Leading up to the start of 2019-20 season, we will preview every team in the PHL.
Today we start off our series previewing Naprzod Janow. Last year Naprzod Janow won the championship in the Polish first league to earn the right to once again play in the top level of Polish hockey. Janow only spent one year in the second league after being demoted in 2017. They have been going up and down between the PHL and the first league recently with the hope this year they’ll be able to stick in the PHL. Maybe to the benefit of them, or a curse, two teams bankrupted in the PHL last year leaving two full rosters needing new homes. While the best players were picked up last year mid-season, today we see if there was still anything left on the bones for Janow.
Yaroslav Salnik – Filip Stopinski – Maxim Titok
Alexis Svitac – Karol Wasinski – Adam Rajski
Michal Rybak – Szymon Skrodziuk – Maciej Rybak
Wojciech Gorzycki – Bartosz Kosmeda – Maciej Bielec
Other forwards: Jakub Piper, Lukasz Niedzwiedz, Marcin Wrobel, Michal Stoklosa, Patrik Michal, Patryk Pohl, and Oliwier Ksiondz.
The offense is better than I expected, but also still not that great. It is full of players that need these top minute chances to get better, but when they’re all playing together it can collapse really quickly. There are not really all-around solid players to help guide them or be insurance. Yaroslav Salnik and Maxim Titok are interesting imports. Both players were top producers in the first league last year. Janow has to be hoping that they will get something like Torun did last year. Filip Stopinski is returning to Poland after a poor season in the Oberliga. Stopinski continues to struggle with consistency problems and other roadblocks. At times he has shown he can be a big producer in the PHL, but he also has some massive dry spells in there. If everything clicks this could actually be a really good first line, but that is a lot of ifs. Svitac, Wasinski, Rajski, the Ryabks brothers, and Skrodziuk all kinda fall in the same boat. They’re still young, show some promise, but mostly struggles when it comes to excelling at the top level. They all have a wonderful chance to take right now, it will be interesting to see who if anyone can thrive in these big roles. It is an interesting offense that I am excited to track. At the end of the day though, most of these guys would be third liners on another PHL team playing reduced minutes and roles. I do believe it will be an improvement on Polonia and Opole last year though.
Michal Krokosz – Adam Krok
Bartlomiej Stepien – Igor Sarna
Marek Kosakowski – Kacper Kaplon
Other defensemen: Aleksander Bodora
The defense is the biggest weakness of the team. Michal Krokosz is fine, but played higher-level hockey last year in the first league for the first time since 2015. A lot of the defense is in their mid-20s and don’t show a lot of potential for getting better. I don’t think any of them break the top six for another team in the PHL. When the league is so open to imports now, I don’t know how Janow doesn’t search for at least one import defensemen. The roster isn’t final, but I hope they’ll add something here.
Update 8/13: Janow signed Danil Skripets. The 24-year-old defenseman has represented Ukraine at the World Championships three times, including last year. He is instantly the best defensemen on their roster.
Update 8/15: Eetu Moksunen has joined the team on a tryout. The defensemen played with Podhale last year.
The biggest story in Janow’s net, may not even be in their net. They’re still in contract negotiations with Michael Luba. While I believe Luba is ready to be a starter in the PHL, he is not going to save this team. Head coach Jacek Szopinski should know this pretty well after having Nick Vilardo stop over 40 plus shots a game during their time with Opole. Michal Krofta is an interesting goaltender himself though. He at one point did really well in the Czech junior leagues and posted an above-average Goals Against Average in the Czech second league. Niemczyk would be the backup or third string.
Update: Luba signed in France2
Interesting things on offense can’t save this team from finishing last in the PHL, only above PZHL u23. This is a team that has a chance to blend a lot of good import players with younger Polish talents, but they don’t seem to be taking advantage of that. They only have two imports that didn’t play in Poland last year. One is coming from the Greater Metro Hockey League and wasn’t a top scorer there…