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Bruins ‘excited’ about top prospect Mason Lohrei’s development

Sweeney: Bruins ‘excited’ about top prospect Mason Lohrei’s development originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins’ prospect pool ranks among the worst in the NHL. Some of that is a result of poor drafting. Another factor is the team’s lack of draft picks in recent years because the B’s have traded so many of them away.

But while the B’s aren’t stocked with a bunch of elite prospects, there are still some very good players in the organization who could make a meaningful impact at the NHL level in the near future.

One of them is Mason Lohrei.

The 22-year-old defenseman from Ohio State was a second-round pick of the Bruins in the 2020 NHL Draft. He was considered a bit of a reach at the time, but that criticism has quickly evaporated given how well he played for the Buckeyes over the last two seasons.

He shows tremendous puck-moving ability, excellent playmaking skills, poise in pressure moments and a steadily improving defensive game. His size — at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds — is a plus, too.

After a very good sophomore season with the Buckeyes — during which he tallied 32 points (four goals, 28 assists) in 40 games — Lohrei made the transition to the AHL with the Providence Bruins toward the end of the 2022-23 campaign. He got five regular season and three playoff games worth of experience under his belt.

Could he make the Bruins’ roster with a strong training camp and preseason this fall? Yes, it’s absolutely possible.

“Mason has been right out in front that he expects to challenge for a spot this year,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told reporters Friday after the team’s last Development Camp session. “I think it was really important for him to get into Providence last. year and play and be in a pro-environment, to know what he is able to get away with at the college level that may or may not translate at the pro level and then it’ll be another step. He’ll go through the progressions of Rookie Camp and play in some exhibition games, and we’ll see where he’s at.

“He’s healthy. A year ago, he was recovering from knee surgery and has made some nice gains in all the areas that he’s needed too to be back at full strength. You love the size; you love the puck poise. The execution and the pace of play are probably going to dictate when it translates, but we’re excited about his trajectory and what he can bring to our organization.”

Perhaps the main roadblock to Lohrei cracking the Opening Night roster is the Bruins’ great depth on the left side of the blue line. They already have four players — Hampus Lindholm, Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort and Jakub Zboril — who are left-shot defensemen already on the roster.

A little more experience in the AHL might serve Lohrei well, too. There’s no need to rush him to the NHL, especially when the Bruins aren’t desperate for quality defensemen. Outside of goaltending, the blue line is the one area where the Bruins have the most talent and depth.

But if Lohrei proves he can make an impact early in the season, there’s nothing wrong with finding a spot for him. It’s hard to find defensemen with his size, composure and two-way skill set. He has all the makings of a legit top-four defenseman, and it wouldn’t be surprising if that journey begins during the 2023-24 campaign.

Lohrei is clearly motivated to earn a roster spot in Boston as soon as possible.

“That’s my goal, that’s why I’m here and just checking off the boxes this summer trying to improve my game and give myself the best shot come training camp to make the big club,” Lohrei told reporters earlier this week.