Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL
Last season was the worse finish for Unia Oswiecim since the club was relegated to the first league in 2010. This was despite some big offseason moves. The struggles continued to start this offseason. Roman Stantien took the team’s head coaching job but left after two weeks to take a job with HC Slovan Bratislava. This left the team needing a new head coach and one that was committed to the team for a few years. That job went to Nik Zupancic, the former head of the Slovenian national team. Stantien’s departure may end up being a blessing for Unia Oswiecim though. Zupancic has brought some great players with him and has had an impressive pre-season.
Andrej Themár – Luka Kalan – Gregor Koblar
Anatoli Protasenya – Alexei Trandin – Martin Przygodzki
Lukasz Krzemien – Dariusz Wanat – Dominik Raska
Sebastian Kowalowka – Damian Piotrowicz – Patryk Malicki
Other forwards: Adrian Prusak, Krzysztof Dudkiewicz
This is a very talented forward group, and one that I feel is going to be underrated. This is due to how unfamiliar people are with some of the import talents. Andrej Themár is one that Polish fans are well familiar with though as he was an above a point per game player in his two seasons in the PHL with GKS Katowice and Unia Oswiecim. He has lined up in pre-season games with Gregor Koblar and Luka Kalan. Kalan and Koblar both had solid performances in the Alps Hockey League last year. Anatoli Protasenya is set to be the tallest player in the PHL this year at 6’6. Despite his size, he is not an overly physical player, but a strong goal scorer. More familiar faces include Alexei Trandin, he shined as a top performer for Orlik Opole and holds a career point per game of 1.10 in the PHL. As well as Martin Przygodzki who once finished fourth in PHL scoring during the 2015-16 season. He always has excellent offensive potential but can be inconsistent. Lukasz Krzemien showed he is a strong leader last year. At just 22-years-old, he led Polonia Bytom through an awful season. He is an impressive young player and really needed a chance with a top club. I really like this group and think they have a lot of potential for production across all four lines.
Klemen Pretnar – Jakub Wanacki
Peter Bezuska – Patrik Luza
Miroslav Zatko – Jakub Saur
Milosz Noworyta – Patryk Noworyta
The defense has a lot to like. One of the best defensemen in Poland, Jakub Wanacki, signed a two-year deal with the club. Wanacki is sharp at both ends of the ice, with defense being the stronger of the two. His partner in pre-season matches has been Klemen Pretnar. Pretnar has a long history in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga and with the Slovenian national team. Wanacki and him could be one of the best pairs in Poland. Patrik Luza is a former KHL player and at 25 is always on the move. Since 2016, he has played for seven different teams. Luza was once highly thought of. The defensemen appeared twice for both the Slovakia U18 and U20 team at IIHF events, as well as being a regular in the KHL for HC Slovan Bratislava. He is a defensive first guy and his resume earned him a two-year deal. I think he could really shine if finally given a chance to settle down. Miroslav Zatko will be making his return to the PHL after a year off. Zatko has played in 11 PHL seasons, and Polish fans are well accustomed to his skills. Milosz Noworyta has a bright future for the national team, I had him ranked 41st in my top 50 Polish U23 rankings.
In terms of actual duos in the PHL, which there are not many, this may be the best. Clarke Saunders was a bit of a controversial choice, when the team announced his signing. He struggled last year in the Alps Hockey League posting a .892 SV% during the regular season. Saunders did have some merit though, the previous year he posted a .930 SV% in the regular season and then led the Alps Hockey League playoffs in SV% with .935. He also had a decent track record in the ECHL and NCAA. So far in pre-season games, Saunders has impressed me. I think the Canadian was the right choice. Sebastian Lipinski is the future of Poland in goal. He isn’t ready to start yet, but Saunders should allow him to play more games then he did last year. Former long-time starting goalie, Michal Fikrt is also staying with the team as a goaltending coach. Lipinski has a solid foundation around him to develop. Either goalie could lead Unia to victory.
I am really enamored with this team. I think they are going to be the most exciting team to watch in the PHL this year. There are a lot of interesting players, and these players would be top players on other PHL clubs. Of all the mid-tier teams in the PHL, Unia Oswiecim is the best in my opinion. They should have their best finish since the 2013-14 season.