We have reached the end of another hockey season—the first actual season of normalcy in a while. With the rankings, this year will see a lot of change. There was no hockey or minimal games for many players who tried their hand around Europe or North America in 2021. This year’s rankings experienced the most significant changes I have recorded in the five years of making the list. Fourteen players ranked in the top 80 either aged off, retired, or were suspended for a prolonged period. These are the most open spots the list has seen as well. With all of that combined, this is the first chance we have had in years to see what junior coaches in Poland think of players as 23 U20 and 23 U18 players were selected to represent Poland at junior IIHF events.
We have waited to reveal the players ranked 80-50 in past years until the final article. This year, I wanted to change that and add more thoughts to the players who just missed the top 50. That said, the difference in the rankings at this point is minor.
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.
Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical order): Antoni Gauvin (G), Kacper Gulczyński (D), Jakub Pezowicz (D), Jonathan Kaczmarek (F), Mateusz Kołodziej (G), Mateusz Siekierka (F), Olaf Wlodara (D).
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)
80 – Michał Proczek (D), 20, Polonia Bytom, (NR)
The soon-to-be 20-year-old defenseman finished with 20 points (5G-15A-20PTS) in 31 MHL games. His 20 points were the second most among U20 defensemen in the league. He represented Poland at the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships.
79 – Marcin Dulęba (F), 19, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, (75, -4)
He only played in eight games this year but did record 12 points (3G-9A-12PTS)—primary assist machine over the last couple of seasons in the MHL.
78 – Jakub Wenker (F), 20, Sokoly Torun, (62, -16)
Led all U20 players in MHL, scoring 53 points (32G-21A-53PTS) in 26 games. He also got 14 games in the PHL with KH Torun, where he went pointless. The top scorer in the second league may only be a bottom-six forward in the PHL.
77 – Szymon Klimowski (G), 20, MMKS Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR)
Klimowski split his time between Podhale Nowy Targ at the PHL and MHL levels. At the MHL level, he played in 14 games posting a .888 save percentage, which was fifth among U20 goalies. In the PHL, he played in four games posting a .816 save percentage.
76 – Dominik Kasprzyk (F), 20, UKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (NR)
One of the busiest junior players of the year playing in 55 games across the international stage, PHL, and MHL. He was pointless in 22 PHL games but posted 27 points (17G-10A-27PTS) in 28 MHL games. He represented Poland at the U20 D1B World Championships and posted one assist in five games.
75 – Oskar Polak (G), 20, MMKS Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR)
Polak was another goalie put in the rough Podhale situation. He spent most of his time at the MHL level, recording a .881 save percentage. The 6’0 Nowy Targ native also played in six PHL games posting a .848 save percentage. He was the starting goalie for Poland at the U20 D1B World Championship but ultimately struggled at times.
74 – Michał Jaracz (D), 20, Cracovia Krakow, (NR)
Jaracz played a more significant role in Krakow this year in a bottom pairing defensive role. He went scoreless in 19 PHL games but put up seven assists in 13 MHL games. He was a steady presence on Poland U20 at the U20 World Championships.
73 – Oliwier Kurnicki (D), 18, Sokoly Torun, (NR)
I like Kurnicki a lot and think there are a lot of tools there that could make a good player. He mainly played in the MHL this year, recording 15 points (4G-11A-15PTS) in 30 games but also did play in 9 PHL games for Torun. He represented Poland at the D1B U18 World Championship, posting one assist.
72 – Bartłomiej Wsół (F), 22, Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR)
Wsół finally became a full-time PHL player after bouncing between the levels of Nowy Targ since returning from Slovakia. He recorded 7 points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 34 games. Both the floor and ceiling are likely a bottom-six PHL forward.
71 – Paweł Pisula (F), 18, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, (NR)
Pisula didn’t have the most incredible club season this year, with only eight assists in 28 MHL games, but he had a great showing at the U18s and also picked up two assists in five games. Strong passer but will need a lot of seasoning.
70 – Mikołaj Szczepkowski (G), 19, UKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (NR)
Szczepkowski had a roller-coaster season in the net. In 20 MHL games, he recorded the highest save percentage of all goalies at .914, but he managed a .854 save percentage in seven playoff games. When he represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, he looked great against Slovenia but struggled in his other appearance.
69 – Mateusz Wawrzkiewicz (D), 21, Tampa Bay Juniors, (NR)
Wawrzkiewicz spent another year in the USA with the Tampa Bay Juniors in the USPHL Premier. The 6’1 defenseman posted seven points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 37 games. Someone I think could step into a PHL lineup in a bottom-paring role, but we will have to see what his next move is.
68 – Szymon Maćkowski (F), 19, SMS PZHL Katowice, (NR)
Maćkowski has been consistent on junior non-IIHF national teams in the past few years. He recorded 31 points (19G-12A-31PTS) in 26 games with SMS PZHL Katowice. He also represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he scored one goal in five games.
Mackowski’s beautiful goal pic.twitter.com/3iTCOSqWAD— Polish Puck (@PolandHockey) December 14, 2021
67 – Jakub Michalski (D), 18, Strömsbro IF J18, (NR)
Michalski started the year in Podhale, dividing his time between the PHL and MHL before making the late-season move to the second U18 league in Sweden. In Sweden, he posted a goal and assisted in 16 J18 Region games. Back in Poland, he went pointless in 10 PHL games but recorded five assists in nine MHL games. The stay-at-home defensemen also represented Poland at the U18s but struggled against stronger opponents.
66 – Hubert Szarzynski (D), 16, Flemingsbergs IK U16, (NR)
Szarzynski played all over the U16 level in Sweden last year. Across four different levels, he recorded 21 points (5G-16A-21PTS) in 27 games. He mostly played at the U18 level, where he posted 11 points (1G-10A-11PTS) in 33 games. To top the year off, he made his senior debut, playing in four games and picking up two assists in Sweden’s division 2. For the next year, Szarzynski will move to Nacka HK J18 and play in the top two levels of Swedish U18 hockey. Same junior program as former NHLer and Swedish Olympian Philip Holm.
65 – Sebastian Wicher (F), 20, Polonia Bytom, (NR)
Wicher has been a staple of Bytom since they were relegated from the PHL. This year, he posted MHL career highs with 37 points (22G-15A-37PTS) in 29 games. He also was a member of Poland U20 at the U20 D1B World Championships. I would not be surprised if a PHL team picks him up for 2023.
64 – Tobiasz Kapica (F), 20, Podhale Nowy Targ, (70, +6)
Kapica was a prospect I was interested in for this year after he barely played in 2021 due to playing abroad in Sweden. He spent the season between Podhale’s PHL and MHL club this year. It was not what I would have hoped for in his final U20 season, as he went pointless in 22 PHL games and recorded 15 points (6G-9A-15PTS) in 20 MHL games. He also represented Poland at the U20 World Championships, where he went pointless in 3 games.
63 – Piotr Ciepielewski (F), 18, KS Naprzod Janow, (NR)
Ciepielewski made significant strides this year and was rewarded with a cup of coffee in the PHL. He played in seven games with eventual champions GKS Katowice. He spent most of his season in the MHL, where the Sosnowiec native posted 17 points (9G-8A-17PTS) in 20 games. He later represented Poland at the U18s, where he assisted once in five games. Easy guy to project to play in the PHL.
62 – Paweł Wybiral (F), 19, SMS PZHL Katowice, (NR)
Another familiar face on the covid era non-IIHF junior teams was Wybiral. He posted 34 points (15G-19A-34PTS) in 24 games, making him the leading scorer on SMS PZHL Katowice. He also represented Poland U20, where he notched a goal and an assist in five games. Another one I expect to see get some PHL time next year.
61 – Jakub Wieczorek (G), 16, Dübendorf U17, (NR)
We don’t often see Polish goalies go abroad to play junior hockey, and Wieczorek is quite the rarity, especially with his success in the second level of U17 hockey in Switzerland. While we don’t have a save percentage, we know that in 13 games, he posted a 2.15 GAA which was sixth among all goalies in the league. He has also been solid in appearances for Poland U16.
60 – Szymon Luszniak (D), 22, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (60, +0)
Luszniak has cemented himself as a PHL defenseman and should continue to serve as that on lower-end PHL teams. He posted two assists in 32 games while primarily playing on the second paring, usually with Michal Narog. He did add 9 points (1G-8A-9PTS) in 11 MHL games. He is a PHL player and too good for the MHL, but he may have already hit his ceiling.
59 – Karol Sobecki (D), 17, MOSM Tychy, (NR)
At only 16 years old, Sobecki became a full-time MHL player this year. The defensemen recorded three goals and three assists in 25 games. He also made his PHL debut in the playoffs for GKS Tychy, playing in one game during their series versus JKH GKS Jastrzębie. He was extremely impressive at the U18s. There he recorded two goals and one assist in five games. The 6’0 defensemen showed off a strong shot and sound defensive awareness.
58 – Bartosz Florczak (D), 20, STS Sanok, (40, -18)
Florczak has remained a full-time PHL defenseman for Sanok, but the development has not been as fast as I hoped. This year in 39 games, the defensemen went pointless but did record 5 points (2G-3A-5PTS) in 5 MHL games. He struggled at the U20 World Championships, finishing a minus seven with one assist in five games. He is too good for the MHL but hasn’t taken the step to being a good senior player.
57 – Igor Augustyniak (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow, (61, +4)
Another case of too good for the MHL but not strong enough to be solid at the PHL level. At only 21 years old, he has played in 63 PHL games but only registered a goal and three assists. His ceiling may only be a bottom-six forward in Poland.
56 – Igor Tyczyński (G), 16, Team Poland U16, (NR)
Tyczyński has a solid chance to be Poland’s best goaltending prospect in a while. He was great with Poland team U16 in the Czechia junior system. The action that stuck out to me was at the MHL. He played in 9 games and posted a .912 save percentage while stopping 339 shots, averaging 38 saves per game. He topped that off recently with a tremendous U16 tournament at the 2022 Riga Hockey Cup. I’m very excited to see what next season holds for him.
55 – Marcel Kotuła (G), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (36, -19)
Kotula is a goalie facing the lack of game problem for many young goalies in Poland. Across the MHL and PHL, he only played in 12 games. He was not particularly impressive at either level, posting sub .880 save percentages in both leagues. The sample size is tiny, so stats are not fair to judge him on fully. He should be the backup in Sosnowiec next year, and I hope he gets more games.
UPDATE: Marcel Kotuła has decided to retire. The rankings were already finalized before the decision was announced. We wish him the best in his next step.
54 – Paweł Bizub (G), 23, Podhale Nowy Targ, (55, +1)
Bizub went from playing way too little to maybe playing too much. Without much help, the 5’10 goalie played in 36 PHL games for Podhale Nowy Targ this year, recording a .870 save percentage. I still believe he projects as a PHL backup or tandem goalie, but he was impressive this year given the circumstances.
53 – David Wawrzkiewicz (F), 18, Tampa Bay Juniors, (58, +5)
Wawrzkiewicz split the year between Poland and the USA after spending the previous few years in the Czech junior system. He posted 11 points (6G- 5A-11PTS) in the MHL in 16 games. His .69 point per game average was 10th among all U18 skaters in the MHL. In the USA, he appeared for the Tampa Bay Juniors in the USPHL Elite. He performed a little better with 16 points (10G-6A-16PTS) in 17 games. His .94 point per game average was 21st among U18 skaters—two solid seasons in two different leagues.
52 – Michał Cychowski (F), 19, Krefelder EV 1981 U20, (33, -19)
Cychowski stayed high on the list over the past few years due to some tremendous U17 seasons in Germany and then having his first U20 experience delayed to covid. Now with a full year to play in the top level of German junior hockey, the expectations would be high. The results were underwhelming, in 21 games, he recorded just two assists. That is among the worst production of all forwards in the league. I hope he rebounds with more substantial numbers in his final junior season. We saw it at the U17 level.
51 – Filip Wiszyński (G), 19, UKS Niedzwiadki Sanok, (NR)
Wiszyński went unranked last year after only playing a single MHL game. This year, he got a lot more time as he became the de facto regular-season starter for Sanok’s MHL team. He finished the year with a .905 save percentage, and this was tied for third among all MHL goalies and second among U20 goalies. While he served as the backup in the MHL playoffs, he did post a .900 save percentage in three games during the CLJ finals tournament. Wiszyński has a lot of potential, but he will be stuck behind another goalie on our list.
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