Tag: Maja Brzezinska

2022 Top 50 Women’s U20 Players. #5-4

Now into the top 5. The players from five to three are the hardest to separate in the entire rankings. These players are not just promising players in Poland, but national team staples that are stars in the PLHK. They post astounding numbers in Poland that would be hard for any player to achieve. The most significant factor separating them this year was how young they were in putting up these statistics.

Players had to be under the age of 20 and at least 13 years old on September 12th, 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. 113 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Fifty players received a ranking.

Players 50-31Players 15-11
Players 30-21Players 10-8
Players 20-16Players 7-6

5 – Ida Talanda (F), 19, Polonia Bytom, (6, +1)

Talanda moves into the top five for the first time in our rankings. She is also the highest-ranked player from Polonia Bytom this season. The high-scoring winger continues earning more ice time in the PLHK and EWHL. In both leagues, she has produced as well. This year in 22 PLHK games, she recorded 30 goals and 23 assists for 53 points. This was tied for seventh among all skaters in points in the PLHK and the second most among U20 skaters. Talanda has become one of the top-scoring options on Poland’s best team. Her hard shot made her one of the best goal-scorers in Poland. One of her goals was also the overtime winner for Polonia Bytom, which won the PLHK championship. This goal-scoring ability is starting to translate to stronger leagues as well. Talanda posted new career highs in goals, assists, and points in the EWHL. With Metropolis Katowice in 2022, the 5’9 forward scored three goals and assisted on two. Her three goals were tied for eight among U20 players in goals.

Ida Talanda Goal vs. Gdansk. PLHK Playoffs

Talanda has become a vital part of the national team as well. After graduating from the U18 squad, she moved to the senior national team for her first IIHF appearances. The Krynica native represented Poland at both rounds of Olympic qualification, where she posted three points (1G-2A-3PTS) in six games. To end the year, she was with team Poland at the World Championships and added one more goal to her season. Talanda can potentially be a first-line winger for the Polish national team, and she would likely be able to play outside of Poland if she chose to. Undoubtedly, she will already be a mainstay on the senior national team’s top nine.

4 – Maja Brzezinska (F), 17, Stoczniowiec Gdansk (8, +4)

Brzezińska stepped into Gdansk’s top line at just 17 years old and helped Gdansk become the highest-scoring offense in Poland. This year she recorded 31 goals and 23 assists for 53 points in 22 games. This placed her tied seventh in points this year among all PLHK skaters while being the second most among U18 skaters. Her line with Magdalena Lapies and Tatiana Onyshchenko combined for 205 points in 22 games. Her season was topped off with representing the senior and U18 squad at national team events. With the U18 squad, she scored twice in the team’s four games.

Brzezińska Goal vs. Spain. International Exhibition

Brzezińska is a puck magnet with a lot of speed, and these things combine to generate a lot of scoring chances. Now if those skills will transfer against higher competition remains to be seen. She did play in 10 games with Metropolis Katowice, where the young forward recorded two assists. At just 17 years old, she has plenty of time to continue her growth. She is already one of Poland’s best 12 forwards and will be a significant presence in the national team lineup for a long time.

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5 Thoughts: 2023 Women’s Division 1 Group B U18s. Second Silver.

For the second time this hockey season, we saw Poland’s women’s U18 team compete at an IIHF event. This was a much different group from the one we saw in September. The U18 squad lost some stars and legends of the program, like Anna Kot, Alicja Mota, and Julia Zielinska. That team we saw in September took home silver and felt like they were inches from gold. For Poland to replicate or improve on their success, they would need more jumps by the new core or some amazing debuts. Would they get either in this five-team tournament?

Poland started off the tournament with a match against familiar foe South Korea. Poland immediately proved why they should be a tournament favorite with a 6-0 victory, including two goals from Stepien. This was the first sign of the new offensive leaders stepping up in big ways. In their second game, Poland got their biggest test with Denmark. After a rough second period, Poland would fall in this one 3-1. The tournament’s story was Danish goalie Caroline Bjergstad, who stopped 90 shots of the 93 she faced. This included a 36-save game against Poland. With Poland likely eliminated from the tournament, it could have been easy for them to give up. Instead, they kept their foot on the gas and would win their final games against Spain and Chinese Taipei, both 4-0. This would give Poland a second straight silver medal, but this time with 10 more goals scored and five fewer allowed.

3 Shutouts

Nadia Ratajczyk had a solid showing at the last tournament, but there was room for improvement. There is not much more to improve on when you post three shutouts in four games! It was a great performance for the young goalie. Now in the three shutouts, she only faced 36 shots, including only seven vs. South Korea. Still, often times we see goalies let in a soft one during low-shot-faced games in IIHF tournaments, but Ratajczyk stayed sharp the whole time. It was a great tournament for Poland’s top goaltending prospect, who finished with a .949 SV%.

Nadia Ratajczyk saves vs Chinese Taipei

Finally Finishing

In the previous tournament, Poland had many chances but could not finish. They finished with a shooting percentage below four percent. It was the biggest reason Poland missed out on gold, and lost a rough game vs Chinese Taipei in 2022. This year Poland came out strong and buried their opponents below them, with final scores of 6-0 and 4-0 twice. This game gave them an 8.25 shooting percentage on 177 shots. This was good for second in the tournament, but there is still some work to do. When it mattered most, Poland only scored one goal on 37 shots versus Denmark.

14-year-old Stars

A sign that work has already started was a pair of 14 years olds who came up big for Poland. Anna Sencerz and Matylda Stępień both stepped up and helped deliver strong performances to boost Poland’s offense. Matylda Stępień is someone I was hoping would provide that spark, as she scored over 40 points last year for Ponzan in the PLHK. In 2023, she is playing in the top women’s league in Czechia for HC Falcons Sokol Karviná. In the tournament, she scored three goals on 19 shots. Her three goals were tied for the lead on team Poland and third in the tournament. Sencerz has been a rapidly developing forward for Gdansk. In this tournament, she scored one goal and assisted on another. Her two points were tied for fifth on the team. Both young players helped make this Polish offense the strongest in the tournament.

Matylda Stępień Goal vs. Spain

The Captain and Brzezińska Bombs

The true leaders of that strong offense were Maja Brzezinska and Justyna Zyla. Brzezinska tied for the lead in points and goals on Poland with three goals and one helper. The talented forward from Gdansk also fired off a team-leading 27 shots on goal. This was the highest amount of shots on goals by any individual in the tournament. Brzezinska already represents Poland at the senior level in the IIHF as well. She showed in this tournament that she has already outgrown the U18 level, and I think she may outgrow playing in Poland soon. While the captain has already outgrown Poland and is playing in Sweden. Justyna Żyła, the captain, also had a really great tournament. She tied Brzezinska for the lead in points with two goals and two assists for four points. Both are really going to be a large part of the core of Poland’s next generation.

What’s Next Now?

After back-to-back silver medals, the obvious goal for next year will be gold. Poland will not have too many departures, but they will be key players. Starting goalie Nadia Ratajczyk will have aged out after two runs as the starter. Captain Justyna Żyła, Maja Brzezińska, Julia Skręt, and Natalia Nosal will also all not be able to return. Still, that means you return so much of your roster that it paints a bright picture for next year. Finding out who will be the next goalie to take on the starter role will be the biggest thing for Poland to answer. The offense could be the best we have ever seen from the red and white.

Quick Thoughts

  • Poland’s 15 goals scored were the second most in team history, impressive with only four games
  • 3 goals is the least amount of goals allowed in the tournament by Poland, still impressive but also only with four games.
  • Natalia Nosal has now had two strong tournaments showing poise in each zone. She recorded one goal and two assists in four games in this tournament. I really like to see development on defense.
  • Patrycja Wójcik has a lot of potential as a stay-at-home defenseman and her development continues to grow solidly.
  • Magdalena Lapies is really going to be a special forward for Poland. There was so much talent at this tournament to talk about.

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2021 Top 30 Women’s U20 Players. #10-8

We have now hit the top ten of our rankings. It was a really explosive year for newcomers on the list, as three players who were not ranked the previous year have found themselves in the top ten. While three other players have gigantic rises to make the top. In fact, a whole four players from last year’s top ten were able to survive and stay in the ten best. 

Players had to be under 20 on June 30th, 2021. 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. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. Ninety-five players were considered for the list and reviewed, and fifty players received a ranking. Players 50-31 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 30 players receive a report.

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

Players 30-21

Players 20-16

Players 15-11

10 – Lena Zięba (F), 15, Polonia Bytom, (Not Ranked)

Zięba jumps all the way to the top 10. She had just missed being ranked in the previous edition after a strong year with Janow in the PLHK B and later training with the Metropolis Katowice in the EWHL. She moved from Janow to Polonia Bytom, a great sign for anyone’s future. Not only that, but she delivered at both the senior and junior levels. She scored 15 goals and added two assists in 19 games in the Żak Starszy ŚZHL while posting three goals and one assist in eight PLHK A games. She is showing a lot of promise, and I’m very disappointed we haven’t been able to see her at the IIHF level yet. She scored two goals and two assists in two exhibition games vs. Latvia. This was all done in her aged 14 season.

Lena Zięba Goal vs. Latvia

9 –  Julia Łapińska (F), 16, Stoczniowiec Gdansk, (21, +12)  

Łapińska makes a huge jump on the list, moving from the 20s to the top ten. The Elblag native posted a new career-high in points for the PLHK A with 12 points (5G, 7A, 12PTS) in 15 games. Łapińska has continued to improve and improve on her craft in Gdansk and is poised to be a strong young player for Poland. Her talent level is beyond her years, and she is already contributing to senior teams in a major role at just 16-years-old. I’m not sure what her ceiling would project to be right now. I think her floor is a top PLHK player who makes national team appearances. 

8 – Maja Brzezińska (F), 16, Stoczniowiec Gdansk, (Not Ranked)

From one great young Gdansk star to the next, with more to come, Brzezińska comes in ranked in the top ten in her first ranking. She is also the second-highest debut ranking for this year. It is well deserved after posting eight goals and seven assists in 12 regular-season games this year. Her 15 points were seventh among all skaters in PLHK A. Another player with lost U18 IIHF experiences due to the pandemic cancellations. But she made her presence felt when Poland took on Latvia, scoring two goals and assisting on five other goals in just two games. She generates scoring rates at such a high rate whenever on the ice. Often leaving her teammates with easy finishes. 

Maja Brzezińska Goal vs. Latvia

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