Tag: Michael Luba

“What Is Left of Bankrupted Teams” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: Naprzod Janow

Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL. 

Today we start off our series previewing Naprzod Janow. Last year Naprzod Janow won the championship in the Polish first league to earn the right to once again play in the top level of Polish hockey. Janow only spent one year in the second league after being demoted in 2017. They have been going up and down between the PHL and the first league recently with the hope this year they’ll be able to stick in the PHL. Maybe to the benefit of them, or a curse, two teams bankrupted in the PHL last year leaving two full rosters needing new homes. While the best players were picked up last year mid-season, today we see if there was still anything left on the bones for Janow.


Yaroslav Salnik – Filip Stopinski – Maxim Titok

Alexis Svitac – Karol Wasinski – Adam Rajski

Michal Rybak – Szymon Skrodziuk – Maciej Rybak

Wojciech Gorzycki – Bartosz Kosmeda – Maciej Bielec

Other forwards: Jakub Piper, Lukasz Niedzwiedz,  Marcin Wrobel, Michal Stoklosa, Patrik Michal, Patryk Pohl, and Oliwier Ksiondz.

The offense is better than I expected, but also still not that great. It is full of players that need these top minute chances to get better, but when they’re all playing together it can collapse really quickly. There are not really all-around solid players to help guide them or be insurance. Yaroslav Salnik and Maxim Titok are interesting imports. Both players were top producers in the first league last year. Janow has to be hoping that they will get something like Torun did last year. Filip Stopinski is returning to Poland after a poor season in the Oberliga. Stopinski continues to struggle with consistency problems and other roadblocks. At times he has shown he can be a big producer in the PHL, but he also has some massive dry spells in there. If everything clicks this could actually be a really good first line, but that is a lot of ifs. Svitac, Wasinski, Rajski, the Ryabks brothers, and Skrodziuk all kinda fall in the same boat. They’re still young, show some promise, but mostly struggles when it comes to excelling at the top level. They all have a wonderful chance to take right now, it will be interesting to see who if anyone can thrive in these big roles. It is an interesting offense that I am excited to track. At the end of the day though, most of these guys would be third liners on another PHL team playing reduced minutes and roles. I do believe it will be an improvement on Polonia and Opole last year though.


Michal Krokosz – Adam Krok

Bartlomiej Stepien – Igor Sarna

Marek Kosakowski – Kacper Kaplon

Other defensemen: Aleksander Bodora

The defense is the biggest weakness of the team. Michal Krokosz is fine, but played higher-level hockey last year in the first league for the first time since 2015. A lot of the defense is in their mid-20s and don’t show a lot of potential for getting better. I don’t think any of them break the top six for another team in the PHL. When the league is so open to imports now, I don’t know how Janow doesn’t search for at least one import defensemen. The roster isn’t final, but I hope they’ll add something here.

Update 8/13: Janow signed Danil Skripets. The 24-year-old defenseman has represented Ukraine at the World Championships three times, including last year. He is instantly the best defensemen on their roster.

Update 8/15: Eetu Moksunen has joined the team on a tryout. The defensemen played with Podhale last year.


Michal Krofta

Szymon Niemczyk

The biggest story in Janow’s net, may not even be in their net. They’re still in contract negotiations with Michael Luba. While I believe Luba is ready to be a starter in the PHL, he is not going to save this team. Head coach Jacek Szopinski should know this pretty well after having Nick Vilardo stop over 40 plus shots a game during their time with Opole. Michal Krofta is an interesting goaltender himself though. He at one point did really well in the Czech junior leagues and posted an above-average Goals Against Average in the Czech second league. Niemczyk would be the backup or third string.

Update: Luba signed in France2

Prediction: 10th

Interesting things on offense can’t save this team from finishing last in the PHL, only above PZHL u23. This is a team that has a chance to blend a lot of good import players with younger Polish talents, but they don’t seem to be taking advantage of that. They only have two imports that didn’t play in Poland last year. One is coming from the Greater Metro Hockey League and wasn’t a top scorer there…

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What is Next For Michael Luba After A Career Year?

I have always wanted to write a piece on Michael Luba. At one point, he appeared to be Poland’s best goaltending prospect then seemingly disappear off the hockey map once he turned pro with Cracovia Krakow. This offseason seemed like the perfect time to finally write the piece. He had a career year with Cracovia Krakow setting a career high in games played with 28 and posted a .919 save percentage in those game. Krakow did later add another goaltender to the mix in veteran Czech netminder Miroslav Kopriva. Kopriva was the main goalie in the playoffs performing excellent and being a huge part of Krakow’s run to the finals. His success resulted in Luba not playing a single playoff game.

Despite the bump in the road during the playoffs, it seemed to me that Luba should be the future starting goaltender for Krakow. There were a lot of positive signs that it appeared to be the path they were taking. Luba had been a member of the Polish senior team during the year. Krakow had chosen him over former NHL goaltender Jason Bacashihua. It was also Luba’s fourth year with the team and he appeared to have finally paid his dues. Add in that Kopriva was an import and 35-years-old he seemed unlikely to be re-signed despite his success. Then hokej.net reported that Luba would be leaving the team to continue his career abroad. Then later it was announced that Kopriva had been re-signed. It leads me to wonder who Luba is and what is next for him.

One of the reasons that Luba has always stood out to me is because he is technically an import for the Polish national team. Luba was born in Montreal, Canada. He grew up there and played hockey in Quebec til he was 16. At the age of 16, he decided to make the move over to Europe and play junior hockey in Poland. When asked why he made the move to the Polish junior system Luba told me, “Because I wanted to play for the Polish national team.

Luba played in the Sanok junior system from 2011 to 2014. Excelling in the Polish system, he then moved over to the Slovak junior system with HK SKP Poprad U20. There in 2014-15, he was the starting goaltender and posted a .911 sv% in 32 games. “Obviously at the junior level in Slovakia there are so many goalies so much more than in Poland and the quality is better. They have more teams and more games and they have a lot of goalie coaches so they could improve.” Luba said commenting on the difference between the Polish and Slovak junior leagues for goaltenders. His performance in the Slovak junior leagues earned him the starting job for Poland at the U20 World Championship. There he probably played some of the best hockey in his career. His .933 save percentage lead Poland to a bronze medal. Luba was named the best goaltender in the tournament and best player on team Poland.

After a strong season in Slovakia and on the international stage, Luba signed with Cracovia Krakow to begin his professional career. He served as the backup goaltender for Krakow from 2015 to 2018 playing a total of 23 games across 3 seasons.

Going into the 2018-19 season, it appeared though that Luba was in line to finally move out of the background role. Krakow did not add a goaltender during the offseason. During the season, Luba was starting Krakow and again posted career-high numbers in games played. More games played this year than across his previous three years. “Yes the league got really better and finally the coach got some confidence in me and I think showed that I deserved a chance to play else were,” Luba when asked on if the PHL has gotten better and how it felt to play so much this year.

Luba also earned a chance to travel with team Poland to Finland. There the Polish national team played in two exhibition games against Metsis clubs. Luba played in first of the two games. On what he took away from the experience, “I gained a lot of confidence that I am closer and closer on my dream playing for the national team. I learned a lot from Tommi Satosaari the goalie coach there and know what to work on to get even better.” Luba will most likely be on the shortlist with a few other goaltenders for national team games next year.

Now though what is next for Luba? “I don’t have any contracts now. I am open for any offers we will see what will happen.” Luba definitely has the skills to play in a higher league or be a starter in the PHL in my opinion. He is a victim of a young player not getting enough chances in the PHL. His resume looks a bit bare after playing so little games his first three years in the PHL. He may have to play in the PHL again next year. I think the best situation would be in GKS Katowice. There he and fellow young goaltender Michal Kieler could split starts. Hokej.net recently reported that Luba was in negotiations with Naprzod Janow and a Metsis club.

Luba has been chasing the dream of playing in the national team for a long time and despite some bumps along the way it appears next year may be his chance to finally start a game for Poland. He needs to find a club though first. His chance to go aboard, the small sample size in the PHL, and former junior success; make him one of the most interesting Polish free agents.

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