Thursday

Mariusz Czerkawski

Mariusz Czerkawski, a rare player from Poland, was an at first intoxicating player with an impressive skill set. He became a bit of an individualistic enigma and took a long time to emerge as a star player, but proved he was worthy of his NHL pay checks.

Czerkawski was an amazing open ice player, able to fool even veteran defensemen with one on one moves or hide his phenomenal wrist shot by using the defenseman as a screen. Much of his career he could be accused of being too selfish with the puck, often skating all over the zone rather than looking for an open man or firing the puck on net as a winger drove to the net.

Like most players of that ilk Czerkawski could be quieted on any given night by simply engaging with him physically. In the offensive zone he protected the puck with his body quite well, but he definitely did not enjoy the physical game. He would not go into the corners to battle for loose pucks and defensively he tried to pick off passes rather than knock anyone off of the puck.

The Polish Prince was born in Radomsko, Poland and played all his youth hockey in his native land. Scouring all ends of the ice hockey playing earth, he Boston Bruins drafted him out of a Polish club called Tychy. The B's looked brilliant soon thereafter, as Czerkawski immediately moved to the Sweden to play with the legendary Djurgardens team in the Swedish Elite League and proved he belonged.

In 1995 Czerkawski came to North America, but in two seasons with the Bruins he could never get untracked. He moved to Edmonton where he developed into a 26 goal scorer. After two years in Alberta he joined the New York Islanders for 5 seasons, his longest NHL stay. He performed admirably, twice topping the 30 goal mark.

At the end of his career he made brief and unsuccessful stops in Montreal, Toronto and again Boston, as well as several overseas teams.

In 745 NHL games Mariusz Czerkawski scored 215 goals and 435 points.

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