Tag: Pawel Zygmunt

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #3

We have now reached the top five of the list. When making the list, I had about three tiers of players divided by what I believe the player was most likely capable of. The top five are their own tier of players that I would label as the definitive players that are the future of Polish hockey. These five players have the potential to elevate Polish hockey to a new level. They’re all more than capable of being top players in Poland, or key players outside the country. Poland reaching the elite division and staying there relies a lot on these players reaching their full potential.

Players 50-41 Players 15-13 Player 9 Player 5
Players 40-31 Player 12 Player 8 Player 4
Players 30-21 Player 11 Player 7
Players 20-16 Player 10 Player 6

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

3 – Paweł Zygmunt (F), 21, HC Litvinov, (6 +3)

Making it outside of Poland is something that a very few select Polish players ever try, and even fewer succeed at it. You can’t call Zygmunt’s career outside of Poland a success after one year. But unlike a lot of Polish talent that have ventured outside their homeland, this is not a one and done season for Zygmunt. The talented young forward has already re-upped on another one-year-deal with HC Litvinov.

It was quite a busy year for Zygmunt in his first year in the Czechia. He earned a lot of praise from Jiří Šlégr, a former Czech hockey star, and HC Litvinov head coach. In total this year, he recorded four points (1-3-4) in 20 Tipsport Extraliga games, along with three points (1-2-3) in nine Chance Liga games. His season would end in February with a broken hand he suffered while representing Poland at the Olympic qualifiers.

Among U23 players, Zygmunt .20 PPG ranked 32nd, it was 11th among U21 players. His point per game comparables is actually quite an interesting list, with quite a few NHLers and NHL draft picks, like Dominik Kubalik, Dominik Simon, Karel Plasek, and Tomas Nosek. He had a total of 34 matches. A vast majority of which went on to at least play 100 Tipsport Extraliga, or a league of similar status, games. 8 played 100 games in minor leagues around Europe like the PHL or lower Czech divisions. Then the remaining 7 have played 100 plus AHL, KHL, NHL, NL, or SHL games. Overall three-fourths of Zygmunt’s comparables have been able to play a large majority of their careers in leagues stronger than Poland, which bolds very well for Zygmunt.

The big 6’3 Polish forward is only the second Polish player to re-sign with a Tipsort Extraliga team after their debut season. This draws a lot of comparisons to Aron Chmielewski, the only other Polish player to do so. When Chmielewski made the jump to the top Czechia league, he was a few years older than Zygmunt though.

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Like Chmielewski, Zygmunt is going to need more time to prove himself in the lower Czech leagues at first. This is just not to earn a spot, but to improve his skills and continue the adjustment to Czech hockey. It may be a couple years before Zygmunt is a full-time player in the Tipsort Extraliga, but he is on the right path.

The Krynica native is one of four Polish national team members slated to the play in the Tipsport Extraliga this year; Chmielewski, Lyszczarczyk, and Raszka the other three. He is the youngest one of them and was the youngest member of Team Poland at the Olympic qualifiers. The Olympic qualifiers were his senior IIHF debut that was unfortunately cut short when he suffered a broken hand in the first period against the Netherlands.

This injury would be the end of his year, as mentioned earlier. It was a very promising year for the big forward. Continuing to use his size to his advantage, and improving his skating will only do him wonders. He turns 21 in November and is already a lot further than most Polish players will ever be. His development will be exciting to watch, but his floor is already leaps and bounds above most players in the Polish system. While it would be great for Poland to have an NHL or KHL player, having a stream of players like Zygmunt that can make it in stronger leagues like Czechia’s top league is a sign of things to come and the first step to NHL quality players.

Player #2

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Pawel Zygmunt Re-Signs with HC Litvínov For Two Years

Pawel Zygmunt has re-signed with HC Litvínov for an additional two years. The 20-year-old winger had 4 points (1-3-4) in 20 games. His season ended in February after breaking his hand while representing Poland at the Olympic Qualifiers.

Zygmunt also played 9 games in the Chance Liga, between HC Stadion Litomerice and SK Kadan, recording 3 points (1-2-3). His production ends up mirroring that of fellow Polish star Aron Chmielewski. Chmielewski did fare much better in the Chance Liga though with 17 points (8-9-17) in 26 games. The Spengler Cup all-star did have an advantage in the age department though.

We wrote more about Zygmunt’s debut season before the Olympic Qualifiers. His club HC Litvinov finished twelfth in the Tipsports Extraliga, avoiding relegation by only three points.

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Pawel Zygmunt Career Continues To Skyrocket

Coming into this year, I had Pawel Zygmunt ranked as the sixth-best U23 Polish player. As I began to create the list for 2020, Zygmunt has certainly moved into a top-five spot and may even have made a case for the number one spot. Zygmunt has been able to play 18 games this year for HC Litvinov in the Tipsport Extraliga. In those 18 games, he has posted 1 goal and 3 assists.  While those numbers are not world burning, for Poland the production is just a bit better than how other national team staples fared in their rookie Tipsport Extraliga seasons

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Zygmunt also has a couple years on them for his debut season. The 6’3 forward sits seventh in Points-Per-Game among U21 players with ten games in the Tipsport ExtaLiga. In the Chance Liga, the second Czechia league, Zygmunt has 3 points (1-2-3) in 9 games between HC Stadion Litomerice and SK Kadan. HC Litvinov has mostly used Zygmunt has as a fourth-line forward or extra forward. He has mostly averaged around eight minutes a game in the Tipsport Liga, only receiving over ten minutes three times. In the Chance Liga, though Zygmunt has seen his ice time skyrocket with an average just over 16 minutes (Data is missing for one game). 

His rookie season in the Czech Republic appears to indicate he will have a future career in leagues stronger than the PHL, but one of the biggest endorsements that the young forward has earned is from Tomek Valtonen. Pawel Zygmunt earned a place on Poland’s roster for the Olympic Qualifiers. Tomek Valtonen had a chance to evaluate Zygmunt earlier this year, at a non-IIHF event. This will his IIHF senior debut for team Poland. Zygmunt will be the youngest player on team Poland for the event, and one of only two born in 1999 (Dominik Pas). Zygmunt maybe relied on heavily as well for Poland, as Patryk Wronka has pulled out of the tournament. This leaves Poland without one of their most talented forwards. Zygmunt’s size and shot may have in line for more offensive chances in Wronka’s absence.

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2019 Top 50 Polish Men’s U23 Players. #7-6

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 7 and 6.

Players 50-45     Players 26-21     Players 9-8

Players 44-39     Players 20-17

Players 38-33     Players 16-13

Players 32-27     Players 12-10

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

#7 – Szymon Bieniek (D), 18, HC Prerov U19. Bieniek is our top-ranked U23 Polish defensemen. This year he made his team Poland IIHF debut at the U18 and U20 World Championships. Bieniek was trusted with a large role at each tournament and managed it well. At the U20 World Championship, he went pointless. At the U18s,  he was able to show off his offensive side with 1 goal and 6 assists. He was named the best player on Poland in two games, as well as being awarded the best defensemen at the tournament overall.

 

 

In terms of his junior season, he played in the top Czech junior league with HC Prerov. He led all defensemen on the team in points with 25 (6G, 19A). His 25 points were tied for third on the team overall and his 19 assists were second on the team. Bieniek’s 25 points were tied for 8th in the league for defensemen, and his assists ranked tied for 7th. Bieniek also played one game in the PHL with PZHL U23, where he picked up an assist.

Now, this is the first year that the Czech junior system switched to the main leagues being U16 and U19. The previous system was U18 and U20. So trying to project Bienick off production won’t be extremely accurate and should be taken with more than a grain of salt, but I thought it was worth it to look how similar past 17-year-old players performed in the Czech U18 and Czech U20 leagues that U19 league replaced.

The U18 gives us the most accurate picture of the two leagues. The average age in the Czech U19 league is just under 18-years-old, so closer in age. There are 17 matches for his age and production.

Bieniek Production Comparables

A majority of the players went on to a league comparable with the PHL, like the second level of Czech hockey. About 12 percent of them were able to make it to the NHL, a top euro league, or the American Hockey league. The rest played in the low tier German, Czech, or Slovak leagues.

For the U20 league, four players posted similar production at his age, Vladimir Skoda, David Ruzicka, Ondrej Burzala, and Marek Chvatal. The four players were all able to play at least at a level comparable to the Tipsport Liga in Slovakia. Three of the four made it to the Tipsport Extraliga. Two were selected in the Canadian Hockey League import draft after their 17-year-old season and one was even drafted. This has to be taken with very little confidence. For example, Bieniek was 8th for U18 defensemen scoring this year and his 25 points would have been a top 10 all-time season in the U20 league by a 17-year-old.

While these both have their problems in accuracy, they both paint a bright future for Bieniek. He is a very talented defenseman on the offensive end. He has fantastic puckhandling skills. His offensive instincts are great. Picks good spots for when to rush the puck or pinch in the offensive zone. He can cycle on the powerplay very well He’ll be an offensive leader for Poland U20 next year. For next season, Bieniek may get some professional games with HC Prerov in the Czech second league or has the skill to move to a stronger team in the Czech U19 league.

#6 – Pawel Zygmunt (F), 20, Cracovia Krakow. Zygmunt recently became one of the biggest names in Polish hockey after joining HC Litvinov on a try-out. It would be quite the feat for the young player to sign with a team in the Tipsport Extraliga. He would be the youngest Polish player to do it and first since Aron Chmielewski. We recently wrote a piece looking at past players who made the jump from Poland. It would be a great place for Zygmunt to develop and gain more experience.

 

 

 

This season, Zygmunt was able to make his senior team debut for Poland playing one game. He was a leader on Poland’s U20 team. He recorded 4 assist in 5 games. His 4 assists were tied for the team lead. This was his third and final time representing Poland at the U20s.

Despite his young age, Zygmunt has already played 161 games in PHL. That is only second to Dominik Pas for the most by U20 player in PHL history. This season, he had 7 goals and 12 assists in 57 games. In his three PHL seasons, his production has held steady ranging from 12 to 18 points. He is another young player that always feels like he has a lot of potential to break out production wise.

 

The first thing that always jumps out when watching Zygmunt is his size at 6’3. He also has surprisingly good agility and speed.  There are so many times it seems that defenders are just not ready for him as he quickly moves in between them to charge on the net with the puck. Could use his size more to force his way to the net. He also has a quick shot. His two-way game still needs improvement and overall is a player that just needs to keep playing at higher levels or getting more top opportunities with Cracovia. Going to the Czech leagues would probably do wonders for Zygmunt.

Player #5

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A look at Past Polish Players Who Have Made the Jump to the Tipsport Extraliga from the PHL

There have only been four Polish players to make the jump from the PHL to the Tipsport Extraliga. So when Hokjet.et reported that Pawel Zygmunt was going be trying-out for HC Litvinov, a team in the top Czech league,  every polish hockey fan was instantly behind him. The 19-year-old would be making quite the jump and not precedent one for Polish players by appearing in the Tipsport Extraliga at such a young age. The team confirmed that Pawel Zygmunt was in training camp with the team. In the press release, they mentioned this is not the first time they have seen Zygmunt. Head Coach Jiri Sleger commented Three years ago five talented Polish hockey players had the opportunity to see the difference between Czech and Polish hockey.They spent two weeks in our club and looked very good. Paweł was the best of this group. We were in constant touch with him, and we decided that we would like to see how he developed over the years and whether we will be able to use him in our junior team or in the club with whom we established cooperation (HC Stadium Litoměřice). We will know the answer to this question when we start preparations on the ice.” 

The first was Waldemar Klisiak in 1995-1996. Klisiak was 28-years-old when he made the move. It came after he had a 50 point (29G, 21) in 37 games with Unia Oswiecim. He actually had a decent season with HC Vitkovice, putting up 3 goals and 14 assists in 35 games. This would be his lone season in the Czech Republic before returning to Unia Oswiecim. He left Poland again to play in Italy in 1997-1998, before again returning to Poland where he played with various teams til 2010-11. He is currently the Sports Manager for Unia Oswiecim.

The next player wouldn’t move to Poland til Leszek Laszkiewicz in 2002-2003. He made his debut in the Czech league at the age of 24. Laszkiewicz had already played outside of Poland from 1997 to 1998 in the DEL with the Nürnberg Ice Tigers. He then played in Poland from 1999 to 2002 with KTH Krynica and Unia Oswiecim. In 2001-2002, he had 45 points (21G, 24A) in 46 PHL games and 2 points (1G, 1A) in 6 games at the World Championships. This earned him a shot with HC Vitkovice. He had 8 goals and 2 assists in 43 games before switching squads to HC Havirov Panthers. He had 14 points, and only one assist as HC Havirov Panthers fought off relegation. Like Klisiak, this would only be a one year trip for Laszkiewicz til returning to Poland for the rest of his career besides a single season in Italy. He now is a sports manager for JKH GKS Jastrzebie.

Marcin Kolusz was next and the closest to Zygmunt in terms of age. He entered the Tipsport Extraliga just a handful of months before his 21st birthday. Zygmunt will turn 20 in November. Marcin Kolusz had been drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 5th round of the 2003 draft. He spent the 2003-2004 season in the Canadian Western Hockey League. There with the Vancouver Giants, he had 7 goals and 12 assists in 70 games. He would return to Poland and Podhale Nowy Targ after the year. In his return season in Poland, he had 14 points (5G, 9A) in 26 PHL games. In 2005-06, he would sign with HC Ocelari Trinec. In his first season in the Czech Republic, he only played 2 games scoring one goal while spending most of his time in the second league. The next two seasons he played a lot more with 102 games over 2 years, but only 8 goals and 4 assists. Kolusz would then spend a year in Slovakia with HK SKP Poprad, before moving back to Poland where he still plays today.

Aron Chmielewski was the most recent and most successful of players making the jump. Chmielewski had spent a couple of years in the German junior system before returning to Poland in 2008-2009. He made his debut in the PHL just shy of his 18th birthday. He posted solid numbers in the PHL til 2013-14 when he had a breakout season putting up 73 points (35G, 38A) in 53 games. He also made his senior IIHF debut for Poland recording a goal and 3 assists at the World Championships. This earned him an opportunity with HC Ocelari Trinec. It wasn’t an instant success, and Chmielewski kept improving his game in the Czech second league. In 2017-18  a majority of his games were in the Tipsport Extraliga. This season he only played a single game in the second league, while playing 69 games with HC Ocelari Trinec across the regular season and playoffs where the team won a championship. His 11 goals were tied for 4th on the team.

Chmielewski is the most likely path that Zygmunt could and may follow. The second Czech league will be a step up for Zygmunt and allow him to continue to develop his skills and get chances in the Tipsport Extraliga. It is extremely rare for Polish players to make the jump to the league. Three of the players were not really afforded the chance to develop their skills and were more expected to produce right away. On the one hand, it makes sense that Czech teams don’t do this often as to why should they develop another countries player? The other hand is sometimes you may get a player like Chmiewlewski who becomes a significant contributor to your team. Zygmunt getting called back and specifically mentioning their affiliation with HC Stadion Litomerice makes me think they may take a development route. Zygmunt is an exceedingly talented young player, and if he doesn’t get a contract from this tryout, I believe he will be able to secure one down the line.

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