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.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking)
30 – Michał Cychowski (F), 17, Krefelder EV 1981 U17, (57, +27)
Cychowski moves into the top 50 after a fantastic year in the Krefelder system, Krefelder is pretty much the primary home of Polish players in Germany. Cychowski came into this year and smashed his marks from last year. In 32 games, he recorded 46 points (21-25-46) in 32 games. His 46 points were 16th overall in the top German U17 league. He also got his chance with Krefelder’s DNL U20 team, where he recorded one assist in four games. Cychowski represented Poland at a few non-IIHF U18 events. It will be interesting to see his development over the coming years.
29 – Fabian Kapica (F), 18, EV Landshut U20, (29, 0)
Kapica began his journey dominating the German junior leagues after moving over from Poland. He kept moving up the German junior system, and this year he reached the top at just 17-years-old. In the top German junior league, he posted four points (1-3-4) in 18 games. Though his play continued to improve as he got more comfortable, he lost his spot in the line up to an older player. He then returned to Poland for a couple games with Podhale. He recorded five points (1-4-5) in nine games at the U20 level and six points (2-4-6) in three U18 games. Kapica did sign a professional deal with Podhale but never appeared with the team in the PHL. Kapica is young and very talented, but his growth hasn’t been as fast as one would have expected based on his earlier career.
28 – Mateusz Ubowski (F), 19, MOSM Tychy, (63, +35)
Ubowski was really one of the players who thrived in the new MHL system. The 6’1 forward racked up 54 points (16-38-54) in 29 games. His 48 regular season points were tied for third in the league overall and tied for the most among all U20 players. This was able to impress the GKS Tychy higher-ups.
The Tychy native played in 21 PHL games, 18 of them PZHL U23. He recorded five points (1-4-5), two assists coming with GKS Tychy. Since the 2010 PHL season, GKS Tychy has only had 11 U20 skaters play a game. While Ubowski didn’t get a long run, him getting any kind of run shows the potential GKS Tychy see in him. He also earned a spot on the Polish U20 squad, where he recorded one assist.
27 -Miłosz Noworyta (D), 21, Unia Oswiecim, (41, +14)
Noworyta established himself as a full-time PHL defenseman this year for a really skilled Oswiecim team. He is a brilliant stay at home defenseman with outstanding awareness, there is really no offensive side to his game, and he can be a bit undersized for the role he plays. Noworyta provides a lot of value on the penalty kill as well. Nik Zupančič, the head coach of Unia Oswiecim, spoke highly of Noworyta to hokej.net. “There are many players who have raised their level this season. One of them is definitely Miłosz, who developed with every match.” He continues to gain more experience and should be a really valuable part of the top 6 for the Polish national team.
26 – Mateusz Bezwiński (F), 19, Cracovia Krakow, (30, +4)
Bezwiński was one of the numerous young players that fought for ice time in a crowded Krakow lineup. In 24 games, with both Cracovia Krakow and PZHLu23, the 5’10 forward recorded four points (2-2-4). He finished above a point per game in 22 MHL games, along with recording three points (1-2-3) in five games for Poland at the U20 World Championships. He started the season strong but trailed off as the season went on. Part of this may have been due to him having an increased role as Krakow dealt with injuries. When he is on his game, he is a dynamic offensive player. I expect him to be a leader on Poland’s U20 World Championship team next year.
25 – Michał Naróg (D), 19, Lotos PKH Gdansk, (28, +3)
Michał Naróg earns a slight rise in the rankings after becoming a full-time defenseman with Gdansk in the PHL this season. The 5’8 defensemen recorded four assists in 41 PHL games. He recorded 35 points (17-18-35) in 19 MHL games. He also made the Polish U20 squad, where he recorded one assist in five games along with 13 shots. Narog has so much offensive potential and a rocket of a shot. His real test is going to be if he can produce and get off shots like he does at the junior level. Senior players are smarter and won’t allow for so many clear lanes. His defensive side also will need to continue to evolve, but his ceiling is very high.
24 – Mateusz Gościński (LW), 23, GKS Tychy, (12, -12)
Gościński was one of the fastest rising players in Polish hockey. It seemed like he was about to become a staple of Poland’s top six for years to come. He recorded 24 points (11-13-24) in 58 games, and then had three points (1-2-3) in five games at the senior World Championships. I was really enamored with his play, he was always very aggressive towards the puck and showed great forechecking ability. He especially excels down low in the zone. This year though, the PHL got better, and he faced a slight role reduction. His production went down quickly by recording eight points (3-5-8) in 40 games. Gościński will still most likely develop into a solid player for Poland, but his game will have to rise to another level if he wants to lockdown that top-six spot.
23 – Ernest Bochnak (F), 20, HC ISMM Koprivnice, (17, -6)
Bochnak appeared to have a brighter future than anyone else in Polish hockey when he made his first IIHF team at the age of 15 and posted four points (1-3-4) in five U18 World Championship games. That was also the last time he represented Poland at an IIHF event. His career took quite a rollercoaster-like ride after that year. His production didn’t spike in the Czech junior leagues like many thought it would. Then in 2018, he moved to the Finnish junior system for part of the year before finishing the year back in the Czech Republic with AZ Havirov U19. He returned to the Czech Republic for this year but turned professional.
Bochnak played a majority of the year with HC ISMM Koprivnice in the Czech third league, posting six points (2-4-6) in 22 games. This was tied for 13th among U20 players in the league. He also recorded 11 points (4-7-11) in 10 games for AZ Havirov’s U20 team, along with one assist in three games for PZHL U23. I’m still a big believer in Bochnak’s ability, but his game is missing something. His all-around game is better than most Polish players, but he just isn’t at that level to be considered an exceptional talent yet.
22 – Michał Bernacki (F), 22, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (37, +15)
One of the big things I was looking at for young players in the PHL this year, as the league quality improved, was for them to at least retain their production from the previous year. Bernacki was able to build on his production last year, which is a great sign. He had 21 points (6-15-21) in 49 games. The 6’3 forward posses a lot of great offensive attributes with substantial size to supplement his down-low game as well. He is very talented, and his production is nice to see especially considering for most of the year Zaglebie Sosnowiec didn’t have that healthy of offense and still finished second to last in goals for during the 2019-20 season. Bernacki should continue to grow into one of the top forwards in the PHL.
21 – Krzysztof Bukowski (F), 18, CP de Meyrin, (35, +14)
Bukowski started this year off with a bit of a puzzling decision when he chose to remain with CP de Meyrin. Meyrin plays in the very low divisions of Switzerlands for both junior and senior-level hockey. Bukowski, who had attracted interest and played for Genève-Servette junior team, Geneve-Servette’s senior team plays in the National League. Many believed that Bukowski would move to a more prominent club. Bukowski stayed with Meyrin though, and his older brother Jakub Bukowski also joined the club.
Bukowski posted 30 points (13-17-30) in 17 games in the Swiss U20-A league, the third level of U20 hockey in the country. He also played for Meyrin in the senior amateur league, 2. Amateur Regio League, as well. There he posted 17 points (14-3-17) in 19 games. The 5’10 forward also jumped a U20 level to play with Chaux-de-Fonds U20 in the U20-Top recording one assist in three games. Bukowski was also a constant presence on both Polish U18 and U20 teams for various events, though he was left off the U20 team roster. Bukowski is an immensely talented forward, but I do fear what playing in such low leagues will do for his overall development. He has the ability to play in higher leagues, and I would love to see how he does with that challenge.