Tag: Sebastian Brynkus

2021 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #20-16

The hockey season continues to march on as we do with the list. We are now entering the next tier I discussed in the last article. If you missed it, I divide the list into three levels. The third tier is the widest, and I can see these players in the PHL, whether on the fourth or second line. The second tier is where we are now. The second tier is players I feel will be top-line stars in the PHL. These are players with that first line, top 2, or starting goalie potential. 

Now we have our next five picks, who have experienced a lot of changes in the rankings. Each player either raised or fell by seven spots. That is remarkable for how high we are on the list—the higher in the rankings, the less change we see, with injured players being the exception. A significant fall can be recovered from, as we will see later with the player who the most significant fall in 2020.

Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. 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 opinion, numerous Polish hockey people 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.

Players 50-41
Players 40-31
Players 30-21

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

20 – Karol Biłas (D), 19, STS Sanok, (36, +16)

There is so much great young talent in the Sanok system. That was on full display last year, with the team having a competitive roster despite how young most of the talent was. One of the young players that had to play a lot was Biłas. Just 17-years-old to start the season is a challenging task for any young player, but especially on defense with a forward core that will not offer that much offensive support. He is physically at about average to above-average size for PHL defensemen at 6’0 and 187 lbs. But how was he on the ice? 

Biłas is a player that I usually compliment more on his stellar offensive play. He posted five assists in 32 games for Sanok, which led all draft-eligible skaters in the PHL. His point total also tied the 18th best total by any skater in their draft-eligible season of all time. In his draft-eligible season, Biłas’ point total is tied for second all-time among defensemen. It was a rare season for a player this age and especially position. 

The offensive side is still the best part of his game. While I called him a two-way guy last year, I would say he is a full-blown offensive defenseman with a nice shot. That statement reflects on his play in both zones. His defensive play is still progressing, and it’s not going to be an issue of skating. It will be an issue of experience and will likely be a bump in the road over the next few years for him. No offense to the level of Slovak hockey, but this was the first time in his career where he had to face professional offenses. If he improves in his zone as he gains more experience, then Biłas can likely be a top-line defenseman in the PHL. His offensive play will always keep him high up on the teams’ lineup with powerplay time. 

19 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 20, Cracovia Krakow, (8, -11)

Brynkus takes a significant fall in my rankings and out of the top ten. It is not at all injury-related. He even played more than the previous year and did not suffer a large production decrease. In the end, Brynkus had a slight decline in offense in a year where so many other young players received huge chances for ice time and offensive opportunities. He is not getting that many chances to create that much production on the lower lines. His play away from the puck in his zone and the opposing continues to improve. 

Brynkus assist vs Gdasnk (PHL)

While he continues to improve the other facets of his game, his offensive skill will always be the highlight of his arsenal. His explosiveness is why he became so highly regarded after showing it at IIHF events and in Poland’s lower leagues. Until Brynkus shows his production ability in the PHL, it will be hard to project his ceiling. Among players, his age since 2010 in the PHL, his .18 point per game average last year ranks outside the top 70. Once he proves himself as a producer at the PHL, he will shoot back up the rankings, but question marks will stick until then. It may just be the playing behind imports in Krakow. During the 17 plus year reign of head coach Rudolf Rohacek, only Aron Chmielewski has been able to break into the top 6 while being on the cusp of his 20s. 

Whatever the reason, the critical part to remember is Bryknus is only turning 21 at the end of this hockey season and will already have over 150 PHL games under his belt. That experience is precious for a young player, especially when coming with a constant contender like Krakow. Playing with imports from high leagues is always a chance for a young polish player to learn. I have faith we will see Brynkus breakout even if we’re waiting for the end of his U23 days. 

18 – Michał Naróg (D), 20, Zaglebie Sosnowiec, (25, +7)

Of players who took the best advantage of the covid year, Naróg is at the top of the list. In my opinion, it is much harder for defensemen to make it in the PHL, and we have seen fewer defensemen make it at such a young age and play strong hockey over the years. The 5’8 defenseman didn’t just look in place but earned his way up the roster and found himself playing a top 4 role on defense at just 19-years-old. While the Sosnowiec wasn’t the greatest, he still earned it and helped the team keep pace. 

The biggest standout from his season was nine assist in 30 games. His nine assists were tied for 20th among defensemen in the PHL, and it was the most among all U23 defensemen. Since 2010 it would be tied for 30th among all U23 defensemen. He did this on a team that failed to break 100 goals during the regular season, making Narog a part of 10% of his team’s goal while missing six games. Only one defenseman has had more points in their draft-eligible plus two season, Oskar Jaskiewicz.

Narog Goal vs. Katowice (MHL)

While that offensive season is impressive for his age and position, that is one part of the game, and as the team improves around him, we have to see how many of those points came from top line minutes with forwards who produce above a point per game level. While Sosnowiec didn’t have a lot of talent, Ruslan Bashirov was third in points, and Yevgeni Nikiforov was seventh in the league. It is not impossible to be natural progression from his rookie year, Narog managed four assists in 30 games and had been above a point per game player in the MHL for a while. 

He has avoided making major mistakes on the defensive end while facing the toughest competition in his top-four role. Few things like missing his assignment or picking up a man will go away with more time, especially with his role challenging top line, while paired with better defensive partners. He has quickly turned some heads with his hot start. He was one of the young players named to team Poland for the Baltic Challenge Cup. 

17 – Dominik Jarosz (F), 23, JKH GKS Jastrzebie (10, -7

JKH GKS Jastrzębie won the big one last season. The best team in the league featured a forward group with the best imports in the league. Add in plenty of young players taking that next step in their career and getting noticed for stronger clubs outside Poland. In a year where so many extraordinary moments happened for the organization, it feels weird to dissect a player and ask what went wrong. Each year Jarosz proved himself more and more. With Jastrzębie, he went from three to ten to 22 points. This past year he was dropped back down to eight points in the regular season. He even found himself back in the MHL for the first time since 2018. 

It was the largest point drop by any player on our ranking from the previous season. That is also something you don’t want to see out of a player that is starting to reach that point where development starts to slow, and seeing a player’s ceiling is a lot more clear. While a drop like that is concerning, I’m not close to writing him off. It was a down year on one of the most stacked Polish teams we have seen in a long time. 

Last year we talked about how great he was, and those same compliments remain. The size and speed make him one of the most dangerous forwards in Poland, especially down low. He is brilliant and seems to have so much patience and control on the ice, generating plenty of scoring chances. While Jarosz is great, there are a few more complete players ahead of him, along with many strong imports. He dropped down the line-up and wasn’t afforded many chances. He will rebound.

16 – Fabian Kapica (F), 19, Podhale Nowy Targ (29, +13

Kapica makes a big move up the list after his first full professional season. The previous year the young player bounced around a few levels of hockey in Poland and some junior hockey in Germany. Podhale Nowy Targ is a team that is on the downswing right now and is hurting to attract talent. Especially with a significant focus on that talent being Polish. For the past few years, we have seen a push by the blue and yellow bring back a lot of young Polish players to Poland with professional opportunities. Kapica was among those young Poles and the stand out of the group. 

Kapica Goal vs Sanok (PHL)

Kapica managed three goals in 23 games in his first full professional season. While not eye-popping numbers, it led U19 forwards in goals and points. It is also tied for the sixth-most goals by a player his age since 2000. He plays hard and shows excellent hustle, and I’m honestly surprised he couldn’t generate a few more scoring chances last year. At the MHL level, we saw more offensive dominance. There he posted three goals and seven assists in eight games. His 1.25 point per game average was the fourth-best in his age range. That MHL total is something I love to see out of a player. Most players saw a drop in MHL production. I don’t know what Kapica’s ceiling is. It is hard to project with the limited amount of games he has played over the last two years. He has the potential to be a special player for Poland, and I’m excited to see what he can accomplish on Poland’s u20 squad.

Players 15-11

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2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #8

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 15-13 Player 9
Players 40-31 Player 12
Players 30-21 Player 11
Players 20-16 Player 10

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

8 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 19, Cracovia Krakow, (14, +6

Krakow has always been a bit of a controversial team in the PHL when it comes to young players, as some have accused them of being too reliant on imports. On the other hand, Aron Chmielewski and Paweł Zygmunt have been able to secure Tipsport Extraliga deals after spending a few years of their early professional careers with Krakow. Brynkus could be the next to follow in their footsteps.

For the past two years, Brynkus has been one of Poland’s most vital forward’s at junior international events. Last season, he posted 20 points in 10 games between the U20 and U18 World Championships. This season he posted seven points (4-3-7) in five games at the U20 World Championship. He ranked third on team Poland for goals and points. He also made his senior international team debut playing in three games at a Euro Ice Hockey Challenge.

 

Brynkus 1
Byrnkus backhanded goal vs. Oświęcim

 

His club season was also quite impressive, with Krakow this year he posted 12 points (6-6-12) in 40 games. This was tied for third, with Igor Smal, for all U20 players. It was first among players under 19 by five points. It is the 24th best season by a u19 player in the PHL since 2000. There is one major concern though. Eight of his points came against Janow or PZHL u23. This is a significant concern for me, as it means just four of his points came against quality competition. His strong international performance and play on the ice is why I will overlook it in my rankings, but it is definitely a concern for the future. He was stuck mostly on the fourth line besides these matches vs. Janow and PZHL u23. Next year, he will likely see a more substantial role meaning more minutes versus stronger clubs. Hopefully, his production against stronger clubs will follow.

His production provides five matches. Damian Kapica, Michał Rybak, Paweł Zygmunt, Patryk Krężołek, and Szymon Skrodziuk. Kapica and Zygmunt are outstanding players capable of playing outside of Poland, while Patryk Krężołek came in at 11th on my ranking and is already a 20 goal scorer in the PHL. Rybak has shown some potential, but never stepped up his game to the next level, while Szymon Skrodziuk had a strong U20 season, but has often been stuck on poor Opole and Janow teams further hurting his development. The matches bold very well for his future projection.

 

brynkus 2
Brynkus goal vs. Janow

 

Brynkus brings a lot to the table, with good size, strong playmaking ability, and a good skater. He really makes the most out of his opportunities at the offensive end. He has the creativity and vision that a lot of Polish players lack. He hasn’t shown it much at the professional level, though part of that is in his deployment. It also may be harder for his game to thrive at the next level as defenders improve and make fewer mistakes. He also proved to be a solid net-front presence this year for Krakow. He still has a bit to go before he can be a top contributor on a PHL team, but based on his play at only 19, I have no doubt he’ll reach that level.

Brynkus could have a huge role next year in the Krakow line up as the team has been hurt by the COVID-19 outbreak. While it appears Krakow has brought back Kapica and is close to deals with Kasper Bryniczka and Mateusz Rompkowski. The team will mostly be comprised of young players. Outside of those three veterans, Cracovia has Antoni Dziurdzia, Dawid Musioł Igor Augustyniak, Łukasz Hebda, Łukasz Kamiński, Mateusz Bezwiński, Patryk Gosztyła, Robert Kowalówka, and Sebastian Brynkus under contract. These young players are going to make up the core of Cracovia Krakow this year. Brynkus will really have a chance to have a shining role in the line-up, which is something most other players didn’t get or won’t at such a young age.

Player #7

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“Can Never Count Them Out” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: Cracovia Krakow

Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL

There are just some sports teams that never seem to lose, no matter how the odds are stacked against them, they just seem to still be there contending for a shot at the title. Cracovia Krakow is the New York Yankees or New England Patriots of the PHL. Last season, they struggled, and it seemed that Cracovia was done for. Torun had taken their place in the standings at times and every part of the team seemed inconsistent. Then they went to the finals anyway losing to GKS Tychy. Since 2007-08 they have appeared in the finals 9 out of 12 times. There is just no counting them out. ITS A TRAP THEY LULL THE OTHER PHL TEAMS INTO BEFORE STRIKING LIKE A VIPER.

Forwards

Ondrej Mikula – Michal Vachovec – Damian Kapica

Mateusz Bepierszcz – Kamil Kalinowski – Michal Barta

Filip Drzewiecki – Adam Domogala – Sebastian Brynkus

Lukasz Kaminski – Kasper Bryniczka – Mateusz Bezwinski

Other forwards: Antoni Dziurdzia

The offense is similar to most years with Cracovia, some familiar faces with talented imports surrounding them. Damian Kapica is the best Polish forward in the PHL without a doubt. He is an incredibly gifted goal scorer as shown by his five-goal performance against Ukraine at the World Championship. Michal Vachovec returns after finishing third in scoring during the 2018-19 PHL season. Vachovec is a really skilled player and a joy to watch. Ondrej Mikula is the most significant addition to the team this year. The Slovakian winger has played 480 games in the Tipsport Liga, recording 239 points. In pre-season matches, he has produced quite well for Krakow. Cracovia will now also have Kamil Kalinowski for a full season. After coming over from GKS Tychy, he had 16 points in 22 games. Michal Barta is currently on a try-out and an interesting import. Barta has produced well in the top two levels of Czech hockey and had an above-average season in the Tipsport Liga. Adam Domogola is a personal favorite player of mine, and I was glad to see him post career-high numbers in the PHL last season. He is finally starting to break through and reach the potential he showed as a younger player. Then there are key pieces to the national team’s future like Sebastian Brynkus and Lukasz Kaminski. It is an ideal offense in the league without import rules.

Defensemen

Miloslav Jáchym – Bartlomiej Bychawski

Maciej Kruczek – Mateusz Rompkowski

Ales JezekJiri Gula

Patryk Gosztyla – Bartosz Dabkowski

Other defensemen: Adrian Gajor

The defensive group is one of the best in the PHL and features some of the best depth in all of Poland. Miloslav Jáchym came over mid-season from Unia Oswiecim and was impressive. Like a lot of defensemen on Krakow, Jachym is a defensive first guy and doesn’t really offer a lot at the offensive end. I usually prefer defensemen that have stronger offensive tendencies, but none of the defensive only guys on Krakow can be upgraded that easily. Bartlomiej Bychawski is a fun player to watch. You never really know what you’re going to get. He is good at both ends of the ice, but also can be overly physical and take a lot of penalties. Maciej Kruczek is one of the top defensemen in Poland. He plays a strong two-way game. You know he is going to play a reliable game if Cracovia supplies his equipment… Patryk Gosztyla returns to Poland after developing in the Slovak junior system since 2015. Gosztyla has polished his skills and is ready to try his hand at professional hockey. This is a great defensive group with a lot of depth. I would prefer more offensive types, but this model as never dragged down Cracovia before.

Goalies

Miroslav Kopriva

Robert Kowalowka

The goaltending for Cracovia should be near the top, as Miroslav Kopriva showed a lot during his 16 game stint last season. Kopriva also has a strong history in the Central Hockey League and Tipsport Extraliga. The problem is his more recent performances in the Czech Republic’s first league and the Elite Ice Hockey League. There he posted back to back seasons with save percentages under .900. If Kopriva does struggle that could be the kiss of death for Krakow, as they no longer have a ready to start back-up like Michael Luba to turn to. Robert Kowalowka has been pretty inconsistent in his career so far and never played more than 11 games. Part of me wishes he played more though given his success in juniors and in small sample sizes in the PHL.

Prediction: 4th 

I am not as a big of a fan of Cracovia’s roster as I am for some teams. They still have a solid roster that should contend for a championship, but I feel there are more skilled and exciting teams. You can never count them out though, whenever things are bleak they still find a way. You also can’t forget about late-season transfers with them. Kalinowski, Kopriva, Jachcym, and Jezek all arrived halfway through the season last year and that isn’t counting ones who didn’t re-sign like Marek Tvrdon. You just can’t count them out.

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2019 Top 50 Polish Men’s U23 Players. #16-13

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 16 through 13.

Players 50-45     Players 26-21

Players 44-39     Players 20-17

Players 38-33

Players 32-27

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

#16 – Patryk Wysocki (D), 20, KRS Heilongjiang. At just 19-years-old, Wysocki has already played hockey in Belarus, China, and Poland. He played in Poland and Belarus on the professional level in each country’s top league. In China, he appeared in the Molodyozhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga (MHL). The MHL is the top level of junior hockey in Russia. Wysocki moved to China midseason after being recruited by Andrei Parfenov. Wysocki is a defensive first guy and able to read the game well. He isn’t overly physical but does not shy away from it either. He will be able to play a lot of minutes, clog up shooting lanes, and disrupt passing lanes.

He was ready to play professional hockey starting at the age of 17 in Belarus, which is quite the feat. He was the only U18 defensemen in the league for the 2016-17 season, that was not a part of Team Belarus U20. The following season, Wysocki returned to Poland to play for MH Automatyka Gdansk, recording 2 assists in 38 games. For 2018-19, he moved to a stronger club in GKS Katowice but spent a lot of time with PZHL U23. He had 3 assists in 39 PHL games before moving over to KRS Heilongjiang.

In China, he had 2 goals and 2 assists in 20 games. His first goal in the MHL was actually his first goal since the 2016-17 U18s. KRS Heilongjiang was struggling hard and no single player could save the team, but Wysocki was able to come in and play some large minutes for the team. There he averaged 21:57 minutes a game. That is the 4th most among defensemen on the team and 11th most in the league (min 10 games played).

Wysocki

Wysocki like other top 4 defensemen on KRS Heilongjiang was put into a tough a role with harsh minutes and almost constantly being under siege. Usually, that is something I feel wouldn’t benefit a player at all, but considering Wysocki’s skill set it gave him the most chances to practice it. It will be interesting to see what is next for Wysocki as his options are pretty open. His former Head Coach in GKS Katowice said in an interview to Hokej.net, “If he wants to, maybe I’ll be able to get him to North America next season.” So far no announcements have been made by GKS Katowice, who did expect him to return to the team after the MHL season had finished. Katowice haven’t announced a new contract with the defenseman. They also added national team defensemen, Oskar Jaskiewicz and Patryk Wajda. Considering part of the reason he left for a chance in China was minutes, I wouldn’t imagine he returns to GKS Katowice.

#15 – Maciej Witan (F), 18, KH 58 Sanok. Sanok’s favorite son is also one of the top forward prospects in Poland. Witan is an incredible offensive talent and he needs to be on bigger stages than what he has played on. Witan has been one of the best players for Poland at the U18s. This year, he had 6 goals and 9 assists in 5 games. He had 9 points (5G, 4A) last year at the U18s. His two performances actually made him all-time leading scorer for Poland U18 at IIHF events.

In terms of professional and junior teams, Witan has dominated there offensively as well. In Poland’s U20 league, the 5’8 forward posted 16 goals and 22 assists in 17 games. Witan has played the last two seasons in the 3rd tier of Slovakian hockey with KH 58 Sanok. There he has 31 points (13G, 18A) in 35 games. It’s not a league where many U18 players play and Witan is the all-time leading U18 scorer for the league. There are only 16 U18 players though with at least 10 games played. There is simply no doubt that Witan has the skill to be a great player, but he has to be tested against better talents. He was able to get 3 PHL games in last year as well putting up one assist. To even really judge him as a prospect or a player I need to see him against tougher talents. If he is not going to go abroad to play he needs to be in the PHL next year. There is nothing left for him to gain in Sanok.

#14 – Sebastian Brynkus (F), 18, Cracovia Krakow. Brynkus had quite the blow up this season. A year ago, he only got 2 games in at the U18s, then had 2 points in 19 games with SMS U20 Katowice. It was a kinda situation where he was outshined by other players and maybe couldn’t get the best opportunities because of that. When I interviewed David Leger, the former head juniors coach, Brynkus was a player he brought up unprompted as a part of Poland’s future core. Brynkus proved that to be true this year.

After only getting 2 IIHF games with team Poland last year, Brynkus had 10 this year after being named to both the U20 and U18 national teams. At the U20 stage, he was one of the best players on the team and the led team in goals with 4. He then returned to the U18s and just slaughtered his competition with 4 goals and 12 assists. He led the tournament in assists and points. His 16 points were also a Divison 2 Group A record for points in a single tournament. Brynkus also played full time in the PHL this year and not just with PZHL U23. He recorded 36 games with Cracovia Krakow and played 6 games in their run to the PHL finals. Brynkus was the only U18 player to play a regular role in the PHL this year. He didn’t score like past top U18 players who got that opportunity had, but that may just be the result of Cracovia not having the same ice time chances.

Like I mentioned with Lukasz Kaminski, there should be increased roles for them in Cracovia. He is a guy who always is in the right spot and able to get open. He has great patience and that aids his good shot when it comes to beating goalies with ease. He can also be quite the set-up man as well.

#13 – Oskar Jaskiewicz (D), 23, GKS Katowice. The oldest player on the list and certainly currently the best U23 defensemen. Jaskiewicz is a two-way defenseman that is strongest on the defensive end. He has quite the shot as well. He loves to pinch up on plays in the offensive zone. He has been allowed to make the mistakes that a player really needs to just experience over years of professional hockey that have him ready for almost any situation. Valtonen credited him as the defensive leader on Podhale this past season.

He has pretty much been a full-time defenseman in the PHL since he was 17. Only four other non-junior team players have been able to play at least 20 games in the PHL at such a young age. This includes national team legend Adam Borzecki, and current national team defensemen Bartlomiej Bychawski. Since then he has played 272 games in the PHL recording 31 goals and 51 assists. That is the most points recorded ever by a u23 defensemen in Poland. He made his senior IIHF debut this year at the World Championships.

Jaskiewicz has already secured his spot on team Poland for his career and if he stopped developing he would still be a really good player. He left Podhale this offseason and was originally considering options in North America. He instead signed a two-year contract with GKS Katowice. Part of the reason, he signed in Katowice is to continue learning under a Finnish coach and especially a great coach like Risto Dufva. Dufva is an amazing coach based on his career accomplishments and I’m curious to see what he can do with Jaskiewicz development wise.

Players 12-10

Players 9-8

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