Mason Lohrei, the Bruins' top defense prospect and one of their top two prospects overall, is turning pro. But don't expect to see him in NHL games this season.
Boston general manager Don Sweeney announced on Friday that the Providence Bruins have signed Lohrei to an AHL amateur tryout agreement (ATO).
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That means Lohrei will report to AHL Providence and presumably play there for the remainder of the AHL regular season as well as the P-Bruins' playoff run.
Lohrei would need to sign his NHL entry-level contract (ELC) to be called up to Boston at any point. With just seven games remaining in the Bruins' regular season, that seems unlikely. Doing so would burn a year of team control.
This is the same approach the Bruins took with Johnny Beecher when he signed out of the University of Michigan last year. Beecher eventually signed his ELC in May, after the season.
Lohrei, a second-round pick in 2020, just wrapped up his sophomore season at Ohio State University. He had 32 points (4 goals, 28 assists) in 40 games, including a goal and two assists in the Buckeyes' 8-1 win over Harvard in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last Friday. Ohio State's season ended with a 4-1 loss to Quinnipiac on Sunday.
Lohrei was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team this season and was one of three finalists for the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award. As a freshman last year, he had 29 points in 31 games, a rate of offensive production that trailed only 2021 fourth overall pick Luke Hughes among freshman defensemen.
There had been some thought that the Bruins could give Lohrei a couple NHL games before the end of the regular season, despite the fact that it would burn a year of his ELC. Doing so could have opened up the possibility of Lohrei factoring into their postseason depth plans somewhere, likely as an eighth, ninth or 10th defenseman.
Instead, it appears the Bruins just want to get Lohrei to Providence and have him focus on getting up to speed and learning to be a pro there, without any NHL expectations or pressure just yet.
If Lohrei blows everyone away and the Bruins get desperate because of injuries, they could still sign him to his ELC before the end of this season and call him up. That's what they did with Charlie McAvoy back in 2017, when McAvoy started his pro career with four games in Providence on an ATO before signing his ELC and making his NHL debut in the playoffs.
That seems a little unlikely in this case, and expecting Lohrei to do what McAvoy did right off the bat isn't really fair. It is, however, an option.