Tag: Szymon Bieniek

2020 Top 50 Men’s U23 Players. #7

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 Player 8
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

7 – Szymon Bieniek (D), 19, Arizona Bobcats 18U, (7, 0)

Bieniek takes the spot as the top defensemen this year in my list. The promising two-way defensemen took a chance on himself this year going to America to play in the NAPHL 18U for the Arizona Bobcats. The Bobcats are most famously the junior club that Auston Matthews played in before moving over to the U.S. national development team. With the Bobcats this year, the accolades ranked up for Bieniek, and he made a move to a stronger club in the offseason.

The 6’0 Opole native recorded 10 points (4-6-10) in 16 games for the Bobcats. He added two assists in four playoff games. In addition, he played in plenty of tournaments and exhibition games with Arizona. His regular-season point total was good for fourth on the Bobcats in points among all skaters, and first among all defensemen. It was 17th among all defensemen in the league. In November he was named the defensemen of the month,

“Arizona Bobcats 18U defenseman Szymon Bieniek, 18, had a breakout event in Texas. The 6’0/210 lbs. native of Opole, Poland had eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) in four games during the event. That included three assists in a 5-4 loss against Thunder Bay and a goal and two assists in a 7-1 win over Ontario. Up until the weekend in Texas, Bieniek had one assist in eight games played.” From NAPHL.com 

Later in the year, he made the NAPHL all-star team, but would not attend due to representing Poland at the U20 World Championships. At the end of the season, he was named to the All-NAPHL 18U Team – Elite Division.

As mentioned earlier, he represented Poland at the U20 World Championships. He posted three points (1-2-3) in five games. He also posted nine shots, which was second among Polish defensemen. In Poland’s game against Estonia, he was named Poland’s top player.

He now moves on to the Philadelphia Hockey Club, who play in the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC). The NCDC is a newer junior league towards the top end of the American junior hockey system. The league’s first season was in 2017. This makes it hard to stay how strong of a development path the league has been, but many players have been able to move onto a stronger junior league like the BCHL, NAHL, or USHL. A lot have also made an NCAA division 1 commitment, with some recent imports in the league being able to turn professional in the top leagues of Europe.

I wish there was more I could say about Bieniek as I do believe he is one of the most talented defensemen Poland has. He is in line to be the most essential defenseman of the future for Poland. Still, he is a player I really didn’t get to see play much this year. His sample size of games isn’t enough to track production and find comparables as well. By all accounts from coaches and staff in his league, he is considered one of the top defensemen there. He continues to earn the trust and praise of Polish coaches as well, despite not being available to them often. Gaining that trust can be hard for young Polish players who play abroad.

Going off what I saw last year and in small bits this season, I still stand by ranking Bieniek as my top defensemen and seventh player overall. He is a strong skater with excellent puck skills. He can read players in the offensive zone really well to create scoring chances. When he is playing with confidence, like in games at U18s, he was patient with the puck waiting for his opposition to make a mistake. He continues to work his way up the hockey ladder, gaining a lot of valuable experience that will only continue his growth.

Player #6

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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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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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