It might not have been quite the same level of anticipation as Charlie McAvoy’s professional debut with the P-Bruins, but Boston Bruins defensive prospect Mason Lohrei had a lot of eyeballs watching him when he skated in his first AHL game with Providence last weekend.
Lohrei got his feet wet in a 3-1 win for Providence over the Hershey Bears on Wednesday night in a quiet game where he didn’t factor in the scoring, didn’t have any shots on net and didn’t take any penalties or take any minuses either. Instead, Shane Bowers scored a pair of goals to lead the P-Bruins and more experienced defensemen like Jack Ahcan factored into the scoring column.
Certainly the big defenseman looked like he belonged on the AHL ice as a 22-year-old that just finished his sophomore season at Ohio State and has decided to leave for professional hockey the rest of this season and beyond.
Ohio St. boys cookin up pic.twitter.com/gNRVsJsrED
— Mr. Tenkrat (@PeterTenkrat) April 6, 2023
“He obviously had some nerves early on, but they went away very quickly,” said Providence Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel following the game. “You know, he saw a lot of, you know, the poise, you know, that we’ve seen from him in the past, and he did a great job of kind of understanding the level and kept it pretty simple, but then you saw glimpses where he just got a great mind for the games. He’s going to be a great pro.”
Similar to McAvoy six years ago, the plan is for Lohrei to spend the rest of the season in Providence on an ATO and sign an entry level deal following this season. He’ll be able to get an AHL playoff experience under his belt and doesn’t need to be rushed with the Boston Bruins enjoyed a deep, crowded back end full of qualified NHL players ahead of their own playoff run.
The short-term plan for McAvoy changed when both Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo got hurt ahead of a first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators, and that forced a baptism by fire with the young McAvoy debuting in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It ended up working just fine for McAvoy, but that doesn’t appear to be a possibility for the 6-foot-5 Lohrei unless something major and unforeseen happens with left shot defensemen Hampus Lindholm, Dmitry Orlov, Matt Grzelcyk, Jakub Zboril, Derek Forbort and Mike Reilly all standing ahead of him this spring.
Instead Lohrei could be a cheap NHL alternative for the Boston Bruins next season when the salary cap is going to start becoming a real issue for the Black and Gold. It’s that kind of factor that may end up leading the B’s to opt for Lohrei over a player like Orlov, who is going to command big money on the UFA market if he wants to cash in rather than stick around Boston for a more team friendly deal.
Either way, the Boston Bruins have done a nice job developing Lohrei as more of a two-way defenseman after he entered Ohio State as an adept offensive D-man that had some work to do with his skating, physicality and defending when he gets to the NHL level. Player Development guru Adam McQuaid had a big influence on Lohrei over the last couple of seasons and that work really bore fruit with the way he looked in his AHL debut.
“Adam McQuaid has had a ton of influence on him,” said Mougenel of Lohrei, who had four goals and 32 points in 40 games with the Buckeyes this season. “Adam’s a fantastic guy to have for Mason. … Sometimes, what gets lost in the conversation is his growth as a player and how we had to play in the NHL.
“He was a real student of the game and those lessons that he learned. He’s an amazing teacher. I think Adam McQuaid would be a fantastic coach. He’s done a great job with Mason.”
Everybody will get another look at Lohrei when the Providence Bruins host the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins on Friday night at their Amica Mutual Pavilion home rink.