Tag: Olaf Bizacki

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #20-16

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

Players 30-21

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking

20 – Jakub Blanik (F), 19, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (39, +19)

Blanik took a gamble on himself this offseason when he left JKH GKS Jastrzebie for Zaglebie Sosnowiec in the hope for more chances. JKH GKS Jastrzebie deserves some credit for allowing such a strong junior player to leave as it was best for their development. People in Poland always rave about how hard of a worker that he is. That is what you see on the ice as well. At 5’7 and only 146 lbs, his size will always be his most significant obstacle. But he has tons of playmaking ability. Without a doubt, he probably sets his teammates up as well as any Polish prospect. Blanik was able to play in 30 PHL games this year between PZHL U23 and Zaglebie Sosnowiec, a majority with Zaglebie Sosnowiec. In his 17 games with Zaglebie Sosnowiec, he posted seven points (1-6-7). He was held pointless in 13 games with PZHL U23. He represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, posting one goal and three assists in five games. Blanik also got 19 games in the MHL recording 47 points (12-35-47).

Blanik

19 – Maciej Witan (F), 19, KH 58 Sanok, (15, -4)

Witan is pretty similar to Blanik in a lot of ways, but Witan edges him out in most categories. He is an inch taller than Blanik, and his offensive skills are more well rounded. Witan has a shot that can be lethal, along with being able to make it easy for his teammates with crisp passes, and not to mention a nice set of hands. Witan has stayed a part of Sanok’s team for the past three seasons. This year he recorded 14 points (2-12-14) in 17 games with Sanok. He also posted 44 points (16-28-44) in 18 MHL games, along with five points (3-2-5) in six games for PZHL U23. Given his performance with PZHL U23, I hope to see him getting some more meaningful reps next season. Witan will also be returning to the U20 World Championship squad after a six-point (1-5-6) performance in five games this season. He did fall this year because of the strength of other PHL performances, I also would have liked to see his production in the Slovakia third league reach the heights of his first year, where he recorded 21 points (6-15-21) in 21 games.

Witan

18 – Jan Sołtys (F), 20, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (2, -16)

There is no player that I feel has a better all-around game than Sołtys. He can do it all, he is excellent at both ends of the ice. He will always be hounding the puck and making his presence felt on the ice. It legit almost makes me sad to have him drop in the rankings by so much. This was kinda a lost season for Sołtys as the talented forward had to undergo knee surgery in November. This is a massive disappointment for the Jastrzebie native as he was scheduled to have a much more significant role in the club this year. His season started off strong in exhibition games versus foreign clubs. He did appear in 16 games for JKH GKS Jastrzebie, posting five points (2-3-5). The 5’11 forward did go pointless in five games at the Visegrad Cup, I was hoping the tournament would have been a nice showcase for him. His PHL production was also down compared to the previous year. Losing such a significant development year will be rough for Sołtys, but he is already so talented that he should have no problem bouncing back.

Soltys

17 – Grzegorz Radzieńciak (D), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (20, +3)

Radzieńciak continues to grow into a stronger and stronger defenseman each year. He continues to gain more confidence and better awareness. This year he was even able to jump into the offensive play a bit more and show his offensive traits. The 5’11 defenseman cemented himself as part of the Jastrzebie defense playing in 44 games. In those games, he recorded six points. He also posted both a goal and assist in eight Visegrad Cup games, his first goal at the senior level. In the MHL, he also recorded five points (2-3-5) in four games. The Lublin native really has all the traits to make him not just a solid professional player, but a defenseman that will be able to make an impact on the international stage. I have no doubt that Radzieńciak will continue to improve and become more confident in his play. He got in some national team games last season, and there should be more to come.

Radzieńciak

16 – Olaf Bizacki (D), 21, GKS Tychy, (23, +7)

Bizacki continues to rise up the ranks for Polish defensemen. At 5’7 he can be a bit small for his play at times, but his short stature never stops him from playing an aggressive two-way game. He definitely appeared more confident in the league this season, and that is not surprising given he is now a veteran of almost 150 PHL games and having played in the league since he was 17. This year though, he played primary with GKS Tychy, notching ten points (3-7-10) in 43 games. He also played six games with PZHL U23, where he picked up another assist. His 11 points this year were a career-high, and he only had nine career PHL points coming into this season. The Tychy native recorded one assist in two Champions Hockey League games as well. If Bizacki continues to improve like he has at both ends of the ice, the national team will no doubt follow.

Bizacki

Players 15-13

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“The Kings Are Not Being Dethroned” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: GKS Tychy

The back to back champions are on their way to a possible third straight title. The team was able to retain most of their championship core along with adding some big free agents. More young players should also be pushing to become major contributors. The rest of the PHL got a lot better during the offseason and this will certainly be a much more difficult season compared to their last two championship seasons. Will GKS Tychy pull off the three-peat or will a new king rise in the PHL?

Forwards 

Mike Szmatula – Alexei Yefimenko – Christian Mroczkowski

Gleb Klimenko Mike Cichy – Alex Szczechura

Bartlomiej Jeziorski – Filip Komorski  Mateusz Goscinski

 Jaroslaw Rzeszutko – Jakub Witecki – Radoslaw Galant

Other forwards: Adam Baginski, Patryk Kogut

This offense has too much talent and potential. Every line has the potential to produce at a high rate in the PHL. There is just too much talent it is almost absurd. It starts at the top with former ECHL all-star Mike Szmatula, based on his stats in the ECHL and NCAA, he is the biggest North American signing in league history. I wrote earlier about why he might have a chance to claim the PHL scoring record. Despite Szmatula having the more impressive resume, Christian Mroczkowski has been the North American player to hold the spotlight. Mroczkowski has played fast and physical and posted 8 points (4-4-8) in 6 PHL games, which is tied for the lead on GKS Tychy in scoring. Mike Cichy and Alex Szcechurea still make for one of the best duos in Poland, the two North Americans have now played with each other in Poland for five straight seasons. They should be among the top scorers in Poland as always. The best of the Polish players is Filip Komorski. The 27-year-old center is in his fifth year with GKS Tychy and has finished as one of the team’s best scorers each year. Last year, he had a standout performance at the World Championships for Poland. GKS Tychy also has some impressive young talent in Bartlomiej Jeziorski and Mateusz Goscinski. Both forwards are ready to be taking big steps in their professional careers and should be strong contributors. One of the top offenses in the league that is a threat no matter what line is on the ice.

Defensemen

Bartlomiej Pociecha – Michael Kolarz

Bartosz Ciura – Peter Novajovsky

Michal Kotlorz – Mateusz Bryk

Denis AkimotoAlexander Yeronov

Other defensemen: Olaf Bizacki

The defense doesn’t really have a clear identity like GKS Katowice does, rather there are plenty of different styles among its players. You have some very strong defensive only types that are not afraid to get physical if needed, two-way types that are strong passers and electric puck rushers, then game-changing offensive dominant defensemen. The defense features some of the best Polish players at the position on the planet and some of the strongest imports the league has. Bartlomiej Pociecha is a fantastic two-way player and he continues to increase his production in the PHL. He is the perfect type of player to be the leader of any defense. Mateusz Bryk is another prominent Polish player thanks to his strong defensive play, but has some decent skills on the offensive end. For his entire career, he has been a valuable part of some of the PHL’s best teams. The most prominent import to me is Peter Novajovsky. The veteran Slovak defensemen is in his fifth and potentially final year in the PHL, as he has expressed interest in returning to Slovakia. Since he arrived in Poland though, he has always been towards the top in defensive scoring and only two defensemen, Bartlomeij Pociecha and Maciej Kruczek, have more points. Both players also had a 50 game plus advantage on the 30-year-old Slovak. Olaf Bizacki is the young player on the defense that deserves to be highlighted. Watching him at junior events, you could see that he had the makings of a special player. Really sound at both ends of the ice and steadily improving. I think it is only a matter of time before he really makes a huge jump that is going to show he is a big part of the future of Poland on defense.

Goalies

John Murray 

Kamil Lewartowski

Jakub Zawalski

GKS Tychy has it really nice in net. John Murray is one of the best goaltenders in Poland and one of the most important national team players in the PHL. Murray now in his sixth season in Poland is looking for his fourth PHL Championship and will be a major part if GKS Tychy can pull off the three-peat. Behind Murray is two younger goalies in Kamil Lewartowski (21) and Jakub Zawalski (20) both goaltenders have the potential to one day be starters in the PHL. Kamil Lewartowski was able to play multiple games in the Championship Hockey League, where he performed well at times, but also seemed very overwhelmed at moments. Murray should continue to be one of the best in the PHL, while GKS Tychy is developing two potential replacements.

Prediction: 1st

There is just no stopping them. They will be the champions for the third straight year in my opinion. The PHL is getting better as a league and there are a lot of strides being taken to make it more competitive. It should be a great year and with many big changes, but the kings of the league are not being dethroned yet.

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2019 Top 50 Polish Men’s U23 Players. #26-21

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 26 through 21.

Players 50-45

Players 44-39

Players 38-33

Players 32-27

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

#26 – Marcin Plachetka (F), 18, JKH GKS Jastrzebie U20. I like to judge players more on their club season than IIHF and international events. Plachetka was the 6th leading scorer on SMS PZHL Katowice and 10th in point per game among players in Poland’s U20 league. Both of these are impressive feats, but he is ranked above many of the players who finished above him. This is because of just how impressive Plachetka was during his stint with Poland U18. In the four exhibition games before the U18 World Championship, Plachetka managed two goals and two assists. Then at the U18s, he had two goals and three assists in five games. He was consistently Poland’s best forward. Whether that was killing penalties or being trusted with top offensive roles. 

 

 

#25 – Jakub Michalowski (D), 21, JKH GKS Jastrzebie. One of Poland’s finest young defensive defensemen. Michalowski has already earned a full-time defensive role in the PHL. He played a lot with the national team this year, getting five games at non-IIHF events. Michalowski’s biggest battle will be beating out other defensemen for a spot on team Poland. He is a strong skater, and he can shut down any opposing top line. His lack of offensive skills will hurt him as Poland continues to move more and more towards two-way defensemen. Michalowski has shown some decent puck skills, but not a threat to rush the puck. The strongest credit to him and why I would like to see more of him at the top level is the ability to break the puck out.

#24 – Dominik Jarosz (LW), 21, JKH GKS Jastrzebie. Long regarded as one of the best young players in Poland Jarosz has been representing Poland at IIHF events since he was 16. He always played above his age and at high levels for his age. This made his transition to the top level of hockey in Poland during 2015-16 season expected. At 20-years-old he has already played 154 regular season and playoff games in the PHL. He has been a good player in the PHL, that always feels like a candidate to break out offensively. He continues to be outproduced though by other younger PHL forwards like teammates Dominik Pas or Jan Soltys. Jarosz has a lot of the key abilities that Poland is looking for in forwards; speed and size. He already is good enough to make team Poland with his game away from the puck and was given those chances by Valtonen this year. If Jarosz can begin to produce offensively at a higher level, he would easily be a top 6 forward for Poland for years to come.

#23 – Olaf Bizacki (D), 20, GKS Tychy. Bizacki is a special defenseman with a complete toolset. He just needs to keep maturing his game. He has been named the best player on team Poland at the U18s, and the best defensemen at the 2018-2019 Division 1B U20 Championship. He has been one of the top players for Poland at the junior levels. The next step in his game is just to improve his all-around skill set against men’s teams. He will continue to have a lot of competition when it comes to getting chances on GKS Tychy’s defense. It may be a few years before we see Bizacki appear at a World Championship, but expect him to slowly earn a spot on team Poland. I imagine he will get some senior games this season.

 

#22 – Igor Smal (C), 19, MH Automatyka Gdansk. Smal turned pro full time this year at just 18-years-old and proved that he may be one of the top centers of the future for Poland. He had the 7th most points by a U20 player in the PHL. In the second league, he really showed off with nine goals and twelve assists in eight games. His 2.63 points per game were the second highest by any U20 player behind Kamil Walega. He played for team Poland at the U20 World Championships. His excellent offensive play continued there. Smal has performed well beyond his age and could begin to start getting senior international games as early as next year. The true question about Smal is what his ceiling is? It may not be as high as other forwards, and that is why he ends up outside the top 20.

 

 

 

#21 – Patryk Krezolek (F), 21, GKS Katowice. Krezolek recently earned a three year deal with GKS Katowice. Krezolek has been able to produce strong numbers in the PHL, despite his age. His 27 points were tied for the most by a U23 player in the PHL. He was able to recover strongly after not playing a lot during the 2017-18 season.  A player of outstanding offensive ability, Krezolek is extremely smart and always seems to be in the perfect position to make something happen. I would expect him to start consistently being a part of team Poland at international events. 

Players 20-17

Players 16-13

Players 12-10

Players 9-8

If you want to keep up with all the offseason news, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.