The Boston Bruins have plenty of competition for roster spots in training camp, but nearly all of it is up front, and particularly in the bottom six.
The blue line is pretty much set. We shouldn't expect to see too many changes outside of offseason signing Kevin Shattenkirk taking over for Connor Clifton on the right side of the third pairing.
Matt Grzelcyk--Charlie McAvoy
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Hampus Lindholm--Brandon Carlo
Derek Forbort--Kevin Shattenkirk
However, just because the blue line is mostly set in stone doesn't mean a prospect or two can't make the team with a strong performance in camp and the preseason.
Mason Lohrei, as Boston's top defenseman prospect, has a chance -- albeit a small one, in all likelihood -- to make the roster. He made a good case for himself during Tuesday night's 4-1 preseason loss to the Sabres in Buffalo.
Lohrei did make some mistakes. He has to make a decisions a little quicker in the defensive zone, but that's the normal growing pains of young players adapting to the increased speed and physicality of the NHL level.
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Overall, there was a lot to like from Lohrei on Tuesday.
Getting shots through to the net from the point is essential for defensemen. Lohrei did a great job getting pucks on net at Ohio State, and last night he showed that as well. The Bruins' only goal (click here for a replay), scored by Oskar Steen, came on a rebound from a point shot by Lohrei that made its way through multiple bodies en route to the net.
Normally, you wouldn't take too much from a preseason game. Neither team fielded a ton of NHLers in this matchup. But a lot of Lohrei's minutes did come against NHL players.
Lohrei played the most against the Sabres' first line that includes Tage Thompson (47 goals, 94 points last season) and Jeff Skinner (82 points last season). He played 8:11 of 5-on-5 ice time against Thompson, and shot attempts were 5-4 Sabres, shots on net were even 2-2 and zero goals were scored during that action, per Natural Stat Trick. Lohrei also was on the ice for 7:09 against Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin -- one of the league's best young players -- and shot attempts were 6-1 in favor of the B's during those minutes.
Lohrei, who was mostly paired with Brandon Carlo, played nearly half the game in a workhorse-like effort. He led all players with 29:01 of ice time, including 3:30 on the power play and 2:14 on the penalty kill. No other B's player logged 20-plus minutes. He's a 22-year-old kid, so playing a lot of minutes isn't a Herculean feat, but to do it against real NHL players and look the part without much experience, that's impressive.
What are the chances he actually makes the team?
The Bruins have one of the league's best blue lines, and because of that, there's no reason to rush Lohrei to the NHL. A little more seasoning in the AHL and experience playing against tougher and faster competition than what he faced in college would be beneficial. Boston also has plenty of depth on the left side of the blue line, including Grzelcyk, Lindholm, Forbort and even Jakub Zboril. There's not a pressing need for another left-shot D like Lohrei.
It wouldn't be shocking if Lohrei makes his NHL debut at some point this season. Injuries will inevitably become a factor. Maybe he shines in Providence and the Bruins want to him to get reps at the next level. But right now, it's hard to see Lohrei on the Opening Night roster.
But from what we've seen so far, including Tuesday night's game, Lohrei has all the makings of a defenseman who will play in the NHL for a long time.