By Andrew Bluestein | Follow me on X (Formerly Twitter) @adbblue
For three straight games, the Boston Bruins have been missing three of their regular defensemen. Matt Grzelcyk was moved to LTIR, Derek Forbort is day-to-day, and Charlie McAvoy was suspended for four games. Due to the situation, Boston called up Ian Mitchell, Parker Wotherspoon, and Mason Lohrei from AHL Providence last week.
McAvoy has just one game left to serve on his suspension, and Forbort will likely return Thursday against the New York Islanders. Grzelcyk is eligible to return on November 25th. So, when the blue line is fully healthy, what will be the fate of rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei?
Head coach Jim Montgomery has praised the young defenseman for his play. However, he was put on a leash in the third period Monday night against the Dallas Stars. Lohrei did score his first career NHL goal against Dallas, but a few defensive mistakes led to his minutes being shrunk in the third period.
On the Star’s first goal, Lohrei turned the puck over at the offensive blue line. The giveaway led to a quick Dallas transition the other way, catching Lohrei flat-footed. The Stars then generated a shot from the point, and Lohrei was out of position and late getting to the front of the net. That allowed Jamie Benn to be uncovered and screen Jeremy Swayman before the puck was tipped in by Wyatt Johnston, cutting the Bruins’ lead in half.
Following that sequence, Lohrei didn’t see the ice often. He had just one shift in the 12 minutes following the Dallas goal. The 2020 second-round pick played a total of 15:33, which is by far the lowest through his first three games. He had played over 21 minutes in his first two against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.
When the Bruins get Forbort and McAvoy back, Parker Wotherspoon will likely be heading back to Providence. Boston still has seven games before Grzelcyk can return, but when he does, don’t be surprised if Lohrei is sent back to Providence as well. Even though the former Ohio State Buckeye has two points in three games, his five-on-five defensive game still needs a little polishing.
If Lohrei does stay up, Montgomery could decide to rotate the Bruins’ defensemen and work him in. However, it seems like that would overcomplicate things. It wouldn’t make much sense to keep him with Boston if he won’t be in the lineup every night.
Returning to the AHL allows him to play heavy minutes, which is better for his overall growth than sitting on the ninth floor frequently. It also gives him the chance to keep building up his confidence and focus on improving what he needs to.
There’s no doubt that the 6’4 left shooting defenseman will be a part of the Bruin’s plans for a long time. He has shown he’s capable of being a top pair guy in the NHL, but there’s no need to rush his development. The Bruins have the luxury of not needing him on the back end with their defensive personnel, so why not take advantage of it?