Tag: Michal Nawrocki

2022 Top 80 Men’s U23 Players. #50-41

After the 30-player-long part 1, we have now reached the first article of the top 50. This is the first group of players who, for me, graded out as solid PHL players in past, current, and future play. This group of players was hard to rank, as it has a few players struggling to find their identity in the PHL. It becomes hard to tell after a few PHL seasons if a player still possesses the ability to climb the lineup and become an impact producer. On top of that, we had plenty of players not previously ranked, breaking the top 50. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16 years old on June 1st, 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. One hundred sixty-nine players were considered for the list and reviewed, and eighty players received a ranking.

Players 80-51

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)

50 – Szymon Dobosz (F), 20, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok (41, -9)

The top 50 spot always feels like its a player who has a larger story to their season. There were questions about Dobosz’s future at the end of the 2021 hockey year, and those were never really resolved. The young forward would not sign or play anywhere during the year’s first half. He did attend national team camps and sparrings, but that was it. He was then selected to the roster of the Polish U20 team for the Division 1 Group B World Championship. He was rusty at the tournament and looked out of place sometimes. After Poland was relegated, head coach Artur Slusarczyk said he believed that Dobosz was still one of the best wingers available to them even without playing a club season. 

Szymon Dobosz Goal vs. Sokoly Torun MHL

After the international tournament, Dobosz would return to Sanok and play in the MHL for the remainder of the season. He finished with 15 points (10G-5A-15PTS) in 13 games. He is a talented forward, no doubt. At this stage, he needs to play as much as possible to continue to develop. If Dobosz plays a lot, I could see him in a middle-six for Sanok. 

49 – Jakub Blanik (F), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec (27, -22

I had high hopes that Blanik’s production would recover this year after he only posted three points in 31 games during the 2021 season. Instead, his production went down as he only recorded two assists in 41 games. Those two assists also both came in one game against Podhale. These are very disappointing numbers for a forward, especially for one who had posted seven points in just 17 games during the 2020 season. He did post 20 points (3G-17A-20PTS) in 12 MHL games. 

Blanik primary assist vs. Podhale Nowy Targ PHL

Now that Blanik is in his 20s, these will be make-or-break seasons. His high character and competitiveness are things that coaches rave about. I see him being a PHL forward, even if only a bottom-six one. 

48 – Michał Nawrocki (F),  19, Kalix HC J20, (43, -5

Nawrocki continues his journeyman junior career as he split time between Poland and Sweden. This year, he spent most of his time with Kalix HC J20 in Sweden’s second U20 division. There in 22 games, he recorded two goals and two assists. The other part of his season was in the MHL with Sokoly Torun. He only played in ten games, but he scored six goals and assisted on five. He is likely too good to play in the MHL full time, so I have liked seeing him take chances abroad. 

Nawrocki Goal vs. Sokoly Torun MHL

For the 2022 season, he will move to the United States and play for the Hershey Cubs in the USPHL Premier League. A lower-tier junior league in states, but still boasts some professional alumni. We have seen quite a few Poles play in the league, but Nawrocki will possibly be the first forward to get extended time. 

47 – Kacper Ziarkowski (F), 17, Krefelder EV 1981 U17, (NR) 

Ziarkowski receives a huge debut rating after only playing five games in 2021. His 2022 season was the first time we saw him in an extended run, and it was a great showing. The Torun native posted 46 points (27G-19A-46PTS) in 34 Germany U17 games. His 46 points were 27th among all skaters in the league, the fourth most by a non-German player. His 27 goals were tied for 9th in the league. While the current structure of Germany’s U17 league has only been around since 2019, his production matches suggest he should be a good DNL U20 player. Plenty of them have already taken their first professional steps across all the top three levels of German senior hockey. 

Ziarkowski did take some baby steps to the next level. He played in one Obliega game in 2022 with Krefelder EV 1981 U23. He also managed to get in two games at the DNL U20 level, where he recorded one goal. The team has already announced that Ziarkowski will be promoted to the DNL U20 top level next year. Poland could be looking at an excellent IIHF U20 producer. 

46 – Oskar Bajwenko (D), 21, KH Torun, (63, +17

Bajwenko was a player I have been watching for a bit. As I think the aggressive defender has a strong shot at being a top-four defenseman in Poland. He started to crawl into the PHL this year, playing in 14 regular-season games and then 4 playoff games. He also showed he is ready to graduate from the MHL after posting a career-high of 15 points (3G-12A-15PTS) in 12 games. His 1.25 point per game average was fourth among all defensemen. 

Bajwenko Goal vs. Sokoly Torun MHL

He will be returning to a much more crowded defensemen room in Torun, as the team is returning their key Poles while also adding Jakub Gimiński and Ukrainian Volodymyr Aleksyuk. I do like that former longtime PHL defensemen Lukasz Podsiadlo will be aiding his development as an assistant coach in Torun. I expect Bajwenko to potentially step into a full-time top-six role with Torun this year. 

45 – Filip Świderski (G), 21, STS Sanok, (NR) 

After a pretty quiet 2021, Świderski took control of the backup spot in the Sanok lineup. During the 2021 season, Patrik Spesny was entrenched in the starting role, playing every game of the year. But in 2022, Spesny wasn’t as sharp, and this opened up a few chances for Filip Świderski. A specific game I want to highlight was on October 17th, vs. Unia Oswiecim. With the start, Świderski played great while facing constant pressure. He stopped 38 of 40 shots. In total, he posted a .894 save percentage in eight games. That is the 6th highest save percentage by a 21-year-old goalie in the PHL since 2010 (min 5 games). 

Świderski save vs. Unia Oswiecim PHL

Towards the end of the season, STS Sanok would add a new starting goalie in Dominik Salama. The move would shift Spesny to the backup role, and Swiderski went back down to the MHL in time for the playoffs. In the playoffs, he was lights out, posting a .935 save percentage in 7 games. Only 4 U23 goalies played in more than 5 PHL games last year, and Świderski posted the best save percentage by a decent margin. With new PHL goalie rules, I think Salama and Świderski will be a great pairing, and the Sanok native could hit double-digit appearances with a few starts. 

44 – Kacper Gruźla (F), 22, GKS Tychy (23, -21

After a break-out year in 2021, Gruźla weirdly saw his role diminish on Tychy. He would suit up in 18 games this year, mainly on the lower lines, and go pointless. He also played in the MHL, scoring nine goals and assisting on six in 11 games. This year was his age 21 season, so MHL production does not hold much water in his ranking. He has played in PHL games across four seasons, and this is the first time he failed to record a single point. 

Gruźla should be a PHL player, but it is clear that was probably not going to happen in Tychy soon. Unsurprisingly, the team announced he would leave the club. I hope to see him in a different organization that can provide more opportunities. Next season is his age 22 year so the clock is ticking, and I think Gruzla has the potential to be more than a bottom-six player. 

43 – Tomasz Grobelkiewicz (G), 19, SMS PZHL Katowice (NR) 

Grobelkiewicz is a prospect I have been watching for a while, as I have enjoyed watching the slow rebirth of hockey in Lodz. He received a look with Krakow to start the season. But returned to the MHL, and had a breakout year as the starting netminder for SMS PZHL Katowice. In 18 games, he posted a .905 save percentage, which was tied for third among all goalies and second among U20 goalies. He would also stay strong in three MHL playoff games, posting a .902 save percentage.

Grobelkiewicz save vs Lodz MHL

After a great MHL season, he would not slow down. He joined Polonia Bytom for the CLJ playoffs and posted his best performance of the year. In Five games, he stopped 111 shots and only allowed seven goals. No doubt in my mind that next year, I see Grobelkiewicz as the starting goalie for team Poland at the U20 World Championships. 

42 – Filip Sienkiewicz (F), 19, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok (NR)

Sienkiewicz fell under the radar the last two seasons as he played for the Connecticut Chiefs junior teams in the United States. He returned to Poland this year full-time in 2022 to play for Sanok. He would start the year in the MHL and build a strong season. In total, he scored 14 goals and 16 assists in 28 games. His 30 points were 11th among U20 skaters in the MHL and the fifth most by an 18-year-old skater. 

Sienkiewicz goal vs. Zagłębie Sosnowiec PHL

His strong MHL play led to him getting a PHL callup with Sanok in January. He would go on to play in eight games in the regular season and three in the playoffs. In those 11 games, he scored his first career goal and assisted on two more. A tiny sample size, but it was fourth among U20 skaters in points and second-best point per game average. Sienkiewicz was a pleasant late surprise for Sanok, and it will be interesting to see his role next year. 

41 – Aleks Menc (F), 18, Strömsbro IF J18 (37, -4

Aleks Menc played his first full year abroad in Sweden this year. He mainly played in the J18 Region, which is the second level of U18 hockey in Sweden. The young center recorded 18 points (12G-6A-18PTS) in 34 games. Looking at his exact production matches that went on to play a senior career, 38 percent went on to play in Sweden’s third level of hockey (HockeyEttan). No matches have reached a stronger league than the HockeyEttan. Menc also played for Poland at the U18 Divison 1 Group B World Championships, where he recorded one assist.

Menc Goal vs France U18 Exhibition

He is a talented offensive forward with a strong shot but lacks consistency in his game. This is most evident by 10 of his 18 points coming in the last nine games of the season—only eight points in the first 25 games of the year. Maybe the jump to Sweden took a lot of adjustment. He wasn’t surrounded by the most talented roster this year either, and his 18 points were third on Strömsbro. I am curious to see if Menc stays in Sweden next year. There is a lot of talent in there if someone can mold it correctly.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #50-41

Last year I thought the list was difficult because a few players missed playoff games or international tournaments. This year was even more challenging as some players did not play at all. Lots of players saw their season cut short or never get started. In Poland, hockey was able to be played with both the PHL and MHL completing their seasons.

I thought about skipping the list this year because many of the top young players maybe saw their years canceled as they play abroad. I ended up looking at it similar to a player with a season-ending injury. A lot of players lost a crucial year of development. Their sacrifice will hopefully be understood with coaches as they play a bit of catch-up.

With that said, there was a lot of hockey played, with plenty of players taking significant steps in their careers. At the same time, plenty of others have been a part of an action-packed offseason and moving up levels. It is time for the top 50 U23 players of 2021. 

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. 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 own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world 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.

Honorable Mentions (In No Order): Patryk Pelaczyk, Marcin Plachetka, Lukasz Kaminski, Patryk Wysocki, Paweł Bizub. 

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

50. Oliwier Kasperek (D), 19, MOSM Tychy (Not Ranked) 

Kasperek makes his first appearance on the list after just missing a ranking last year. The young defensemen would have certainly been vying for a spot on Poland’s U20 roster. He did play for the U20 team in their two games at Opole HK. He had a cup of coffee with GKS Tychy playing in 4 games. Most of his time was spent with MOSM Tychy in the MHL. There he recorded 13 points (2G-11A-13PTS) in 29 games. His regular-season point total was tied for sixth among MHL U20 defensemen. 

49. Michał Kusak (F), 17, HC Karlovy Vary U17 (Not Ranked)

From one non-ranked player to the next, Michal Kusak makes the top 50. Kusak left Poland at 14, to play in the top U17 level in Czechia. In his third year at the U17 level, It appeared Kusak was going to have a breakout season with 5 points (1G-4A-5PTS) in his first four games. The rest of the season was canceled. Kusak returned to Poland, putting up a similar performance with 5 points (1G-4A-5PTS) in 3 games during the junior level postseason. 

48. Patryk Gosztyla (D), 22, Cracovia Krakow (51, +3)

Gosztyla came over to Krakow last year from the Slovak junior system. At the time, Krakow was looking to inject more young Polish talent into their lineup. Despite that, regular playing time found itself hard to come by for the 6’2 defender in his first season. 2021 proved to be better as he played 28 games while recording one assist. The stay-at-home defenseman has continued to improve his game slightly. He is not close to a national team contributor yet. Next year at 22, he will need a break-out season. 

47. Jakub Worwa (F), 22, Podhale Nowy Targ (66, +19)

While it may seem like Worwa is getting a big jump. This is mainly due to staying healthy after just playing 12 games in 2020. I was very excited to see Worwa play this year after posting 6 points the previous year in just 12 games. In 36 games this year, he recorded three goals and four assists. This production is down from 2019 when he posted 11 points as a 19-year-old. He still finished 13th in scoring among u22 players. The power-forward has a make-or-break year in 2022. 

46. Dawid Wróblewski (F), 19, JKH GKS Jastrzebie (Not Ranked) 

Wróblewski has many positive assets at his disposal. These include good size at 6’4, and strong offensive instincts. In past years, he was always someone hard to leave unranked. It came down to putting it all together when he was playing at higher levels. This year the Polish forward with US citizenship found himself loaned to Polonia Bytom in the MHL. He was more than impressive. His 26 points (12G-14A-26PTS) in 21 games were tied for fifth among u20 players in the MHL. He also added 18 points (7G-11A-18PTS) in 6 games during the CLJ postseason. I hope to see him receive a cup of coffee in the PHL next year. 

45. Filip Plonka (G), 19, Unia Oswiecim (73, +28)

Our first goalie on the list! Again this year, I wanted to give more credit to the goalies. Plonka made headlines last year when he recorded his first PHL shutout in his first game at 16-years-old. While this year was a bit step back statistically. Almost all goalies declined in the MHL this year. His .892 SV% was still seventh in the MHL, among players with at least five games. With Lipinski departing, it seems Plonka is the pick of the future in Oswiecim. 

44. Wiktor Bochnak (F), 20, AZ Havirov U20 (52, +8)

Bochnak has spent most of his junior career in Czechia. Thus he has been able to work his way up the system. He has played at the top level of junior hockey in the country since he was 16. His numbers during that time were not always eye-popping. Before the Czech system shut down for the year, Bochnak played in six pointless games. He ended the year on a high note after returning to Poland. With Podhale, he posted 26 points (14G-12A-26PTS) in just 12 games across the MHL and CLJ.  

43. Michał Nawrocki (F), 18, Sokoly Torun (76, +33)

Nawrocki had a solid couple of years in the German junior ranks. This year he was set to test his skills in Sweden’s J18 Div.1 with Kalix HC J18, but most levels of Swedish hockey were canceled. Nawrocki managed to get in 6 games recording a goal and an assist but not much time to show what he has. He would return to Tourn and play in Poland’s junior system. In the MHL, he recorded 9 points (4G-5A) in 11 games. The third best point per game average among U18 MHL skaters. The Gdansk native also netted 17 points in 16 games across other Polish junior contests. 

42. Jan Krzyzek (F), 21, GKS Tychy (34, -8)

Last year the big german-born forward played at almost every level with a lot of success. This year was split between the GKS Tychy and their MHL team. In 18 PHL games with Tychy, he recorded one goal. While down from his three goals the previous year, he had a lesser role with Tychy than PZHL u23. At the junior level, it was a different story.  His 1.70 PPG was the 5th best by a U20 player in the MHL. Krzyzek was explosive in the postseason with 15 points (9G-6A-15PTS) in 8 CLJ games of play. At 21 next year, we will need to see some of his production start to shown through at the senior level. 

41. Szymon Dobosz (F), 19 STS Sanok, (45, +4)

Dobosz was able to play the majority of this year at the senior level for STS Sanok. In those 26 games, he did go pointless. I’m not too worried about that, given the level of talent he was surrounded by in Sanok. In the MHL, his 12 points in 7 games resulted in the highest points per game average among all players in their first draft-eligible year. Dobosz was at the weird place of too good for junior hockey but not good enough for top-level senior hockey yet. Unfortunately, in Poland, there is not an excellent place for those players.

Players 40-31

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.