Bruins: Lohrei happy with progress

BOSTON — Mason Lohrei knows where he wants to play this fall — and it’s not in professional hockey.

The left-handed defenseman, who is probably the Boston Bruins’ best prospect at this position, decided in the spring that he would return to Ohio State University for a second season.

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A few months later, he maintains this decision, because he believes that the university is the best place for his development.

« I’m going back to continue working on my game to become stronger, faster and a better defender, » Lohrei said. The small details intrigue me. And when I was growing up, I dreamed of winning a national championship, that’s the main goal.

« So I’m going to go back and try to achieve that goal this season. »

Lohrei, selected by the Bruins in the second round (58th overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft, was playing with Green Bay in the United States Hockey League (USHL) at the time. In 2021, he was named USHL Defenseman of the Year.

Last season with Ohio State, Lohrei had 29 points (four goals, 25 assists) in 31 games and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. He was also named a finalist for the Big Ten Defenseman of the Year award, in addition to receiving an honorable mention for the Big Ten All-Star Team.

« We’ve seen progress this season, we’re happy with that progress, » said Adam McQuaid, Bruins player development coordinator. So we weren’t worried, we knew he was going to continue to make great strides in his development as he progressed through college.

But even after deciding to return to Columbus, the 21-year-old defenseman knows a job with the Bruins isn’t that far away.

« I try not to think about it too much, but it’s exciting, » admitted Lohrei. You feel like you’re getting closer. It’s every kid’s dream to play in the NHL. I hope I can make the jump sooner rather than later. »

Lohrei attended Bruins development camp in July but did not participate in on-ice drills after undergoing knee surgery. He said at the time that he was in « the final stages » of his recovery and expected to be back on the ice in August.

Although they haven’t been able to see him on the ice this summer, the Bruins are satisfied with the play of the defenseman (6 feet 4 inches, 195 pounds). And they’re even happier with his physical development, his gains in the weight room and his preparation for the rigors of professional hockey.

« He’s gaining weight, » said Jamie Langenbrunner, assistant general manager of player personnel for the Bruins. He transforms from boy to man. It behaves a little differently now. Watching him throughout the season, it was his composure with the puck and his ability to create plays that stood out. At 6-foot-5 or something, his agility is pretty impressive. »

However, Lohrei expects more from himself. He wants to get better defensively, be tougher to face and even tougher. He believes he can achieve all of those goals with the Buckeyes, and the Bruins agree.

« His size and reach stand out immediately, » McQuaid said. He’s so calm with the puck and he can create chances on offense. Everyone already knew that. His strength has always been his offensive production.

“I think he’s taken a giant leap this year defensively. He wants to work on this, and he knows he has to. His use of his staff has improved considerably. It’s a very interesting combination to have that size and those offensive skills and be willing to invest in improving your defensive game. He has a lot of potential. This is an intriguing hope for us. »

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