Tag: Karol Bilas

2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #15-11

We now hit the top 15 with many players that were counted on to contribute to their PHL team. While they were mainly on the lower lines, their clubs could not live without them. We also have the last of our defensemen with the top two highest ranked. That means after this article, only forwards are left in the rankings. These are the players that I feel are going to be top six forwards and top two defensemen in Poland. They have a shot at representing the national team, but should never be considered roster locks for it potentially. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 1st, 2022. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 169 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking.

Players 80-51Players 30-21
Players 50-41Players 20-16
Players 40-31

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings) 

15 – Konrad Filipek (F), 22, STS Sanok (29, +14) 

In Sanok this year, many young players took significant strides. While much of the attention was on Jakub Bukowski, I was impressed with Konrad Filipek as well. The 22-year-old forward posted eight goals and two assists in 43 games. His ten points were a new career high after posting six the previous season. His eight goals were tied for the fifth most by a U23 skater and were third among Polish U23 players. His ten points were the second most by a player in their age 21 season. 

Filipek Goal vs GKS Katowice PHL

Filipek is in the final year of a 2-year-deal he signed with Sanok, giving him at least one more year with his hometown club. The departures of Bukowski and Sawicki, means there is room for the 6’1 forward to build upon his role in 2023. After Miika Elomo took over, Filipek played up the down the lineup with a few chances on the second line and some powerplay time. 

14 – Igor Smal (F), 22, GKS Katowice (14, 0)

Smal went from the big fish in a small pond to the small fish in the big championship-winning pond. When you move from the bottom of the PHL to the top, you will see a role reduction. Smal played on the fourth line all season but saw some time on the second line during the playoffs. The development opportunities in Katowice are very strong with their lineup and being under the watch of Jacek Plachta. 

Smal Goal vs. Zagłębie Sosnowiec PHL

Smal posted seven points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 50 games this past season. This was the lowest point total of his PHL career. The role change played a big part in that production drop. Stil in a fourth-line role, posting comparable production to last year is nothing to sneeze at. His seven points were tied for 12th among U23 skaters, and it was tied for third among aged 21 skaters. The speedy young center has re-signed with GKS Katowice for the 2023 season. With quite a few key forwards departing Katowice in the offseason, there may be a chance for Smal to jump into a higher spot in the lineup. 

13 – Jakub Prokurat (F), 21, GKS Katowice (8, -7) 

From one small fish that went to a big pond to the next, the story of Jakub Prokurat is similar to Smal. My expectations were a bit higher for Prokurat, as he was coming off a .50 point per game average season in the Oberliga. When you look at the history of players between the two leagues, that .50 usually translates into solid production in Poland. But like Smal, he mainly was stuck on the PHL champion’s fourth line while also spending some time in the MHL on loan to KS Naprzod Janow.

Prokurat Goal vs. Cracovia Krakow PHL

He spent most of his season with Katowice, where in 47 games, he posted five points (2G-3A-5PTS). This was tied for fifth in points among players in their aged 20 season. He had much more success in the MHL, recording 17 points (10G-7A-17PTS) in just ten games. His 1.70 point per game average was fifth among U21 skaters in the league. Prokurat could potentially be a Patryk Wronka-esque player but lacked the two-way game and explosiveness to move up a PHL lineup in 2022. 

12 – Karol Biłas (D), 20, STS Sanok (20, +8

We have reached our second-highest ranked defensemen, the highest-ranked defensemen to play in Poland during the 2023 season. Biłas made his mark both in Poland and on the international stage. He played in a career-high 42 PHL games this year while recording five assists. This led all U20 defensemen in points and saw him tied for second among all U20 skaters in points. He also appeared in the MHL, almost exclusively during the playoffs, where he scored twice and picked up three assists in eight games. To top it off the defenseman also appeared in three CJL games and averaged a point per game. 

Biłas primary assist vs. France IIHF U20 D1B

On the international stage, Biłas made two big appearances. The first was playing for Poland at the IIHF Division 1 Group B U20 World Championships. The 6’0 defenseman was named captain of the event for Poland. The Sanok native also made his senior debut representing Poland at the Baltic Challenge Cup, where he scored against Ukraine. Still mostly playing on the bottom pairings of Sanok, he has re-signed for the 2023 season. I expect this to be when he starts to make significant climbs up the lineup. 

11 – Szymon Bieniek (D), 21, New Jersey Rockets (8, -3

We have now hit our highest-ranked defensemen on the list, meaning all of the top 10 are forwards. Bieniek was a player I was excited to see what the offseason could have in store. While much of his season was canceled due to the pandemic, in 2022 he made his Chance Liga debut and had shown strong production in his six Czechia U20 games. In the end, Bieniek landed back in the US with the New Jersey Rockets. 

The Rockets have teams in the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC) and the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL). The NCDC is in the second tier of US Junior leagues and is considered the third-best junior league overall. The USPHL is in the third tier and a decent step below the NCDC. Most USPHL players go on to make low-level college commitments. 

Bieniek assist vs. Metro Jets USPHL

With that said, Bieniek played in the USPHL most of the season. He was only in five NCDC games and got on the scoresheet once with an assist. In the USPHL, he played in 50 games scoring 15 goals and assisting on 30. His 45 points were tied for 13th among all defensemen. During the season, Bieniek earned defensemen of the month honors in January. Most of his production matches went to play in NCAA D3, but one made an NCAA commitment and has gone on to play in the ECHL. Bieniek will have better pro opportunities in Europe. But for a defenseman past his junior days, I would have liked to see him start to take baby steps into professional hockey, or at least a stronger junior league. Still a great season and I’m excited to see where he plays next year.

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Breaking Down Poland’s U20 Team and Predictions

It feels so good to be back to our regularly scheduled IIHF events. While the Olympic Qualifiers were a load of fun. It feels nice to be back in the routine of seeing the IIHF tournament that we have grown accustomed to on our calendar, not just the ones that take place every four years. The first non-Olympic qualifying event for the red and white will be the Men’s U20 team traveling to Estonia to take on Estonia, France, Japan, Slovenia, and Ukraine from December 12th to the 18th.

The Men’s U20 squad plays in Division 1 Group B and has been since being relegated from Group A in 2014. The team won four straight silver medals from 2016 to 2019, often cruelly losing the gold medal… Then in 2020, the team fell to fourth place under returning U20 head coach Piotr Sarnik. Former PHL forward and long-time Polish development coach Artur Ślusarczyk will be taking his first shot at the U20 team. He was previously an assistant coach on the U18 squad that won promotion and a gold medal in 2019. Arkadiusz Burnat, Bartlomiej Nowak, and Tomasz Demkowicz will also be joining the staff form that same U18 team. While Marta Zawalska will be serving as the team’s manager.

The coaches are set, and we are only days away from the puck drop on Sunday. Team Poland has named their roster, and now it is time to break it down!

Goalies

Oskar Polak

Mikołaj Szczepkowski

Szymon Klimowski

A few years ago, it felt like Poland really had the goaltending situation figured out, and then a pandemic hit, and we lost what would have been some really lovely tandems. I thought that Filip Płonka would be taking the reigns up next, but it appears he was dropped off the final roster after being named to the initial camp. That makes picking this team’s tandem quite the struggle, as Plonka had the highest PHL SV% at .885% and was perfect in his lone MHL performance. Szczepkowski has preformed the best in the MHL, while Polak and Klimowski both have PHL experience. In the end, Polak currently boasts the best PHL numbers and is the elder of the three, so I’m running with him as the starter. Back up is really too much of a toss-up, but I’ll give it to Szczepkowski and his .920 MHL SV%.

Defensemen

Karol Biłas – Oliwier Kasperek

Bartosz Florczak – Kacper Macias

Michał Jaracz – Michał Proczek

Eryk Schafer

The first big thing that sticks out about this defense is there are no right-handed shots, and they didn’t even bring any right-handed shots to camp. I’m not sure how much impact it makes mathematically, but it is undoubtedly odd. To be fair, the next best available right-handed defensemen would probably have been 17-year-old Oliwier Kurnicki. It is understandable for the team to take a more experienced player. This is still a group with some interesting pieces. Macias has done really well in the top Czech junior league. Biłas is undoubtedly one of the best defensemen developed inside Poland in a long time. Schafer is a player from Torun who is really having a breakout year and played 13 games in the PHL. Oliwier Kasperek is a player Tychy seems really high on and will be the group’s veteran. Not the strongest or weakest group the U20 team has brought, some highlights and concerns.

Forwards

Krzyzstof Macias- Jakub Ślusarczyk – Krzysztof Bukowski

Wiktor Bochnak – Stanislaw Drozd-Niekurzak – Fabian Kapica

Szymon Dobosz – Tobiasz Kapica – Karol Sterbenz

Szymon Maćkowski – Sebastian Wicher – Paweł Wybiral

Dominik Kasprzyk

In my opinion, this line has the potential to be one of the strongest first lines Poland has iced in a while. Macias is absolutely tearing it up in the top level of Czech hockey with the 11th most points by a U18 player. Ślusarczyk’s is also teammates with Macias on HC Vitkovice U20. He has always been a standout player for Poland at junior events. Bukowski is doing well at the top level of Swiss junior hockey and has experience with one of the best clubs in the junior scene there. Lower the down the line up I have a lot of stock in Fabian Kapica, Dzord-Niekurzak, and Sterbenz, who have shown themselves well abroad or in the PHL. Dobosz is an interesting addition; given he has not played anywhere in the 2021 season, it will be interesting to see what shape he and his game are in.

Much like the defense, the team is very right-handed shot-heavy. I am interested in the bottom-six picks. It seems the SMS Katowice connection helped a few players. Adrian Gromadzki, Michal Kusak, Michał, and Nawrocki were all forwards that I thought would be in more significant contention, but given their age, I’m not too surprised. Right-handed Piotr Ciepielewski could also fall into that discussion, but I have no significant problems. The team will need the offense to help suppress shots and scoring chances. I don’t just mean being good defensively, but also keeping the puck controlled and away from their own zone. I have no doubt the top lines will be able to score a couple goals per game, and beat up on weaker defenses. But how will they fare against forward cores that are bigger and faster than them? That was something that made past U20 leaders like Pas and Soltys so valuable.

Conclusion and Predictions

I have some concerns about each position group, but none more than what is in the net. Last time at the U20s, goaltending and defense really let team Poland down. It is hard to assess how good these groups are compared to the prior ones. I think the offense has more depth than some of the past U20 silver medals, but I’m not betting on a better defense or net situation net. I will put my prediction for this group at a bronze medal.

Estonia (Host) – this is a winnable game to me. While they are starting to make a lot of progress and have quite a few players in the Finnish junior leagues, they are the youngest team in the tournament and don’t really have any standout players. Should be an easy win for Poland.

France – The French will still be a formidable opponent but don’t possess the NHL draft caliber players at past tournaments. Still a solid roster, thanks to a good development program. It will be close, but I expect them to be too much for Poland.

Japan – A very uneven team, Japan brings some of the highest highs and lowest lows. They have three players playing the United State’s top junior, the USHL, including 2022 draft prospect Kenta Isogai. Isogai is a former teammate of Karol Sterbenz. Outside that club stats for most of their team are not even available. But if it is close to normal, Japan will score a few goals but ultimately surrender too many to overtake Poland.

Slovenia – Relegated from Group A the last time the U20s were held, Slovenia will be the team to beat. With plenty of great players from around Europe, unless there are some major chemistry issues. It is hard to see them not winning gold and earning promotion.

Ukraine – Now it is time for the wildcard Ukraine, a quickly regrowing program. LA Kings draft pick Artur Cholach will be leading the defensemen. Forward Bohdan Panasenko has put up a point per game average above .50 in the NAHL, and Daniil Trakht and Hlib Tkach have looked good in Finland and Sweden. The Ukraine junior system and league is weaker than Poland, but they have quite a few players in stronger leagues. I think Poland gets the win here, but I would not be surprised if Ukraine beats Poland.

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2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #20-16

The hockey season continues to march on as we do with the list. We are now entering the next tier I discussed in the last article. If you missed it, I divide the list into three levels. The third tier is the widest, and I can see these players in the PHL, whether on the fourth or second line. The second tier is where we are now. The second tier is players I feel will be top-line stars in the PHL. These are players with that first line, top 2, or starting goalie potential. 

Now we have our next five picks, who have experienced a lot of changes in the rankings. Each player either raised or fell by seven spots. That is remarkable for how high we are on the list—the higher in the rankings, the less change we see, with injured players being the exception. A significant fall can be recovered from, as we will see later with the player who the most significant fall in 2020.

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. 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
Players 30-21

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

20 – Karol Biłas (D), 19, STS Sanok, (36, +16)

There is so much great young talent in the Sanok system. That was on full display last year, with the team having a competitive roster despite how young most of the talent was. One of the young players that had to play a lot was Biłas. Just 17-years-old to start the season is a challenging task for any young player, but especially on defense with a forward core that will not offer that much offensive support. He is physically at about average to above-average size for PHL defensemen at 6’0 and 187 lbs. But how was he on the ice? 

Biłas is a player that I usually compliment more on his stellar offensive play. He posted five assists in 32 games for Sanok, which led all draft-eligible skaters in the PHL. His point total also tied the 18th best total by any skater in their draft-eligible season of all time. In his draft-eligible season, Biłas’ point total is tied for second all-time among defensemen. It was a rare season for a player this age and especially position. 

The offensive side is still the best part of his game. While I called him a two-way guy last year, I would say he is a full-blown offensive defenseman with a nice shot. That statement reflects on his play in both zones. His defensive play is still progressing, and it’s not going to be an issue of skating. It will be an issue of experience and will likely be a bump in the road over the next few years for him. No offense to the level of Slovak hockey, but this was the first time in his career where he had to face professional offenses. If he improves in his zone as he gains more experience, then Biłas can likely be a top-line defenseman in the PHL. His offensive play will always keep him high up on the teams’ lineup with powerplay time. 

19 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 20, Cracovia Krakow, (8, -11)

Brynkus takes a significant fall in my rankings and out of the top ten. It is not at all injury-related. He even played more than the previous year and did not suffer a large production decrease. In the end, Brynkus had a slight decline in offense in a year where so many other young players received huge chances for ice time and offensive opportunities. He is not getting that many chances to create that much production on the lower lines. His play away from the puck in his zone and the opposing continues to improve. 

Brynkus assist vs Gdasnk (PHL)

While he continues to improve the other facets of his game, his offensive skill will always be the highlight of his arsenal. His explosiveness is why he became so highly regarded after showing it at IIHF events and in Poland’s lower leagues. Until Brynkus shows his production ability in the PHL, it will be hard to project his ceiling. Among players, his age since 2010 in the PHL, his .18 point per game average last year ranks outside the top 70. Once he proves himself as a producer at the PHL, he will shoot back up the rankings, but question marks will stick until then. It may just be the playing behind imports in Krakow. During the 17 plus year reign of head coach Rudolf Rohacek, only Aron Chmielewski has been able to break into the top 6 while being on the cusp of his 20s. 

Whatever the reason, the critical part to remember is Bryknus is only turning 21 at the end of this hockey season and will already have over 150 PHL games under his belt. That experience is precious for a young player, especially when coming with a constant contender like Krakow. Playing with imports from high leagues is always a chance for a young polish player to learn. I have faith we will see Brynkus breakout even if we’re waiting for the end of his U23 days. 

18 – Michał Naróg (D), 20, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (25, +7)

Of players who took the best advantage of the covid year, Naróg is at the top of the list. In my opinion, it is much harder for defensemen to make it in the PHL, and we have seen fewer defensemen make it at such a young age and play strong hockey over the years. The 5’8 defenseman didn’t just look in place but earned his way up the roster and found himself playing a top 4 role on defense at just 19-years-old. While the Sosnowiec wasn’t the greatest, he still earned it and helped the team keep pace. 

The biggest standout from his season was nine assist in 30 games. His nine assists were tied for 20th among defensemen in the PHL, and it was the most among all U23 defensemen. Since 2010 it would be tied for 30th among all U23 defensemen. He did this on a team that failed to break 100 goals during the regular season, making Narog a part of 10% of his team’s goal while missing six games. Only one defenseman has had more points in their draft-eligible plus two season, Oskar Jaskiewicz.

Narog Goal vs. Katowice (MHL)

While that offensive season is impressive for his age and position, that is one part of the game, and as the team improves around him, we have to see how many of those points came from top line minutes with forwards who produce above a point per game level. While Sosnowiec didn’t have a lot of talent, Ruslan Bashirov was third in points, and Yevgeni Nikiforov was seventh in the league. It is not impossible to be natural progression from his rookie year, Narog managed four assists in 30 games and had been above a point per game player in the MHL for a while. 

He has avoided making major mistakes on the defensive end while facing the toughest competition in his top-four role. Few things like missing his assignment or picking up a man will go away with more time, especially with his role challenging top line, while paired with better defensive partners. He has quickly turned some heads with his hot start. He was one of the young players named to team Poland for the Baltic Challenge Cup. 

17 – Dominik Jarosz (F), 23, JKH GKS Jastrzebie (10, -7

JKH GKS Jastrzębie won the big one last season. The best team in the league featured a forward group with the best imports in the league. Add in plenty of young players taking that next step in their career and getting noticed for stronger clubs outside Poland. In a year where so many extraordinary moments happened for the organization, it feels weird to dissect a player and ask what went wrong. Each year Jarosz proved himself more and more. With Jastrzębie, he went from three to ten to 22 points. This past year he was dropped back down to eight points in the regular season. He even found himself back in the MHL for the first time since 2018. 

It was the largest point drop by any player on our ranking from the previous season. That is also something you don’t want to see out of a player that is starting to reach that point where development starts to slow, and seeing a player’s ceiling is a lot more clear. While a drop like that is concerning, I’m not close to writing him off. It was a down year on one of the most stacked Polish teams we have seen in a long time. 

Last year we talked about how great he was, and those same compliments remain. The size and speed make him one of the most dangerous forwards in Poland, especially down low. He is brilliant and seems to have so much patience and control on the ice, generating plenty of scoring chances. While Jarosz is great, there are a few more complete players ahead of him, along with many strong imports. He dropped down the line-up and wasn’t afforded many chances. He will rebound.

16 – Fabian Kapica (F), 19, Podhale Nowy Targ (29, +13

Kapica makes a big move up the list after his first full professional season. The previous year the young player bounced around a few levels of hockey in Poland and some junior hockey in Germany. Podhale Nowy Targ is a team that is on the downswing right now and is hurting to attract talent. Especially with a significant focus on that talent being Polish. For the past few years, we have seen a push by the blue and yellow bring back a lot of young Polish players to Poland with professional opportunities. Kapica was among those young Poles and the stand out of the group. 

Kapica Goal vs Sanok (PHL)

Kapica managed three goals in 23 games in his first full professional season. While not eye-popping numbers, it led U19 forwards in goals and points. It is also tied for the sixth-most goals by a player his age since 2000. He plays hard and shows excellent hustle, and I’m honestly surprised he couldn’t generate a few more scoring chances last year. At the MHL level, we saw more offensive dominance. There he posted three goals and seven assists in eight games. His 1.25 point per game average was the fourth-best in his age range. That MHL total is something I love to see out of a player. Most players saw a drop in MHL production. I don’t know what Kapica’s ceiling is. It is hard to project with the limited amount of games he has played over the last two years. He has the potential to be a special player for Poland, and I’m excited to see what he can accomplish on Poland’s u20 squad.

Players 15-11

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2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #40-31

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

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

40 – Szymon Mularczyk (F), 21, KH GKS Katowice, (61, +21)

Mularczyk was able to escape a terrible season with Polonia Bytom and come out strong with GKS Katowice. The 5’11 forward has always seemingly been on the cusp of being a really promising player. He is the first player on this list to suffer from Janow’s effect on PHL scoring. Janow was so bad this year that players were able to post new career highs thanks to a couple games against Janow. This year Mularczyk posted 14 points (4-10-14) in 40 games, up from his total of nine points last year. He posted five of those points against Janow. Which without them is the same as his nine points from last year. It creates a muddy area of how much growth did he really have statistically? It was still twelfth in points among all PHL U23 skaters.

Mularczyk

39 – Marcin Płachetka (F), 19, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (26, -13)

Płachetka earned a very high ranking last year due to a fantastic international performance. I was expecting big things out of him this year, but it was a pretty quiet club season. He was able to play in 13 PHL games, twelve with PZHL U23 and one with JKH GKS Jastrzebie, where he recorded a single assist. In the MHL, he didn’t produce much better with five points (2-3-5) in 11 games. He did have nine points (3-6-9) in eight games while appearing for the Polish U18 squad that plays in the third tier Czech U20 league. He received some U20 team consideration and scored versus Lithuania at a four nations U20 tournament.

38 – Bartosz Florczak (D), 18, UKS Sanok, (55, +17)

Florczak would have really shown his two-way abilities off at the U18s if he had the chance. He has a lot of talent but is still very raw at times. His development time will probably be a bit uneasy compared to other defenders, but you really have the makings of a good player. He got an extended look for the U20 World Championship squad, and even I had him on the squad as a seventh defenseman. In total this year, he posted two assists in nine games for PZHL U23. Well above a point per game at the U18 level, and nine points (3-6-9) in 13 MHL games for Sanok.

Florczak

37 – Łukasz Kamiński (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow, (18, -19)

Kamiński really excelled in the PHL last year as a 19-year-old recording 17 points (9-8-17) in 47 games. The league took a step up this year, and Kamiński didn’t step up with it. This year he recorded four points (1-3-4) in 41 games. He found himself mostly relegated to the fourth line. He needs to play, and if Krakow isn’t going to give him a more substantial chance, it might be time to take a similar route to Jakub Blanik, who left JKH GKS Jastrzebie for Zaglebie Sosnowiec. He has a really nice offensive game, and I don’t understand why Cracovia didn’t try to use it more.

Kamiński

36 – Karol Biłas (D), 18, UKS Sanok, (Unranked)

From one talented Sanok two way defensemen to another. It really is astounding how quickly Sanok has started producing excellent youth talent with no PHL club. I think that Slovakia’s third tier league is an excellent place for young talent, and you’ll see more Sanok players on this list because of that. It lets young players play against men, but not be overwhelmed, and the stakes a lower, allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them. Something that defensemen like Biłas desperately need to do to grow.

Biłas

Biłas needs more work on the defensive end but has really shown a jaw-dropping offensive game. He is a lot like Florczak in being a little raw on both ends, but I like his offensive side more. No matter where he went, the 5’11 defensemen put up numbers, 20 points in (4-16-12) 19 MHL games, 14 points (4-10-14) in eight U18 games, seven assist in 15 Slovakia3 games, and both a goal and assist in ten PZHL u23 games. This earned him a spot on the Polish U20 team for the U20 World Championships, where he scored one goal on six shots in five games.  I have to imagine he would have put up some outrageous numbers for a defenseman at the U18s. I believe Biłas will be quickly rising up this list for years to come.

35 – Patryk Pelaczyk (F), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (46, +11)

At 6’5, Pelaczyk stands as the tallest Polish forward in the entire PHL. He continues to learn how to use his size more to his advantage. In 45 games, he recorded 11 points (5-6-11). This year he was able to play a majority of the season with JKH GKS Jastrzebie, he assisted them to a winning the Visegrad Cup with one goal in six games. The big forward is earning his spot on an extremely competitive Jastrzebie roster. His size will always provide value to any team, but he is starting to bring so much more.

Pelaczyk

34 – Jan Krzyżek (F), 19, MOSM Tychy, (44, +10

Krzyżek is really developing as a solid all-around player. He has solid offensive instincts, solid shot, good forechecking, and great size at 6’3. The Aachen native has played in the Tychy system his entire career but has not been able to reach with PHL with GKS Tychy yet. This season he appeared in 18 PHL games for PZHL u23, recording three goals. In the Czech U20 third league, he recorded 12 points (7-5-12) in 8 games for Poland U18. In the MHL, he recorded 30 points (15-15-30) in 15 games for Mosm Tychy. Krzyżek represented Poland this year at the U20 World Championship, recording three assists in five games. He should be one of the key forwards on the team next year.

33 – Karol Sterbenz (F), 17, Okanagan HC Europe U20, (Unranked)

This year there were quite a few Polish players that joined Austrian junior leagues. Olaf Koslicki stayed with the Vienna Capitals, while Karol Sterbenz and Leon Zacharewicz joined the Okanagan HC program. European Okanagan HC has multiple teams that compete in top Austrian junior leagues. The teams are made up of mainly international players from all over Europe, including the highest newly ranked player on this year’s list.

As a 16-year-old, Sterbenz split the year between Okanagan’s U18 and their U20 team. At the U18 level, he recorded 22 points (8-14-22) in 21 games. While at the U20 level, he posted 14 points (6-8-14) in 24 games. This ranked thirty-second in the league, and eleventh among players under 18. Sterbenz represented Poland earlier this year at a U18 and U17 tournament. He would have most likely made his IIHF debut for Poland at the U18s.

32 – Konrad Filipek (F), 20, UKS Sanok, (68, +36)

Filipek makes a massive jump on the list after a fantastic year with Sanok. The explosive forward improved on his 18 point performance last year with 25 points (11-14-15) in 19 games. This was 39th in the Slovakia third league and the most by any U20 player in the league. He also proved he was too good for Poland’s MHL by recording 61 points (30-31-61) in 20 games, an average of just over three points per game. He also appeared in six games for PZHL U23 recording one assist. I really hope to see Filipek get some more significant chances next year, as he was so offensively dominant at the lower levels, and did fine with three points (2-1-3) in five games at the U20 World Championship.

31 – Sebastian Lipiński (G), 20, Unia Oswiecim, (19, -12)

Lipiński is the highest-ranked goalie on the list but had somewhat of a down year compared to expectations. After a very promising appearance at the previous U20 World Championship, Lipiński struggled mightily recording a .819 SV% in four games. The worst among goalies that played at least 40% of their team’s minutes. In the PHL, Lipiński split the year between Unia Oswiecim and PZHL U23. In 18 total games, he posted a .876 sv%.

Lipinski

With Oswiecim, the Torun native played in 11 games, starting 10 and coming in relief in one. In total, he posted a .897 SV%, including three shutouts, two versus Janow, and one versus PZHL U23. His save percentage drops to a .871 without the games versus Janow and PZHL U23. His save percentage was .858 with PZHL U23. While the numbers may not look great, Lipiński is really the only goalie that gets the chances that he does, because of his talent. Since 2000, there have only been 15 seasons, where a U20 goalie played 10 or more games in the PHL, two of those belong to Lipiński.

Players 31-20

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