Now in the top 20. The top 20 is the part of the rankings where I started to grade players with a strong chance of becoming PHL top-line forwards, top two defensemen, and starting goalies. This is also the only part of the rankings where every player in the group played in the PHL this year. To top it off, we also have our highest-ranked goalie.
Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on June 1st, 2022. 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. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 169 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)
20 – Mateusz Bezwiński (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow (21, +1)
If you look at Krakow’s lineup sheet this year, Bezwiński was all over the place. This is just how weird Cracovia is and can sometimes roll their lines. He wasn’t the only one to play out of position or be listed on defense while being a fourth forward on the bottom. His actual future is up the middle for Cracovia. He has a lot of potential as a playmaking center, and he was able to show glimpses of that potential this year, creating chances in tight spaces.
The Krakow native set a new career high in games played with 36. In the box score, he posted five assists for the year. His five assists are tied for eighth among U23 skaters and a career-high. He also appeared in the MHL for a short stint with three goals and three assists in seven games. The best thing a young player can do is find a way to stay in the lineup, and Bezwiński did that this year.
19 – Wiktor Bochnak (F), 20, Podhale Nowy Targ (44, +25)
Bochnak is a player I feel never got the proper spotlight during his run in Czechia. He played for two years at the top level, while under 18 years old. Then COVID wiped out his aged 19 season. He returned to Poland and turned professional for his final U20 season. In 37 games with Podhale, he scored twice and assisted on three. This was second among all U20 skaters this year in the PHL for points.
He also spent time in the MHL, where in just 15 games, he posted 19 points (9G-10A-19PTS). His 1.27 point per game average came in at 11th among U20 skaters. He also continued his scoring ways with six goals in the CJL finals. On top of all that hockey, he was a member of the Poland U20 team. In five games at the U20s, he posted 2 points (1G-1A-2PTS). The young forward had a strong season wherever he went. Bochnak could be an exceptional player in the PHL as he continues to gain his stride.
18 – Jan Sołtys (F), 22, Unia Oswiecim (10, -8)
Sołtys has all the tools to be a top player outside of Poland. Unfortunately, why that hasn’t happened yet has nothing to do with what he does on the ice. After only three games with Unia Oswiecim this year, he suffered a season-ending injury. This was his second significant knee injury that kept him out pretty much an entire year. Losing two years of development and the explosiveness that injury causes makes it hard to see Soltys being an impact player outside of Poland.
17 – Michał Naróg (D), 21, Zaglebie Sosnowiec (18, +1)
Naróg continues to establish himself as one of the best young defenders in the PHL. This year, he bounced between the first and second pairing, mainly playing with Mikhail Syroezhkin. In 41 games, he recorded six assists. This put him second among U23 defensemen in points while tied for fifth among all U23 skaters in assists. He appeared in the MHL playoffs for Sosnowiec, recording another three assists in four games.
The two-way defender also made his senior national team debut appearing for Poland at the Baltic Seas Cup. In the tournament, he recorded one assist in two games. He is our third highest-ranked defenseman this year. I think he is on the fastest track to becoming a national team regular, thanks to his vast experience and poise at such a young age. He only turns 21 in August and already has over 100 PHL games with some big minutes.
16 – Maciej Miarka (G), 21, GKS Katowice (34, +18)
As promised, we have now hit our top-ranked goalie. Miarka also only barely makes the ranking after playing only six games. Of course, in Katowice, there are not many options to play with John Murray as the starter. Still, it speaks to a common problem in Poland with young goalies and their options for ice time. Despite limited games, he started and shut out his opponent in half of the games he played this year.
Miarka spent his season as the backup in Katowice and played in a few MHL games. He played in three games at the PHL level, posting a .942 save percentage. He shut out Podhale Nowy Targ in one start while keeping Sanok and Jastrzebie to only two goals on 20-plus shots. In the MHL, he was loaned to KS Naprzod Janow. With Janow, he shut out Gdansk and Cracovia while posting a .972 save percentage in three games.
If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!