We have reached the top ten. These are the players that I feel are the best ten young players from Poland. These are all players that I think are undoubtedly going to be stars in Poland, critical contributors to the national team, and or solid players outside of Poland. This is the hardest part of the ranking to do. The top of the rankings opened up even more with regulars like Alan Łyszczarczyk and Bartłomiej Jeziorski departing the rankings due to age. Unfortunately, there are a few players in this portion that won’t get long reports as they didn’t have much of a season, or there is a new development in their career. There are two heartbreaks for Poland’s future coming.
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 evaluated 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.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)
10 – Jan Sołtys (F), 21, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (18, +10)
Often described by many as the Polish player who would do the best in North America, Sołtys returned from injury this past season. Sołtys plays a complete two-way game and does not shine away from physical play. No matter what role he is given, he can do it. He is the exact kind of player that is a perfect fit for when Poland goes up against faster or larger opponents. He was only ranked 18th last year after suffering a season-ending injury after 16 games.
In his 2021 comeback, we started to see a return to form for the 6’1 forward. In 26 regular-season games, he posted seven goals and seven assists. Unfortunately, Soltys would not play the entire season as the championship lineup would bounce Sołtys around, including a handful of games in the MHL for Polonia Bytom. As the season went on, he proved himself more and more to earn more chances. While the production numbers were down from his top line season with PZHL U23, it was up last year from his 16 game season in terms of points per game. In the playoffs, he would only record one goal in ten games.
After a successful championship-winning year in the Jastrzebie, Sołtys went on to try his hand abroad. This included a try-out in the Chance Liga that turned out unsuccessful. He would then return home, signing a long-term contract with Unia Oswiecim. The contract would allow him to sign aboard if another offer presented itself. Unfortunately, after only three games with Unia Oswiecim, he would suffer a season-ending ACL tear. It is exceptionally challenging for such a young player to deal with two massive knee injuries that have stolen two critical development years. Soltys is a player who I will never bet against though.
9 – Maciej Witan (F), 21, STS Sanok, (19, +10)
This one is going to be kept short. Witan is no doubt one of the best young players in Poland. Last year with Sanok, he set the PHL on fire. The Sanok native recorded ten goals and 12 assists in 40 games. This was tied for the eighth-most points by a player in their draft-eligible plus two seasons since the 2000 season. It was a fantastic year by a great young player who seems to possess all the tools to be a great forward outside of Poland and first liner in the PHL.
Unfortunately, early into the 2022 season, Witan was accused of doping by Poland’s anti-doping agency. The ranking was set up way before this was known in the offseason. He is facing a two to a four-year ban from hockey. Since it was the Polish anti-doping agency, I’m not sure where his career would lie in playing in another European country or North America. The Polish anti-doping agency is partnered with the World Anti-Doping Agency. As of now, the 20-year-old forward has pleaded not guilty. He will have to prove he did not take the substance on purpose. Losing two to four years would be devastating for any young player and could be career-ending.
8 – Szymon Bieniek (D), 21, Bili Tygri Liberec U20, (7, -1)
After a great year in the USA, Bieniek returned to Europe. He initially tried to turn professional trying out for Sosnowiec but instead returned to Czechia. Bieniek signed with Bili Tygri Liberec to play in the U20 league, along with the teams’ affiliate club in the Chance Liga. Unfortunately, what seemed like an excellent setup for a young defenseman went sour fast, as Czechia elected to cancel most seasons due to Coivd-19.
In the U20 league, Bieniek managed four assists in six games. While he also made his professional debut playing in six chance Liga games with HC Benatky nad Jizerou. In the Chance Liga, the 6’0 defender averaged 14:35 time on ice per game. Bieniek is moving back to the United States for the 2022 season, as he will be playing with New Jersey Rockets in the National Collegiate Development Conference and USPHL Premier. Bieniek has stayed consistent in my rankings, but it is a hard choice due to a lack of games, especially ones with footage. Going on league standings and small sample performances, Bieniek appears to have a great chance to be a quality player outside of Poland.