Tag: Maciej Witan

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #20-16

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 40-31

Players 30-21

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

20 – Jakub Blanik (F), 19, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (39, +19)

Blanik took a gamble on himself this offseason when he left JKH GKS Jastrzebie for Zaglebie Sosnowiec in the hope for more chances. JKH GKS Jastrzebie deserves some credit for allowing such a strong junior player to leave as it was best for their development. People in Poland always rave about how hard of a worker that he is. That is what you see on the ice as well. At 5’7 and only 146 lbs, his size will always be his most significant obstacle. But he has tons of playmaking ability. Without a doubt, he probably sets his teammates up as well as any Polish prospect. Blanik was able to play in 30 PHL games this year between PZHL U23 and Zaglebie Sosnowiec, a majority with Zaglebie Sosnowiec. In his 17 games with Zaglebie Sosnowiec, he posted seven points (1-6-7). He was held pointless in 13 games with PZHL U23. He represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, posting one goal and three assists in five games. Blanik also got 19 games in the MHL recording 47 points (12-35-47).

Blanik

19 – Maciej Witan (F), 19, KH 58 Sanok, (15, -4)

Witan is pretty similar to Blanik in a lot of ways, but Witan edges him out in most categories. He is an inch taller than Blanik, and his offensive skills are more well rounded. Witan has a shot that can be lethal, along with being able to make it easy for his teammates with crisp passes, and not to mention a nice set of hands. Witan has stayed a part of Sanok’s team for the past three seasons. This year he recorded 14 points (2-12-14) in 17 games with Sanok. He also posted 44 points (16-28-44) in 18 MHL games, along with five points (3-2-5) in six games for PZHL U23. Given his performance with PZHL U23, I hope to see him getting some more meaningful reps next season. Witan will also be returning to the U20 World Championship squad after a six-point (1-5-6) performance in five games this season. He did fall this year because of the strength of other PHL performances, I also would have liked to see his production in the Slovakia third league reach the heights of his first year, where he recorded 21 points (6-15-21) in 21 games.

Witan

18 – Jan Sołtys (F), 20, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (2, -16)

There is no player that I feel has a better all-around game than Sołtys. He can do it all, he is excellent at both ends of the ice. He will always be hounding the puck and making his presence felt on the ice. It legit almost makes me sad to have him drop in the rankings by so much. This was kinda a lost season for Sołtys as the talented forward had to undergo knee surgery in November. This is a massive disappointment for the Jastrzebie native as he was scheduled to have a much more significant role in the club this year. His season started off strong in exhibition games versus foreign clubs. He did appear in 16 games for JKH GKS Jastrzebie, posting five points (2-3-5). The 5’11 forward did go pointless in five games at the Visegrad Cup, I was hoping the tournament would have been a nice showcase for him. His PHL production was also down compared to the previous year. Losing such a significant development year will be rough for Sołtys, but he is already so talented that he should have no problem bouncing back.

Soltys

17 – Grzegorz Radzieńciak (D), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (20, +3)

Radzieńciak continues to grow into a stronger and stronger defenseman each year. He continues to gain more confidence and better awareness. This year he was even able to jump into the offensive play a bit more and show his offensive traits. The 5’11 defenseman cemented himself as part of the Jastrzebie defense playing in 44 games. In those games, he recorded six points. He also posted both a goal and assist in eight Visegrad Cup games, his first goal at the senior level. In the MHL, he also recorded five points (2-3-5) in four games. The Lublin native really has all the traits to make him not just a solid professional player, but a defenseman that will be able to make an impact on the international stage. I have no doubt that Radzieńciak will continue to improve and become more confident in his play. He got in some national team games last season, and there should be more to come.

Radzieńciak

16 – Olaf Bizacki (D), 21, GKS Tychy, (23, +7)

Bizacki continues to rise up the ranks for Polish defensemen. At 5’7 he can be a bit small for his play at times, but his short stature never stops him from playing an aggressive two-way game. He definitely appeared more confident in the league this season, and that is not surprising given he is now a veteran of almost 150 PHL games and having played in the league since he was 17. This year though, he played primary with GKS Tychy, notching ten points (3-7-10) in 43 games. He also played six games with PZHL U23, where he picked up another assist. His 11 points this year were a career-high, and he only had nine career PHL points coming into this season. The Tychy native recorded one assist in two Champions Hockey League games as well. If Bizacki continues to improve like he has at both ends of the ice, the national team will no doubt follow.

Bizacki

Players 15-13

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2019 Top 50 Polish Men’s U23 Players. #16-13

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 16 through 13.

Players 50-45     Players 26-21

Players 44-39     Players 20-17

Players 38-33

Players 32-27

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

#16 – Patryk Wysocki (D), 20, KRS Heilongjiang. At just 19-years-old, Wysocki has already played hockey in Belarus, China, and Poland. He played in Poland and Belarus on the professional level in each country’s top league. In China, he appeared in the Molodyozhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga (MHL). The MHL is the top level of junior hockey in Russia. Wysocki moved to China midseason after being recruited by Andrei Parfenov. Wysocki is a defensive first guy and able to read the game well. He isn’t overly physical but does not shy away from it either. He will be able to play a lot of minutes, clog up shooting lanes, and disrupt passing lanes.

He was ready to play professional hockey starting at the age of 17 in Belarus, which is quite the feat. He was the only U18 defensemen in the league for the 2016-17 season, that was not a part of Team Belarus U20. The following season, Wysocki returned to Poland to play for MH Automatyka Gdansk, recording 2 assists in 38 games. For 2018-19, he moved to a stronger club in GKS Katowice but spent a lot of time with PZHL U23. He had 3 assists in 39 PHL games before moving over to KRS Heilongjiang.

In China, he had 2 goals and 2 assists in 20 games. His first goal in the MHL was actually his first goal since the 2016-17 U18s. KRS Heilongjiang was struggling hard and no single player could save the team, but Wysocki was able to come in and play some large minutes for the team. There he averaged 21:57 minutes a game. That is the 4th most among defensemen on the team and 11th most in the league (min 10 games played).

Wysocki

Wysocki like other top 4 defensemen on KRS Heilongjiang was put into a tough a role with harsh minutes and almost constantly being under siege. Usually, that is something I feel wouldn’t benefit a player at all, but considering Wysocki’s skill set it gave him the most chances to practice it. It will be interesting to see what is next for Wysocki as his options are pretty open. His former Head Coach in GKS Katowice said in an interview to Hokej.net, “If he wants to, maybe I’ll be able to get him to North America next season.” So far no announcements have been made by GKS Katowice, who did expect him to return to the team after the MHL season had finished. Katowice haven’t announced a new contract with the defenseman. They also added national team defensemen, Oskar Jaskiewicz and Patryk Wajda. Considering part of the reason he left for a chance in China was minutes, I wouldn’t imagine he returns to GKS Katowice.

#15 – Maciej Witan (F), 18, KH 58 Sanok. Sanok’s favorite son is also one of the top forward prospects in Poland. Witan is an incredible offensive talent and he needs to be on bigger stages than what he has played on. Witan has been one of the best players for Poland at the U18s. This year, he had 6 goals and 9 assists in 5 games. He had 9 points (5G, 4A) last year at the U18s. His two performances actually made him all-time leading scorer for Poland U18 at IIHF events.

In terms of professional and junior teams, Witan has dominated there offensively as well. In Poland’s U20 league, the 5’8 forward posted 16 goals and 22 assists in 17 games. Witan has played the last two seasons in the 3rd tier of Slovakian hockey with KH 58 Sanok. There he has 31 points (13G, 18A) in 35 games. It’s not a league where many U18 players play and Witan is the all-time leading U18 scorer for the league. There are only 16 U18 players though with at least 10 games played. There is simply no doubt that Witan has the skill to be a great player, but he has to be tested against better talents. He was able to get 3 PHL games in last year as well putting up one assist. To even really judge him as a prospect or a player I need to see him against tougher talents. If he is not going to go abroad to play he needs to be in the PHL next year. There is nothing left for him to gain in Sanok.

#14 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 18, Cracovia Krakow. Brynkus had quite the blow up this season. A year ago, he only got 2 games in at the U18s, then had 2 points in 19 games with SMS U20 Katowice. It was a kinda situation where he was outshined by other players and maybe couldn’t get the best opportunities because of that. When I interviewed David Leger, the former head juniors coach, Brynkus was a player he brought up unprompted as a part of Poland’s future core. Brynkus proved that to be true this year.

After only getting 2 IIHF games with team Poland last year, Brynkus had 10 this year after being named to both the U20 and U18 national teams. At the U20 stage, he was one of the best players on the team and the led team in goals with 4. He then returned to the U18s and just slaughtered his competition with 4 goals and 12 assists. He led the tournament in assists and points. His 16 points were also a Divison 2 Group A record for points in a single tournament. Brynkus also played full time in the PHL this year and not just with PZHL U23. He recorded 36 games with Cracovia Krakow and played 6 games in their run to the PHL finals. Brynkus was the only U18 player to play a regular role in the PHL this year. He didn’t score like past top U18 players who got that opportunity had, but that may just be the result of Cracovia not having the same ice time chances.

Like I mentioned with Lukasz Kaminski, there should be increased roles for them in Cracovia. He is a guy who always is in the right spot and able to get open. He has great patience and that aids his good shot when it comes to beating goalies with ease. He can also be quite the set-up man as well.

#13 – Oskar Jaskiewicz (D), 23, GKS Katowice. The oldest player on the list and certainly currently the best U23 defensemen. Jaskiewicz is a two-way defenseman that is strongest on the defensive end. He has quite the shot as well. He loves to pinch up on plays in the offensive zone. He has been allowed to make the mistakes that a player really needs to just experience over years of professional hockey that have him ready for almost any situation. Valtonen credited him as the defensive leader on Podhale this past season.

He has pretty much been a full-time defenseman in the PHL since he was 17. Only four other non-junior team players have been able to play at least 20 games in the PHL at such a young age. This includes national team legend Adam Borzecki, and current national team defensemen Bartlomiej Bychawski. Since then he has played 272 games in the PHL recording 31 goals and 51 assists. That is the most points recorded ever by a u23 defensemen in Poland. He made his senior IIHF debut this year at the World Championships.

Jaskiewicz has already secured his spot on team Poland for his career and if he stopped developing he would still be a really good player. He left Podhale this offseason and was originally considering options in North America. He instead signed a two-year contract with GKS Katowice. Part of the reason, he signed in Katowice is to continue learning under a Finnish coach and especially a great coach like Risto Dufva. Dufva is an amazing coach based on his career accomplishments and I’m curious to see what he can do with Jaskiewicz development wise.

Players 12-10

Players 9-8

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