Tag: Michal Narog

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #20-16

The hockey season continues to march on as we do with the list. We are now entering the next tier I discussed in the last article. If you missed it, I divide the list into three levels. The third tier is the widest, and I can see these players in the PHL, whether on the fourth or second line. The second tier is where we are now. The second tier is players I feel will be top-line stars in the PHL. These are players with that first line, top 2, or starting goalie potential. 

Now we have our next five picks, who have experienced a lot of changes in the rankings. Each player either raised or fell by seven spots. That is remarkable for how high we are on the list—the higher in the rankings, the less change we see, with injured players being the exception. A significant fall can be recovered from, as we will see later with the player who the most significant fall in 2020.

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Players must have played at least five hockey games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. One hundred forty-five players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty 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 report.

Players 50-41
Players 40-31
Players 30-21

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

20 – Karol Biłas (D), 19, STS Sanok, (36, +16)

There is so much great young talent in the Sanok system. That was on full display last year, with the team having a competitive roster despite how young most of the talent was. One of the young players that had to play a lot was Biłas. Just 17-years-old to start the season is a challenging task for any young player, but especially on defense with a forward core that will not offer that much offensive support. He is physically at about average to above-average size for PHL defensemen at 6’0 and 187 lbs. But how was he on the ice? 

Biłas is a player that I usually compliment more on his stellar offensive play. He posted five assists in 32 games for Sanok, which led all draft-eligible skaters in the PHL. His point total also tied the 18th best total by any skater in their draft-eligible season of all time. In his draft-eligible season, Biłas’ point total is tied for second all-time among defensemen. It was a rare season for a player this age and especially position. 

The offensive side is still the best part of his game. While I called him a two-way guy last year, I would say he is a full-blown offensive defenseman with a nice shot. That statement reflects on his play in both zones. His defensive play is still progressing, and it’s not going to be an issue of skating. It will be an issue of experience and will likely be a bump in the road over the next few years for him. No offense to the level of Slovak hockey, but this was the first time in his career where he had to face professional offenses. If he improves in his zone as he gains more experience, then Biłas can likely be a top-line defenseman in the PHL. His offensive play will always keep him high up on the teams’ lineup with powerplay time. 

19 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 20, Cracovia Krakow, (8, -11)

Brynkus takes a significant fall in my rankings and out of the top ten. It is not at all injury-related. He even played more than the previous year and did not suffer a large production decrease. In the end, Brynkus had a slight decline in offense in a year where so many other young players received huge chances for ice time and offensive opportunities. He is not getting that many chances to create that much production on the lower lines. His play away from the puck in his zone and the opposing continues to improve. 

Brynkus assist vs Gdasnk (PHL)

While he continues to improve the other facets of his game, his offensive skill will always be the highlight of his arsenal. His explosiveness is why he became so highly regarded after showing it at IIHF events and in Poland’s lower leagues. Until Brynkus shows his production ability in the PHL, it will be hard to project his ceiling. Among players, his age since 2010 in the PHL, his .18 point per game average last year ranks outside the top 70. Once he proves himself as a producer at the PHL, he will shoot back up the rankings, but question marks will stick until then. It may just be the playing behind imports in Krakow. During the 17 plus year reign of head coach Rudolf Rohacek, only Aron Chmielewski has been able to break into the top 6 while being on the cusp of his 20s. 

Whatever the reason, the critical part to remember is Bryknus is only turning 21 at the end of this hockey season and will already have over 150 PHL games under his belt. That experience is precious for a young player, especially when coming with a constant contender like Krakow. Playing with imports from high leagues is always a chance for a young polish player to learn. I have faith we will see Brynkus breakout even if we’re waiting for the end of his U23 days. 

18 – Michał Naróg (D), 20, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (25, +7)

Of players who took the best advantage of the covid year, Naróg is at the top of the list. In my opinion, it is much harder for defensemen to make it in the PHL, and we have seen fewer defensemen make it at such a young age and play strong hockey over the years. The 5’8 defenseman didn’t just look in place but earned his way up the roster and found himself playing a top 4 role on defense at just 19-years-old. While the Sosnowiec wasn’t the greatest, he still earned it and helped the team keep pace. 

The biggest standout from his season was nine assist in 30 games. His nine assists were tied for 20th among defensemen in the PHL, and it was the most among all U23 defensemen. Since 2010 it would be tied for 30th among all U23 defensemen. He did this on a team that failed to break 100 goals during the regular season, making Narog a part of 10% of his team’s goal while missing six games. Only one defenseman has had more points in their draft-eligible plus two season, Oskar Jaskiewicz.

Narog Goal vs. Katowice (MHL)

While that offensive season is impressive for his age and position, that is one part of the game, and as the team improves around him, we have to see how many of those points came from top line minutes with forwards who produce above a point per game level. While Sosnowiec didn’t have a lot of talent, Ruslan Bashirov was third in points, and Yevgeni Nikiforov was seventh in the league. It is not impossible to be natural progression from his rookie year, Narog managed four assists in 30 games and had been above a point per game player in the MHL for a while. 

He has avoided making major mistakes on the defensive end while facing the toughest competition in his top-four role. Few things like missing his assignment or picking up a man will go away with more time, especially with his role challenging top line, while paired with better defensive partners. He has quickly turned some heads with his hot start. He was one of the young players named to team Poland for the Baltic Challenge Cup. 

17 – Dominik Jarosz (F), 23, JKH GKS Jastrzebie (10, -7

JKH GKS Jastrzębie won the big one last season. The best team in the league featured a forward group with the best imports in the league. Add in plenty of young players taking that next step in their career and getting noticed for stronger clubs outside Poland. In a year where so many extraordinary moments happened for the organization, it feels weird to dissect a player and ask what went wrong. Each year Jarosz proved himself more and more. With Jastrzębie, he went from three to ten to 22 points. This past year he was dropped back down to eight points in the regular season. He even found himself back in the MHL for the first time since 2018. 

It was the largest point drop by any player on our ranking from the previous season. That is also something you don’t want to see out of a player that is starting to reach that point where development starts to slow, and seeing a player’s ceiling is a lot more clear. While a drop like that is concerning, I’m not close to writing him off. It was a down year on one of the most stacked Polish teams we have seen in a long time. 

Last year we talked about how great he was, and those same compliments remain. The size and speed make him one of the most dangerous forwards in Poland, especially down low. He is brilliant and seems to have so much patience and control on the ice, generating plenty of scoring chances. While Jarosz is great, there are a few more complete players ahead of him, along with many strong imports. He dropped down the line-up and wasn’t afforded many chances. He will rebound.

16 – Fabian Kapica (F), 19, Podhale Nowy Targ (29, +13

Kapica makes a big move up the list after his first full professional season. The previous year the young player bounced around a few levels of hockey in Poland and some junior hockey in Germany. Podhale Nowy Targ is a team that is on the downswing right now and is hurting to attract talent. Especially with a significant focus on that talent being Polish. For the past few years, we have seen a push by the blue and yellow bring back a lot of young Polish players to Poland with professional opportunities. Kapica was among those young Poles and the stand out of the group. 

Kapica Goal vs Sanok (PHL)

Kapica managed three goals in 23 games in his first full professional season. While not eye-popping numbers, it led U19 forwards in goals and points. It is also tied for the sixth-most goals by a player his age since 2000. He plays hard and shows excellent hustle, and I’m honestly surprised he couldn’t generate a few more scoring chances last year. At the MHL level, we saw more offensive dominance. There he posted three goals and seven assists in eight games. His 1.25 point per game average was the fourth-best in his age range. That MHL total is something I love to see out of a player. Most players saw a drop in MHL production. I don’t know what Kapica’s ceiling is. It is hard to project with the limited amount of games he has played over the last two years. He has the potential to be a special player for Poland, and I’m excited to see what he can accomplish on Poland’s u20 squad.

Players 15-11

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2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #30-21

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

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.

Bezwiński

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.

Gościński

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.

Bernacki

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.

Players 20-16

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2019 Top 50 Polish Men’s U23 Players. #32-27

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 32 through 27.

Players 50-45

Players 44-39

Players 38-33

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

#32 – Armen Khoperia (D), 19, Zaglebie Sosnowiec. Khoperia really took a step forward this season and proved that he should be playing in the PHL next season. At such a young age, it is a good sign with how well both ends of his games have developed. He still has a lot to learn but should be one of Poland’s best defensemen at the U20 World Championship next year. He will also likely spend a lot of the year with PZHL U23. I think he is a really good piece for other young defensemen to be around. A trustable defensive partner.

#31 – Kamil Wróbel (C), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie. Another player on the list from Jastrzebie. Wrobel previously shot up in my rankings after a strong 2016-17 season, he had 10 goals and 4 assists in 36 games. He was also a leader for Poland at the U20 World Championships finished tied for 3rd on the team in points with 5 (4G, 1A). There were a lot of high hopes for him going into 2017-18, but he regressed and only managed 5 goals and 3 assists in 35 games. This year though, Wrobel re-emerged with 11 goals and 16 assists in 45 games. This tied him with Patryk Krezolek for the most points by a U23 player in Poland. Wrobel is an all-around strong player and should be a leader on Jastrezebie next season. He was named to the roster for Poland once during the 2018-19 season, and I imagine we will see more of him with team Poland next year.

#30 – Mateusz Bezwinski (F/D), 18, SMS Torun.  Bezwinski is a special player because of his ability to play forward and defense. He would be considered a top prospect at either of his positions. This year, with SMS Torun, he had 21 goals in 23 games in Poland’s second league. That is a remarkable feat, especially at his young age. It was the most goals by any U18 player in the league. He kept the scoring going by recording 5 goals and 5 assist at the U18s. He reportedly may move up to the PHL next year and is training with Cracovia Krakow. At the U18s, he was used as a forward, while it appears that he was used as a defenseman by SMS Torun this year. It will be interesting to see what position they use him in at Cracovia. I feel he would be best suited to continue at forward, given his goal-scoring ability.

 

#29 – Fabian Kapica (F), 17, ETC Crimmitschau U17. The youngest player on my list and one of the few who has yet to play for Poland at an IIHF event yet. Kapica was already a highly regarded in prospect in Poland, but his stock reached new heights when he moved to the German junior leagues. In the second level of the U16 league, he had 4 goals and 5 assist in his single game there. At the top U16 league, Kapica had 22 goals and 19 assists in 16 games. Kapica has not stopped his offensive run through of the German junior leagues. In the top u17 league with Crimmitschau U17, he led the North Qualification Round in points with 16 (7G, 9A). Kapica finished the year with 10 goals and 18 assists in 28 games. This season should be the one where we see Kapica make his debut for team Poland as he continues to move up the German junior system.

#28 – Michal Narog (D), 18, SMS Torun. Narog has to be the player that had the most significant rise in their stock this year. In 2016-17, Narog was still considered a fine defensive prospect, but nothing special. This year he exploded on to the scene and put up incredible numbers. In 23 games in the Polish second league, Narog posted 11 goals and 19 assists. At the U18s in a line up that was loaded with other strong offensive defensemen, Narog managed to outproduce them with a whopping 2 goals and 10 assists in 5 games. This was the third most points in the entire tournament.  Narog needs to get some playing time with a stronger team and possibly stronger league. His offensive ability is awe-inspiring. He is really good at walking the defensive line and is almost like a quarterback at the back end.

#27 – Lukasz Krzemien (C), 22, Polonia Bytom. I have a lot of respect for Krzemien. In what was an awful year for Polonia Bytom due to to their financial conditions, he stuck by the team and lead the players at such a young age. He put the struggling team on his back and tried to get as much out of the experience as possible. Numerous stars and longtime players of Polonia continued to leave, but not Krzemien. He stayed with the sinking ship. He led the team in points with 20 (8G, 12A). Krzemien will now be moving on to a stronger club in Unia Oswiecim. He is a talented player who deserves more of an actual shot to show what he can do. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was able to earn a roster spot on a Euro Ice Hockey Challenge team next year.

Players 26-21    Players 12-10

Players 20-17     Players 9-8

Players 16-13

Players 16-13

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