Mason Lohrei joins growing list of impressive Bruins rookies with ‘dynamite’ debut

Bruins

“He made strong plays, he competed hard and he took what was in front of him. It was a really good game.”

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 02: In his first NHL game Mason Lohrei #6 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at TD Garden on November 02, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Mason Lohrei logged over 21 minutes of ice time in his NHL debut on Thursday. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The message was simple for Mason Lohrei ahead of his NHL debut on Thursday night.

“It was, ‘Enjoy the moment — you belong in the league. Go show everybody why,’” Jim Montgomery said of his pregame preachings for Lohrei.

The task in front of him was anything but.

Pressed into NHL duty after a whopping 15 total games logged with Providence since last spring, Lohrei was slotted into Boston’s top-four grouping on defense — with plenty of defensive-zone starts and taxing minutes on the horizon.

And the personnel matched up against him? Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and a stacked Maple Leafs forward corps that has made many seasoned D-men look foolish over the years.

Of course, one would be hard-pressed to discern between a fresh-faced rookie in Lohrei and a poised NHL vet, at least based on his performance on Thursday.

On a night where Boston was without three starting defensemen, Lohrei served as the latest Bruins prospect to thrive up at hockey’s highest level — logging 21:28 of ice time in his club’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Maple Leafs.

“He was dynamite. He played really well,” Montgomery said of Lohrei. “His poise with the puck in all three zones was very noticeable. Made a lot of intelligent hockey plays.”

Lohrei’s impressive debut came at a crucial time for a Bruins team skating without Matt Grzelcyk (upper-body injury), Charlie McAvoy (suspension), and Derek Forbort (undisclosed injury).

A blue-chip talent in Boston’s prospect pipeline for years, Lohrei’s profile is that of a puck-moving blueliner capable of eventually quarterbacking a power-play unit over time.

He’s not the first defenseman with a knack for orchestrating plays in the offensive zone. But few skaters at his position also measure out at 6-foot-5, 211 pounds.

Matt Poitras’ emergence as a potential top-six pivot and Johnny Beecher’s developing role as a fourth-line stalwart have further bolstered a 9-0-1 Bruins squad.

But a major jump in Lohrei’s development this winter could further elevate an already imposing Boston D corps, especially on the offensive side of the ice.

“You can see in training camp — he’s gifted,” Brad Marchand said of Lohrei’s game. “The kid skates well. Really smart with the puck. I think what I liked about his game tonight is he didn’t try to do too much.

“That’s where you can get in trouble a little bit, when you have that kind of talent and ability, sometimes you want to try to do a little bit too much and he didn’t do that. He made strong plays, he competed hard and he took what was in front of him. It was a really good game.”

It didn’t take long for Lohrei to etch his name into the scoresheet — recording a secondary helper on Pavel Zacha’s opening tally at 18:51 in the opening period. 

But Lohrei’s ability to regularly push the puck out of the D zone and hit teammates with passes on the tape served as the best counter against Toronto’s high-octane offense.

During Lohrei’s 17:34 of 5v5 ice time, just 33 percent of his shifts started in the offensive zone.

Despite those unfavorable starts, especially for a rookie, the Bruins still held an 11-6 edge in shots on goal when Lohrei was out on the ice — as well as a 6-0 advantage in high-danger scoring chances.

Limiting mistakes and cutting down the time spent in Boston’s own end played into Lohrei’s strong debut. But he also stood tall when asked to snuff out chances around Jeremy Swayman — finishing with 1:43 of reps on the penalty kill.

Even without McAvoy, Grzelcyk, and Forbort, Boston’s AHL call-ups in Lohrei, Ian Mitchell (13:37 TOI) and Parker Wotherspoon (13:46 TOI, 4 hits) all stood tall.

“The guys stepped in and played really well tonight. It’s not easy to come in and play,” Marchand said of Boston’s three new additions. “They played steady and strong, competed hard and they didn’t give up much, really.

“So it was great to see the depth that we have in that position. We’ve been deep there for a while now and it’s great to see that we have guys who can step in and fill the void — especially when you’re losing key players on our group.”

With Grzelcyk placed on long-term injured reserve Wednesday, Lohrei’s time in Boston shouldn’t be ending any time soon.

And in a season where Boston’s next wave of young talent have established themselves as key cogs out of the gate, Lohrei seems poised to be next in line.

That’s great news for an Original Six franchise hampered for years by a dearth of internal contributors.

And a tough break for everyone else across the NHL.

“Just to be out there and playing for this organization with this great group of guys — it was unbelievable,” Lohrei said of Thursday night.


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