the team’s main goalie. Then at the U20 World Championship, in back-up duty, Miarka posted a .775 SV%, Poland needed a third-string with how bad he and Lipinski performed. In his two junior games, he posted a .891 sv% allowing 8 goals in two games. His lone bright spot came in five third-tier Czech U20 league games, where he posted .092 GAA. A season to forget for a very young and talented goalie who showed how promising they are at the U18 level previously.

41 – Armen Khoperia (D), 20, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (32, -9)

Armen Khoperia dropped in the rankings through nothing of his own fault, just the inject of new talent and players making larger jumps. Khoperia had a great year becoming a full-time PHL defenseman at just 19-years-old. In 38 games between PZHL U23 and Zaglebie Sosnowiec, with a majority coming with Sosnowiec, the 6’2 defensemen posted four points (1-3-4). Khoperia is really developing well and should start working his way towards becoming a member of the senior national team. He represented Poland at the U20 World Championships this year, posting two assists in five games.

Khoperia

Players 40-31

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