The 2021 version of the list beings with a promising, young European defensemen.
#24 Jan Drozg, LW
2020 Ranking: 22
Age: 22 (April 1, 1999)
Acquired Via: 5th round pick, 2017 draft
Height/Weight: 6’2, 175 pounds
The commonality of the 2020-21 season for beyond just hockey players was how different everything ended up being. For Jan Drozg, 2020-21 in a normal year would have seen him get the opportunity to play up to 76 games in a typical AHL season. After a 2019-20 season where he got his beak wet in his first pro season splitting time from the ECHL and AHL, Drozg was able to steady himself and solidify his spot in the AHL in 2020-21, appearing in 30 of the 32 games in the shortened AHL campaign. Prior to that, Drozg was able to play on loan in his native Slovenia, performing very well at a fairly lower-end level of competition.
As an offensive-minded right shot on the left wing, Drozg worked in 2020-21 to get more well-rounded. Almost any and every report will cite improvements in his consistency, limiting turnovers, competing better from shift-to-shift and getting better defensively. That is a necessary and needed adjustment for any young player to become a more complete player. In the Quebec Major Junior league or in Slovenia, Drozg could out-score and be one of the most elite players at the lower level. In the AHL and higher, Drozg will have to develop skills to be reliable all around the ice.
Playing mostly as a bottom line winger, Drozg wasn’t counted on to score a lot but did start the Wilkes-Barre portion of his season fairly strongly, scoring five goals and all seven points that he would record in the AHL in the first 16 games of the season. Which is encouraging.
On the flip side of the coin, however, that also means Drozg ended the AHL season on a 16 game point drought. A stretch like that shows that right now he is pretty far off the NHL radar at this point.
2021-22 will be a major season for the career of Drozg. The Penguins are under new management and have mostly new people in the hockey operations department. Drozg is in the final season of his entry level contract, and has a lot to prove and show to earn more looks going forward. However this is still his age-22 season coming up, so he still is a relatively young player, even in terms of the AHL.
But that clock is certainly ticking and Drozg will have a lot to keep showing what he can offer. Given that the Penguins will probably be bringing in more draft picks in the next month, it will be an impressive feat if Drozg appears in the 2022 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25 list and continue to make progress towards being a more important piece for the organization.