Tag: Sebastian Lipinski

One Young Player To Watch on Every PHL Team

The PHL season is fully underway. With plenty of teams facing a COVID-19 related cut to their roster. This left plenty of roster spaces open for young players to earn. COVID-19 also caused PZHL U23 to be left out of the plans for the hockey year. It also left many players without a way to play a sizable amount of games in the PHL, which is an excellent development experience. If a player were going to get meaningful minutes in the PHL, they would have to prove it to their clubs’ coach that they are ready to contribute in the league.

I think those conditions make it the perfect time to check in on the young talent for each PHL club. I also am setting a goal to pick players that are not as traditionally regarded as a top player. Sure Dominik Pas is a great young player, but he has also been in the PHL for years now. So I am setting a rule of less than 50 PHL games coming into the year.

Cracovia KrakowPatryk Gosztyla. In the past couple of years, Krakow started to make an apparent effort in bringing in young talent. Gosztyla was part of that initial group. The 6’2 defensemen got a bit lost in the shuffle in 2019 after returning to Poland from the Slovak junior system. This year though, he has cemented himself as part of the Krakow defensemen lineup, already topping his games played total from last year. The 20-year-old also has posted five points (1G-4A-5PTS) in six games in the Polish second league. Honorable Mention: Igor Augustyniak

GKS Tychy – Kacper Gruźla. Gruźla had a breakout year last year in the Polish second league. This earned him a long term spot with PZHL U23 and an appointment to the Polish U20 squad. This year he has run with it playing in six games for GKS Tychy. Since then, he has already impacted the boxscore, recording two goals and two assists. If the 6’1 forward continues his upward trend, he could find himself with a larger PHL and national team role. Honorable Mention: Jan Krzyżek

JKH GKS Jastrzębie – Dawid Wróblewski. Jastrzebie has the most young talent of any team in Poland. With that, a lot of the talent has already played more than 50 games, as a lot of the talent has long been promoted to the PHL. Wróblewski saw a lot of action across different Polish junior teams putting up solid production wherever he went. This year, with Jastrzębie not having a team in Poland’s second league, the 6’4 forward was loaned to Polonia Bytom. There he has put up six goals and six assists in eight games. He should be able to start trying to force his way into the Jastrzebie roster. Honorable Mention: Marcin Płachetka

KH GKS Katowice – Maciej Miarka. Miarka joined the Katowice squad after seeing the logjam of goalies in Jastrzebie. In Katowice, the former Poland U18 and U20 goalie should play quite a few games in the PHL this year. In Katowice, the Łódź native will be backing up veteran Slovakian goalie Juraj Šimboch. So far, in two PHL games this season, the 6’1 goalie has a .912 SV%. Including stopping all seven shots, he faced in relief against defending champs GKS Tychy. Honorable Mention: Marcin Wyśnik

KH Energa Toruń – Oskar Bajwenko. Before we knew if this hockey year would go on at all, Toruń had a team mostly of junior players with a few imports and returning veterans. One of the few junior players from that group to earn a contract was Oskar Bajwenko. Bajwenko is a smaller defenseman but not afraid to go into the corners and get physical. He has received a small amount of junior national team consideration. He is a project. He could develop into a tremendous physical defenseman with two-way abilities. He has only played in one game so far in the PHL, but with the start the club has had this season, it is understandable they may not want to change up the lineup. Honorable Mention; Filip Mazurkiewicz

Podhale Nowy Targ – Ernest Bochnak. Nowy Targ came into this season, emphasizing finding new Polish talent and has already tried out quite a few new young players. This includes Ernest Bochnak. Bochnak comes over after time in the Czech and Finnish junior systems. Last year he played most in the third level of Czech hockey, recording two goals and four assists in twenty-two games. Bochnak has long been one of the best Polish junior players. He now has a chance to show that in Podhale. Through eight games, he has two points notching both a goal and an assist. Honorable Mention: Fabian Kapica

Stoczniowiec Gdansk – Michał Zając. I have many feelings about the club and how they will be as a place for developing young talent. The team will undoubtedly provide a lot of value to young players in terms of ice time. Zając is taking advantage of that, playing in each of the team’s games so far. In those ten matches, he has recorded one goal and three assists. This matches his production from last year with PZHL U23 but in a much smaller role. He is making the most of his opportunities. The 6’1 forward would have easily made the Polish U20 squad if not for COVID. Honorable Mention: Bartosz Wołoszyk

STS Sanok – Jakub Bukowski. Sanok is one of the youngest teams in the PHL, leaving many options for this choice. For their pick, I went with Jabuk Bukowski as he is probably the most pro hockey ready. He showed up well in the pre-season and has done well so far in the regular season. He has three goals and one assist. His point total is tied for third on Sanok. The talented forward showed a lot of potential in smaller Czech and Swiss leagues and now has a great chance to show his skills in Poland. He has been given many top line chances in Sanok, giving him an excellent opportunity to develop further. Honorable Mention: Maciej Witan

Unia Oswiecim – Sebastian Lipiński. While I tried to pick less known players for this list, the gap between Lipiński and the rest of the Oswiecim roster was too big. Lipiński is one of the best young goaltenders Poland has seen in a long time, with few rarely even able to play the amount of PHL games he has at his age. So far, in his lone game this season, he posted a 15 save shutout vs. Gdansk. Honorable Mention: Patryk Kusak

Zaglebie Sosnowiec – Marcel Kotuła. Sosnowiec is another team packed with a lot of young talent, but most of their young talent are seasoned veterans of the PHL. As mentioned in Lipinski’s paragraph, young goalies don’t get those chances in the PHL. This season Marcel Kotuła will compete with 24-year-old Michal Czernik for reps. Last year Kotuła led all goalies in save percentage for the Polish first league. So far through four games between the PHL and Polish first league, he has a .917 SV% along with one shutout. Honorable Mention: Szymon Luszniak

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #40-31

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

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

40 – Szymon Mularczyk (F), 21, KH GKS Katowice, (61, +21)

Mularczyk was able to escape a terrible season with Polonia Bytom and come out strong with GKS Katowice. The 5’11 forward has always seemingly been on the cusp of being a really promising player. He is the first player on this list to suffer from Janow’s effect on PHL scoring. Janow was so bad this year that players were able to post new career highs thanks to a couple games against Janow. This year Mularczyk posted 14 points (4-10-14) in 40 games, up from his total of nine points last year. He posted five of those points against Janow. Which without them is the same as his nine points from last year. It creates a muddy area of how much growth did he really have statistically? It was still twelfth in points among all PHL U23 skaters.

Mularczyk

39 – Marcin Płachetka (F), 19, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (26, -13)

Płachetka earned a very high ranking last year due to a fantastic international performance. I was expecting big things out of him this year, but it was a pretty quiet club season. He was able to play in 13 PHL games, twelve with PZHL U23 and one with JKH GKS Jastrzebie, where he recorded a single assist. In the MHL, he didn’t produce much better with five points (2-3-5) in 11 games. He did have nine points (3-6-9) in eight games while appearing for the Polish U18 squad that plays in the third tier Czech U20 league. He received some U20 team consideration and scored versus Lithuania at a four nations U20 tournament.

38 – Bartosz Florczak (D), 18, UKS Sanok, (55, +17)

Florczak would have really shown his two-way abilities off at the U18s if he had the chance. He has a lot of talent but is still very raw at times. His development time will probably be a bit uneasy compared to other defenders, but you really have the makings of a good player. He got an extended look for the U20 World Championship squad, and even I had him on the squad as a seventh defenseman. In total this year, he posted two assists in nine games for PZHL U23. Well above a point per game at the U18 level, and nine points (3-6-9) in 13 MHL games for Sanok.

Florczak

37 – Łukasz Kamiński (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow, (18, -19)

Kamiński really excelled in the PHL last year as a 19-year-old recording 17 points (9-8-17) in 47 games. The league took a step up this year, and Kamiński didn’t step up with it. This year he recorded four points (1-3-4) in 41 games. He found himself mostly relegated to the fourth line. He needs to play, and if Krakow isn’t going to give him a more substantial chance, it might be time to take a similar route to Jakub Blanik, who left JKH GKS Jastrzebie for Zaglebie Sosnowiec. He has a really nice offensive game, and I don’t understand why Cracovia didn’t try to use it more.

Kamiński

36 – Karol Biłas (D), 18, UKS Sanok, (Unranked)

From one talented Sanok two way defensemen to another. It really is astounding how quickly Sanok has started producing excellent youth talent with no PHL club. I think that Slovakia’s third tier league is an excellent place for young talent, and you’ll see more Sanok players on this list because of that. It lets young players play against men, but not be overwhelmed, and the stakes a lower, allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them. Something that defensemen like Biłas desperately need to do to grow.

Biłas

Biłas needs more work on the defensive end but has really shown a jaw-dropping offensive game. He is a lot like Florczak in being a little raw on both ends, but I like his offensive side more. No matter where he went, the 5’11 defensemen put up numbers, 20 points in (4-16-12) 19 MHL games, 14 points (4-10-14) in eight U18 games, seven assist in 15 Slovakia3 games, and both a goal and assist in ten PZHL u23 games. This earned him a spot on the Polish U20 team for the U20 World Championships, where he scored one goal on six shots in five games.  I have to imagine he would have put up some outrageous numbers for a defenseman at the U18s. I believe Biłas will be quickly rising up this list for years to come.

35 – Patryk Pelaczyk (F), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (46, +11)

At 6’5, Pelaczyk stands as the tallest Polish forward in the entire PHL. He continues to learn how to use his size more to his advantage. In 45 games, he recorded 11 points (5-6-11). This year he was able to play a majority of the season with JKH GKS Jastrzebie, he assisted them to a winning the Visegrad Cup with one goal in six games. The big forward is earning his spot on an extremely competitive Jastrzebie roster. His size will always provide value to any team, but he is starting to bring so much more.

Pelaczyk

34 – Jan Krzyżek (F), 19, MOSM Tychy, (44, +10

Krzyżek is really developing as a solid all-around player. He has solid offensive instincts, solid shot, good forechecking, and great size at 6’3. The Aachen native has played in the Tychy system his entire career but has not been able to reach with PHL with GKS Tychy yet. This season he appeared in 18 PHL games for PZHL u23, recording three goals. In the Czech U20 third league, he recorded 12 points (7-5-12) in 8 games for Poland U18. In the MHL, he recorded 30 points (15-15-30) in 15 games for Mosm Tychy. Krzyżek represented Poland this year at the U20 World Championship, recording three assists in five games. He should be one of the key forwards on the team next year.

33 – Karol Sterbenz (F), 17, Okanagan HC Europe U20, (Unranked)

This year there were quite a few Polish players that joined Austrian junior leagues. Olaf Koslicki stayed with the Vienna Capitals, while Karol Sterbenz and Leon Zacharewicz joined the Okanagan HC program. European Okanagan HC has multiple teams that compete in top Austrian junior leagues. The teams are made up of mainly international players from all over Europe, including the highest newly ranked player on this year’s list.

As a 16-year-old, Sterbenz split the year between Okanagan’s U18 and their U20 team. At the U18 level, he recorded 22 points (8-14-22) in 21 games. While at the U20 level, he posted 14 points (6-8-14) in 24 games. This ranked thirty-second in the league, and eleventh among players under 18. Sterbenz represented Poland earlier this year at a U18 and U17 tournament. He would have most likely made his IIHF debut for Poland at the U18s.

32 – Konrad Filipek (F), 20, UKS Sanok, (68, +36)

Filipek makes a massive jump on the list after a fantastic year with Sanok. The explosive forward improved on his 18 point performance last year with 25 points (11-14-15) in 19 games. This was 39th in the Slovakia third league and the most by any U20 player in the league. He also proved he was too good for Poland’s MHL by recording 61 points (30-31-61) in 20 games, an average of just over three points per game. He also appeared in six games for PZHL U23 recording one assist. I really hope to see Filipek get some more significant chances next year, as he was so offensively dominant at the lower levels, and did fine with three points (2-1-3) in five games at the U20 World Championship.

31 – Sebastian Lipiński (G), 20, Unia Oswiecim, (19, -12)

Lipiński is the highest-ranked goalie on the list but had somewhat of a down year compared to expectations. After a very promising appearance at the previous U20 World Championship, Lipiński struggled mightily recording a .819 SV% in four games. The worst among goalies that played at least 40% of their team’s minutes. In the PHL, Lipiński split the year between Unia Oswiecim and PZHL U23. In 18 total games, he posted a .876 sv%.

Lipinski

With Oswiecim, the Torun native played in 11 games, starting 10 and coming in relief in one. In total, he posted a .897 SV%, including three shutouts, two versus Janow, and one versus PZHL U23. His save percentage drops to a .871 without the games versus Janow and PZHL U23. His save percentage was .858 with PZHL U23. While the numbers may not look great, Lipiński is really the only goalie that gets the chances that he does, because of his talent. Since 2000, there have only been 15 seasons, where a U20 goalie played 10 or more games in the PHL, two of those belong to Lipiński.

Players 31-20

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Top Ten in Polish Hockey With The Most To Prove in 2020

The final day of 2019 is here, and it has been up and down and down year for Polish hockey. The upsides have been on the women’s side, young talent, and the PHL becoming a much more competitive league. The downsides have been on the Men’s senior team and continued backstage messes and drama. We had an article on New Year’s Eve looking at who had the best years in 2019, but today lets look at who needs to rebound after some rough patches in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: Cracovia Krakow, Kasper Bryniczka, Michael Luba, Patrik Spesny, and Risto Dufva

10. Ernest Bochnak

Bochnak saw himself left off an IIHF Polish junior squad once again. He made the Polish U18 squad in his first season of eligibility. He has yet to make a roster since, and his time is up. It is shocking to me that he was never able to get on a roster after his initial U18 appearance, where he recorded three goals and one assist. This year he was able to play professional games in both the second and third Czech leagues. Bochnak is an outstanding junior player, and he’ll find himself on a senior roster, I’m sure of it.

9. Patryk Wronka

Wronka had an outstanding 2018-19 season in the PHL and used that to sign in the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) with the Belfast Giants. The highly skilled player got off to a hot start recording two goals and one assist in six Champion League Hockey games, as well as six assists in seven EIHL Cup games. That production did not carry into the regular season, and he only recorded eight points (4-4-8) in 24 games before mutually parting ways with the Giants. Now Wronka has a fresh start with Rapaces deGap of the Synerglace Ligue Magnus. In his first three games in the French league, he has four goals and one assist. Wronka is insanely talented, the EIHL just wasn’t a fit for him. In 2020 he needs to prove that.

8. Jacek Szopinski

Jacek Szopinski has been the head coach of both Orlik Opole and Naprzod Janow over the past two years. These clubs are complete clown shows. Both teams are very uncompetitive. Now Szopinski is not responsible for their financial situation. He is responsible for lying to players, bashing players to other coaches and teams, as well as being regarded as a difficult coach to deal with. Szopinski simply needs to shape up and act like a coach should or get out of the PHL.

7. Zaglebie Sosnowiec

Zaglebie Sosnowiec showed a lot of promise last year in their first season back in the PHL after two final losses in the second league. This year with a full offseason to prepare, they signed the big Russian trio that propelled KH Torun to a strong season. The Russian trio has not been able to replicate their production, and some young players did not take as big of steps that were needed. Now going into 2020, they sit just above Janow in the standings. If the team doesn’t improve, a lot of big changes are going to be needed.

6. Sebastian Lipinski

Sebastian Lipinski looked to have the title of Poland’s best goaltending prospect on lock. In 2018, he had a great performance at the U20 World Championship and led PZHL u23 to their first win. In 2019, he had a disastrous U20 World Championship run and endured an up and down PHL year. His 2019 does include two shutouts as well as some flashes of brilliance in the net. Lipinski has to become more consistent in 2020.

5. Patryk Wysocki 

I had Wysocki ranked as my sixteenth best U23 Polish player to end last year. The Belarusian born defensemen had been able to play professionally in Belarus and Poland, while also appearing in the top Russian junior league the Molodyozhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga (MHL). This year he started in the MHL once again with the Chinese junior club but left his team after playing only ten games and receiving very limited ice time. His final game in China took place in October. Wysocki wouldn’t play another hockey game till December when he popped up in the BeNe League, a lower European league composed of teams from Belgium and the Netherlands. There he has two points in four games. It is an odd choice for him, and there isn’t enough information to guess a reason why his season has gone as it has, but he still remains one of Poland’s most developed defensive players for his age.

4. Piotr Sarnik 

Piotr Sarnik led the U20 team to a poor performance at the 2019 Division 1B U20 World Championships, but that wasn’t even his biggest challenge at the time. Risto Dufva left GKS Katowice in November to take a job in Finland, leaving behind a GKS Katowice that had not lived up to expectations. Sarnik is now tasked with giving a team identity that doesn’t have one in a PHL that is more competitive than ever. It is going to be quite a challenge for the young coach.

3. GKS Katowice

As mentioned in the last entry, Katowice is supposed to be up there with GKS Tychy. In the past seasons, they seemed to just always be one step behind GKS Tychy. This year GKS Katowice already has as many regulation losses as they did in the last two seasons combined. The season has also been very hard injury-wise with only eight players managing to play all 32 games so far this year. Katowice also released Radosław Sawicki early in the year, and Sawicki currently sits seventh in league scoring. Before the new year, Martin Cakajik left the team after two and a half seasons.GKS Katowice is going to need to regroup fast.

2. Men’s Senior Team

After being demoted to D1B for the first time since 2014, it was only expected to be a one year stop. That was not the case as Poland has continually struggled during 2019, never once show any signs of promise. 2019 saw more players retire or currently suspend their national team career. The team’s depth has taken quite the hit with younger talents not being ready to jump in. They’ll have two big chances at the Olympics Qualifiers and D1B World Championships to prove this team and staff have potential. If neither chances are successful drastic actions will have to be taken.

1. Tomek Valtonen

Simply put, it is sink or swim time. Everything that was a pro about Valtonen never came to fruition. There is some blame on both the coach and the PZHL. What he can control though, he has done poorly, so either win or leave time.

No Defense Allowed. 5 Thoughts 2019 U20 D1B World Championship

This year the U20 team was packed with plenty of offensive talent highlighted by NHL Draft hopeful Jakub Lewandowski. The team possessed a very young defense that had a lot of returning players. The goaltending duo had impressed last year and even if they did half as well Poland looked have promotion secured on paper. Of the three units, only one of them was able to live up to their expectations. The offense did great while the defense and goaltending suffered. As a disclaimer, I was only able to watch a handful of games, which brings us right to the first thought.

Sorry Excuse for Streams

About a month before this tournament, Ukraine hosted a four-nation U20 tournament. All of those games were streamed on Youtube in okay quality. This year Ukraine originally only planned to stream Ukraine games on Facebook. In the end, random select games received very poor quality streams that appeared to be shot on a camera from the early 1990s. This comes at a time when there is a lot of criticism the IIHF has received for the lack of quality streams.

Streams for tournaments are decided by the host federation and them alone for most tournaments. IIHF senior world championships seem to be the only exception for that. It should be a requirement though for hosting a tournament that the host is able to provide quality streams for the tournament. For these junior players especially this is the most exposure they will get and a great chance to gain film. In a perfect world, these streams would be handled by the IIHF and streamed on their Youtube channel.

Put In The Third String

Poland’s goaltending was very disappointing in this tournament. The duo of Sebastian Lipinski and Maciej Miarka both played poor in their appearances. Of goaltenders to appear in at least 40% of their teams total minutes, Lipinski finished dead last with a .819 save percentage. Back up goalie Miarka posted a .775 save percentage in his limited time. While one tournament is not the end-all for everything, Poland’s goaltending future does not seem as secure as once believed.

An NHL Draft Worthy Performance

Jakub Lewandowski was a stud in this tournament and put in the performance one would hope with his resume. This tournament was his and he put up 13 points to lead the entire tournament in scoring. Lewandowski proved he is a step above all other Polish talents. He was off to a hot start in the United States Hockey League, but cooled off. Hopefully, the U20 World Championship will help bring back his early-season production.

JL gif.gif 

Bieniek’s Breakthrough

In my limited viewing, Szymon Bieniek was Poland’s most impressive defenseman. He has the two-way game to thrive at both ends. I think he has a very good chance to be Poland’s best defensemen since Pawel Dronia. He has excelled in the states being named both a player of the month and to the NAPHL all-star game.

Sarnik’s Second Chance

Poland’s U20 team head coaches usually have two to three years reigns. Jaroslaw Morawiecki had three seasons at the helm, Andrei Parfenov lasted two years at the top, Torbjörn Johansson led the team for three, then David Leger just had one year. This was Sarnik’s second chance at leading the team and he now has led them to their worse finish this century. The U20 team needs a new coach and Poland should bring in a foreign coach to aid with that development. I don’t believe Poland currently has a coach that can develop talent to higher levels and produce results.

Quick Thoughts

– Klaudiusz Libik’s lack of experience seems to be catching up with him in his development. He remains one of Poland’s best defensive prospects though.

– Kamil Walega maybe the best offensively talented player developed in Poland in the last few years

– There were plenty of special offensive players in this tournament. All of Damian Tyczynski, Igor Smal, Jakub Blanik, Maciej Witan, and Sebastian Brynkus deserve a lot of praise.

– As is custom for almost every tournament. Too many penalties. Poland ranked second in the tournament with 75.

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2019 Poland U20 World Championship Roster Prediction

Recently the U20 National team revealed their roster for the final grouping before the U20 World Championship in Ukraine from December 12th to the 18th. This year the U20 team has had an interesting journey to the World Championship. Poland U20 is going to be very young this year and has tried out a few combinations for lines and rosters. In the past few years, Poland has not been able to earn promotion despite talents like Alan Łyszczarczyk, Bartomiej Jeziorski, Dominik Pas, and others leading the team. This year Poland u20 may have their biggest star in a while as potential NHL draft pick Jakub Lewandowski could represent the team. Adam Kiedewicz is not listed on the roster, and this cast doubt on him ever representing Poland again in his career. Today we make our picks though on what players will be on the ice in red and white for the U20 World Championship.

Forwards

Kamil Walega- Jan Soltys – Jakub Lewandowski

Damian Tyczynski – Igor Smal  – Ernest Bochnak

Jakub Prokurat – Konrad Filipek – Maciej Witan

Jan Krzyzek – Kacper Gruzla – Mateusz Ubowski

Extra: Mateusz Bezwinski

This offense has a lot of talent. The top line could honestly rival the Alan Łyszczarczyk, Bartomiej Jeziorski, and Dominik Pas line that torn up the U20 World Championships a couple years ago. Walega and Lewandowski may be a bit one dimensional at times, but Soltys plays a complete game that will really benefit the line. It won’t be needed much, though, as this line will continuously be driving offense. The second line brings a lot of unique experiences and offensive potential. All three players have excelled in different places, Tyczynski tore up junior leagues in Slovakia, Igor Smal has been impressive at the senior level in Poland, while Bochnak has earned professional chances in the Czech Republic. The bottom lines still provide a lot of solid depth, size, and a chance at production. Bottom six production is something that Poland has been missing for a long time.

Defensemen

Szymon Bieniek – Klaudiusz Libik

Patryk Gosztyla – Armen Khoperia

Adrian Duszak- Michal Narog

Extra: Bartosz Florczak

There were not too many tough choices here, and there are four returners to the roster on defense. The defense lacked two big things experience and production last year. Everyone is now a year older and should have gained plenty of experience. While the production remains to be seen. Bieniek, Libik, and Narog can all make a significant impact on the offensive end. Florczak is included as my extra because of that. The 16-year-old is very talented and could provide offensively if needed. Libik and Bieniek have a chance to be two of the best defensemen ever for Poland, though the bar is pretty low. Poland has never had outstanding offensive defensemen, with Pawel Dronia being the highlight of this decade. Libik and Bieniek could change that.

Goalies

Sebastian Lipinski

Maciej Miarka

The same goaltending duo as last year and no need to change it. Lipinski is the best junior goalie that Poland has, and Miarka isn’t far behind. Lipinski had a great showing at the U20 World Championship last year, while Miarka put on a show at the U18 World Championships. I would expect Lipinski to play four of the games, but Miarka to get at least one.

Conclusion

This team has a lot of potential. They could be the team that earns Poland promotion after four straight silver medals. The group has a lot of speed and skill. They are going to be able to outsmart their opponent and dictate how the game is played. This is a very young squad, and if the defense falters, it could be disastrous for the team. Lipinski posted a .938% last year for Poland and that still wasn’t enough. Poland really needs the defense to stop opponents from getting high danger chances and providing some help on offense.

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“The Slovenian Strategy” 2019-20 PHL Team Previews: Unia Oswiecim

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

Last season was the worse finish for Unia Oswiecim since the club was relegated to the first league in 2010. This was despite some big offseason moves. The struggles continued to start this offseason. Roman Stantien took the team’s head coaching job but left after two weeks to take a job with HC Slovan Bratislava. This left the team needing a new head coach and one that was committed to the team for a few years. That job went to Nik Zupancic, the former head of the Slovenian national team. Stantien’s departure may end up being a blessing for Unia Oswiecim though. Zupancic has brought some great players with him and has had an impressive pre-season.

Forwards

Andrej Themár – Luka Kalan – Gregor Koblar

Anatoli Protasenya – Alexei Trandin – Martin Przygodzki

Lukasz Krzemien – Dariusz Wanat – Dominik Raska

Sebastian Kowalowka – Damian Piotrowicz – Patryk Malicki

Other forwards: Adrian Prusak, Krzysztof Dudkiewicz

This is a very talented forward group, and one that I feel is going to be underrated. This is due to how unfamiliar people are with some of the import talents. Andrej Themár is one that Polish fans are well familiar with though as he was an above a point per game player in his two seasons in the PHL with GKS Katowice and Unia Oswiecim. He has lined up in pre-season games with Gregor Koblar and Luka Kalan. Kalan and Koblar both had solid performances in the Alps Hockey League last year. Anatoli Protasenya is set to be the tallest player in the PHL this year at 6’6. Despite his size, he is not an overly physical player, but a strong goal scorer. More familiar faces include Alexei Trandin, he shined as a top performer for Orlik Opole and holds a career point per game of 1.10 in the PHL. As well as Martin Przygodzki who once finished fourth in PHL scoring during the 2015-16 season. He always has excellent offensive potential but can be inconsistent. Lukasz Krzemien showed he is a strong leader last year. At just 22-years-old, he led Polonia Bytom through an awful season. He is an impressive young player and really needed a chance with a top club. I really like this group and think they have a lot of potential for production across all four lines.

Defensemen

Klemen Pretnar – Jakub Wanacki

Peter BezuskaPatrik Luza

Miroslav Zatko – Jakub Saur

Milosz Noworyta – Patryk Noworyta

The defense has a lot to like. One of the best defensemen in Poland, Jakub Wanacki, signed a two-year deal with the club. Wanacki is sharp at both ends of the ice, with defense being the stronger of the two. His partner in pre-season matches has been Klemen Pretnar. Pretnar has a long history in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga and with the Slovenian national team. Wanacki and him could be one of the best pairs in Poland. Patrik Luza is a former KHL player and at 25 is always on the move. Since 2016, he has played for seven different teams. Luza was once highly thought of. The defensemen appeared twice for both the Slovakia U18 and U20 team at IIHF events, as well as being a regular in the KHL for HC Slovan Bratislava. He is a defensive first guy and his resume earned him a two-year deal. I think he could really shine if finally given a chance to settle down. Miroslav Zatko will be making his return to the PHL after a year off. Zatko has played in 11 PHL seasons, and Polish fans are well accustomed to his skills. Milosz Noworyta has a bright future for the national team, I had him ranked 41st in my top 50 Polish U23 rankings.

Goalies

Clarke Saunders

Sebastian Lipinski

In terms of actual duos in the PHL, which there are not many, this may be the best. Clarke Saunders was a bit of a controversial choice, when the team announced his signing. He struggled last year in the Alps Hockey League posting a .892 SV% during the regular season. Saunders did have some merit though, the previous year he posted a .930 SV% in the regular season and then led the Alps Hockey League playoffs in SV% with .935. He also had a decent track record in the ECHL and NCAA. So far in pre-season games, Saunders has impressed me. I think the Canadian was the right choice. Sebastian Lipinski is the future of Poland in goal. He isn’t ready to start yet, but Saunders should allow him to play more games then he did last year. Former long-time starting goalie, Michal Fikrt is also staying with the team as a goaltending coach. Lipinski has a solid foundation around him to develop. Either goalie could lead Unia to victory.

Prediction: 5th

I am really enamored with this team. I think they are going to be the most exciting team to watch in the PHL this year. There are a lot of interesting players, and these players would be top players on other PHL clubs. Of all the mid-tier teams in the PHL, Unia Oswiecim is the best in my opinion. They should have their best finish since the 2013-14 season.

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