By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism
Suddenly, the Boston Bruins are loaded with young talent. With the additions of grizzled veterans Kevin Shattenkirk, Milan Lucic, and James van Riemsdyk this off-season, there were concerns about whether management was steering this team in the opposite direction. However, Boston has emerged with multiple young prospects that appear to be the beginning of the organization’s future core. Matthew Poitras has established himself as NHL-ready, while John Beecher has found himself in a bottom-six role so far this season. On Thursday night, Mason Lohrei added his name to that list.
Headed into Boston’s most challenging opponent this fall, Lohrei’s name was called to reinforce a shorthanded group of available blueliners. As the Bruins were without top defensemen Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Derek Forbort, the rookie was expected to log a hefty share of ice time. Lohrei shined in the spotlight, collecting his first NHL point while uplifting Boston’s back end in a thrilling 3-2 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Not only did Lohrei grab his first NHL assist, but the skilled defenseman skated 17:34 meaningful minutes and elevated his team’s play through his poise with the puck and timely defensive play. As both Poitras and Beecher have shown, there’s no doubt Lohrei isn’t ready for the NHL. Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery agrees.
“He was dynamite,” Montgomery said following the win. “He played really well. His poise with the puck in all three zones was very noticeable, and he made a lot of intelligent hockey plays.”
Lohrei, a second-round draft pick in 2020, is coming off a successful season in the NCAA at Ohio State, where he scored 32 points in 40 games for the Buckeyes. Lohrei then appeared in five games for the Providence Bruins in the AHL to conclude his 2022-23 season before suiting up for seven more this fall before his call-up last night. With just 12 games of professional experience, Lohrei already looks like a seasoned veteran.
The 6’5″, 211-pound defenseman skates well for his size. He’s mobile on his feet, making him a lockdown defender on the perimeter and in the corners. Last night, he showcased his penalty-killing abilities against a talented Toronto unit. In one specific instance early in the second period, Lohrei broke up a play behind the net before picking Tyler Bertuzzi’s pocket at the left face-off dot to eliminate a scoring threat.
Lohrei also involved himself in the Boston offense. Via Natural Stat Trick, Lohrei held the third-highest Bruin expected goals for percentage of 82.58 while contributing to six high-danger chances. He nearly scored his first NHL goal on a barreling net drive that resulted in a rebound on his stick. So far this season, McAvoy has been the only consistent offensive producer on the Boston blue line, and adding another threat won’t hurt.
“It feels great,” Lohrei said of his role in Thursday’s win. “You get pretty comfortable, and it’s good for your confidence when they keep calling your number to go back out there. It felt good.”
As Boston starts returning players from injury, the coaching staff is expected to make some personnel decisions as to whether Lohrei has found himself a concrete spot in the lineup. If he keeps playing like he did last night, It’s safe to say there will be a spot for him in the TD Garden dressing room.