Defenseman Mason Lohrei might just be the Bruins’ best prospect you’ve never seen.
At Ohio State University after spending the previous three seasons with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers, the 21-year-old Lohrei’s 2021-22 season with OSU included just one trip to Massachusetts, with the Buckeyes opening their season up with a two-game set against Bentley University. Lohrei did his part in that two-gamer, with a goal and two assists, but it would be the only time any of us saw Lohrei in our backyard during the season.
The Black and Gold’s 2022 development camp at Warrior Ice Arena this past week didn’t help you there, either, as Lohrei remained off the ice for all five days as he continues to recover from a knee procedure.
“It’s going well,” Lohrei, who finished 2021-22 with four goals and 29 points in 31 games for the Buckeyes, said of his recovery. “It’s been really cool to be [in Boston] this week, getting to work with the trainers here and doing a lot of new stuff. I’m in a later phase now, just trying to strength [the knee] as much as I can and get back on the ice soon.”
Relegated to off-ice workouts, you could see Lohrei’s self-admitted ‘itch’ to get back on the ice creeping through, with the 6-foot-5 defender and his red hair sticking out like a sore thumb when taking in a drill or two from behind the bench.
Consider the Bruins to be among those wishing Lohrei was out there, too, given what they saw this past season.
“With his frame, he’s filling out,” Bruins director of player development Jamie Langenbrunner said of Lohrei. “He’s going from a boy to a man. He carries himself just a little bit differently now. I think watching him during the season — and it’s unfortunate for you guys that you weren’t able to see him [this week] — it’s just his poise with the puck, and his ability to create and make plays. At 6-foot-5, to move like he does is pretty impressive.”
“You notice [Lohrei] right away with his size and his length,” Bruins player development coordinator Adam McQuaid said. “I mean, he has so much poise with the puck and can create things offensively. Everybody knew that about him. His pedigree was producing offensively, but I think he took a big step this year in his defensive side of his game. He wants to work at that, he knows he has to work at that. His stick details have really improved.”
Lohrei’s offensive skills have never been in question. In addition to being a near point-per-game defenseman as a freshman (and working as a key piece of the Buckeyes’ man advantage), Lohrei wrapped up his USHL career as the Gamblers’ top scorer in 2020-21. So it’s no secret that those defensive details have become the next focus for the left-shot blue liner.
“Definitely just [getting] stronger defensively, being more physical and harder to play against this year,” Lohrei said of his focus for next season. “Talked a lot this year with Jamie [Langenbrunner] and Adam [McQuaid] about just working on my stick, working on my gap, closing quicker [and] faster. I wanna play against the other team’s best players and shut them down, so that’s something I take a lot of pride in and I’ll keep working on that.”
That plan will take shape at Ohio State, too, as Lohrei has committed to another year in scarlet out in Columbus.
“I grew up dreaming of winning a National Championship, and that’s kind of the main goal,” Lohrei noted when asked about his decision to return for a sophomore season. “So I’m gonna go back and try to accomplish that this year.”
The Bruins, for what it’s worth, had no issues with Lohrei making that decision. They’ve liked Lohrei’s development in the OSU program led by head coach Steve Rohlik, and saw no reason to encourage any sort of change. The Bruins also have their defensive prospects in a group chat, with all players sharing video clips and different tips and tricks in the chat. They’ll also be in touch with in-season Zooms and in-person visits as the schedule permits.
But while 2022-23 will begin in school, both parties know that an NHL jump is coming up around the corner.
“A really interesting combination to have with that size and that offensive ability, and the commitment to wanting to get better defensively,” McQuaid noted. “There’s a lot of hope for him and an exciting prospect for us.”
“You kind of feel yourself getting closer and it’s every kid’s dream to play in the NHL,” Lohrei admitted after going through his second development camp in Boston. “So hopefully I make that jump sooner rather than later.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has been covering the Bruins since 2010, and has been a member of the Boston chapter of the PHWA since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.