We have reached the most critical part of the rankings, the top ten. Every year it becomes harder and harder to pick who are the ten best young players in Poland. Today we start at those who just made the cut. This group includes three of the most critical members of the U18 national team that are also key members of Poland’s future.
Players had to be under the age of 20 and at least 13 years old on September 12th, 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. 113 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Fifty players received a ranking.
Oh, captain, my captain, the Polish U18 captain, is up next on the list. Justyna Żyła had a solid year in the PLHK, where she posted 20 points in 17 games with Unia Oswiecim. This put her 11th among U18 skaters. A lot of feedback I received described them as one of the better all-around players in Poland. It was not surprising that she was able to attract interest from abroad and signed with Almtuna IS in Sweden’s division 1. Playing in a strong league at such a young age is a significant step for the young Pole and should be essential in her development into a star player for the country.
When making the rankings last year, someone told me that Wójcik would be on the senior national team within two years. Not seeing many of Janow’s games, I wondered how she would perform in the spotlight and if the national team was possibly in 2023. Instead, her 2022 season was sensational in how well she performed, rightfully making her debut for the Polish national team at just 16 years old in the Division 1 Group B World Championships. She also represented the Polish U18 squad picking up one assist in four games.
She entered Poland’s big club, Polonia Bytom, for her club season. She played in 12 regular season games going pointless but assisted on four goals in six games during the postseason. She also appeared in six games for Metropolis Katowice, her debut in the EWHL. For 2022-23, she will continue playing with Poland in the EWHL and spend some time in the Swiss second league with EHC Zunzgen-Sissach Damen.
Stępień bursted on the scene last year with a big year and followed it up with a better sophomore season. This year with Poznan, she posted 41 points (17G-24A-41PTS) in 22 games. Her 41 points were thirteenth among all skaters and the third most by a U16 skater. Stępień appears to have the potential to be Poland’s next young star, and her path to the national team may also be accelerated. For 2023, she has signed with HC Falcons Sokol Karviná, who play in Czechia’s top women’s league. She is only the fourth Polish player to appear at the level.
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We are finally beginning the women’s list for the 2021 season. I debated a lot about if I should make a list this year. For women’s hockey during the 2020-2021 season, there was a 12 game PLHK season, along with maybe five playoff games. A few top players also have the EWHL season and national team games. At most, you have around a 35 game season if a player played in every single one of those games, which for U20 players was not the case. We are working with a highly limited number of games, especially ones on film, to rank players on. While I never like to judge players on A single international events, IIHF events give us five games with footage where young players had a chance to play. It can represent one-third or more of a competitive season for a U18 player.
I wanted to make a list this year, as every single time Poland’s women team faces a new roadblock, they still find a way to grow. We had some great years and break-out seasons in the PLHK, along with a few players taking large career jumps. I will say take these rankings with more than a grain of salt. I am heavily relying on stats, limited footage, and a few outside opinions. I never intend for my rankings to be material for scouting, but more like a who to watch list for fans.
Players had to be under 20 on June 30th, 2021. 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. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. Ninety-five players were considered for the list and reviewed, and fifty players received a ranking. Players 50-31 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 30 players receive a report.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)
30 – Amelia Bula (RW), 17, Naprzod Janow, (Not Ranked)
Bula has continued her steady offensive production increase reaching a new career-high in goals with nine in 15 games. Bula’s five goals in PLHK B found her tied for 12th among all skaters in the league. In total, she added three assists for a new career-high in points with 12. The goal-scoring right-winger would have undoubtedly made her first appearance on Poland’s U18 squad. She was named to the initial tournament but will be aged out for next year if the tournament is not rescheduled.
29 – Alicja Kopciara (F), 19, Unia Oswiecim, (24, -5)
Kopciara takes another fall in the rankings. As the forward gets closer and closer to graduating from the list, their production has not increased as you would like to see from a veteran of the PLHK at this point. With just two goals in PLHK A, it was the lowest total of her career. She did add three goals and two assists in five PLHK playoff games. A player that can hang with the best of them in Poland, but may not be a national team level forward yet.
Rostalska takes a slight fall on the list again. After a breakout year in 2019 with 11 points, her production has decreased in both years since, and not something you want to see from a player gaining more experience. In total, she had two goals and three assists in 15 games. Of course, they’re also a defensewoman, so I don’t want to judge them on production, but it was also what happened to get them ranked so highly previously. Has above average height for the PLHK and uses her long reach for easy takeaways at times.
I feel for the players on Tychy in 2021, as there was not much to work with at times. In total, the team only scored 14 goals. A fifth of those goals involved Solecka, who finished with a goal and two assists in 12 games. Not a great year, but she kept pace with the previous production while her team went from 19 goals to 14. Her three points this year were third on Tychy. Again another player where stats don’t tell their whole story.
26 – Anna Zaborska (F), 19, Unia Oswiecim, (Not Ranked)
Zaborska has steadily earned more and more in Oswiecim, and she is now becoming a more reliable option on the offensive side. During the 2021 season, Zaborska set a new career-high with four points (3G-1A-4PTS) in 12 games. She would also add another goal and two assists in five PLHK playoff games. The Krakow native is primed to earn a lot more chances for the 2022 season.
25 – Olga Jaskulska (F), 16, Stoczniowiec Gdansk, (28, +3)
Jaskulska switched over to the Gdansk organization full time in 2021 after appearing for UKS Wikingowie Elbląg and Gdansk in 2020. In total, she posted two assists in seven games, which is slightly below her production in 2021. She also played ten games with the men’s Stoczniowiec Gdansk u18 team scoring one goal. Most likely will be a U18 appointment soon, possibly next season.
Wójcik is someone I was hoping to see at the U18s. I have heard a lot of great things, with one person telling me they were a guaranteed national team defender soon. That seemed to be proving true this year after rejoining Polonia Bytom after a season in Janow. Playing for the best team in Poland’s women division in a solid defensive role is a good sign for one’s future. While we don’t judge players on anything that happened after June 30, getting chances on Metropolis Katowice is a good sign for how the national team sees her. She played 11 games in Polonia Bytom, with 25 games in the juniors.
Rduch has continued to establish herself as one of the best offensive options on Jastzrebie. This year she posted another career-high in points with 32 (21G-11A-32PTS) in 15 games across the PLHK B and C. Her 32 points ere the second-most points among all B league players and tied for second in goals.
Jasztrzebie was one of the few teams I was able to watch a lot of film on this year, even if only random highlights. In those highlights, though Rduch and Szymik were an amazing duo. Rduch likely would have had a shot at making the U18 squad last year, but unfortunately had already aged out for this year.
22 – Alicja Mota (F), 17, Polonia Bytom, (23, +1)
This is where having to rely on statistics hurts a lot. Mota is a young talented forward on a powerhouse team in Polonia Bytom. Offensive chances may be few and far between, and she did get a few opportunities on the second line but was mostly relegated to the third or bottom line. The Ruda Slaska native saw her production drop from five points in 14 games to two in 11. Mota has a lot of talent and would have continued to work her way up the U18 squad roster. She likely missed two U18 IIHF tournaments due to covid. In some games to end the year with the U18 squad, she recorded two goals and an assist versus Latvia.
Every year a player on the list makes me feel old. That title goes to Matylda Stępień, who was born in 2008. At just 12-years-old, they were able to post 23 points (15G-8A-23PTS) in 15 games. This was their rookie senior season as well. The Warszawa native also played for the Warszawa men’s junior team recording three goals and three assists in seven games. I hope they are on a path similar to that of Magdalena Łąpieś.