November 31-in-31: Boston Bruins

Cam Robinson

2020-11-03

As a perennial Stanley Cup contender, the Bruins don’t often have a lot to work within the way of draft picks and cap space. Making just four selections in the recent 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the former remained true this offseason. However, the team found themselves with an uncommon amount of salary cap room, primarily due to the departure of power-play quarterback Torey Krug in free agency. With this space, the Bruins focused on experience, bringing in veteran goal-scorer Craig Smith to add some depth on the wing. Experience was the name of the game in the draft as well, where Boston used its first two selections on overage players, both from the USHL. The team’s choices in the draft might not have the makings of future point-per-game players, however, they boast solid tools that can help them develop into valuable NHLers.

 

 

Draft Recap

Round 2, 58th Overall – Mason Lohrei (LD)

In his first full season in the USHL, Lohrei became an all-situations player for the Green Bay Gamblers. He produced eight goals and 37 points in 48 games, adding 16 power-play points, 26 penalty minutes, 75 shots on goal, and chipped in a shorthanded assist to boot. Passed over in the 2019 NHL Draft, this production spike was enough to convince Boston that he has grown as a player, and will continue to do so moving forward. His final numbers placed him second among USHL defensemen in total scoring, behind only potential top pick in 2021, Owen Power

 

Not bad company for the newest member of the Bruins organization.

 

At 6’4”, Lohrei stands out on the ice, but his size isn’t the only thing that has drawn the eye of many viewers. He is creative with the puck on his stick and is easily capable of leading a rush up ice. His patience helps him in this regard, giving him the poise and control to make intelligent decisions in all three zones. 

 

 

In an interview with NHL.com, Lohrei said it was a “dream come true” to be drafted by the Bruins. He noted that he had several conversations with the team leading up to the draft, ultimately fulfilling his dream when he was selected with the 58th pick. He is a self-proclaimed two-way defenseman and likes contributing in all situations.

 

The young blueliner will return to Green Bay for one more year, before joining THE Ohio State University in 2021-2022. His size and experience could earn him a notable role immediately with the Buckeyes, where his development will be one to monitor.

 

 

Round 3, 89th Overall, Trevor Kuntar (C)

The second of two overage players selected by Boston in this year’s draft, Kuntar enjoyed a successful season in the USHL, similar to his new teammate Lohrei. Playing for the Youngstown Phantoms, the 6’0” center led his team with 28 goals and 53 points in 44 games. He finished 10th in league scoring and proved his value across several categories with 21 power-play points, 83 penalty minutes and 195 shots on goal (good for second-most in the USHL). 

 

 

Kuntar’s game is built around his size. He is a physical player that thrives in the center of the ice. He plays with good balance and has a powerful, accurate shot. In an interview with NHL.com, the self-proclaimed two-way power-forward spoke often about his compete level. He noted that he works hard every night and that being passed over in last year’s draft gave him the motivation to get better in the offseason. He said that he focused on getting bigger, stronger and faster, and it showed in his performance with Youngstown.

 

In 2020-2021, Kuntar will take his talents and compete level to Boston College for his first NCAA season. He will join a talented squad, where he will look to continue the momentum he has gained before eventually making the pro hockey jump in a few years.

 

 

Round 5, 151st Overall, Mason Langenbrunner (RD)

Yes, he is exactly who you think he is. The son of longtime NHLer and current director of player development with the Bruins, Jamie Langenbrunner, Mason is hoping to carve his own path to hockey’s top league. Similar to his father, he was drafted out of Minnesota’s high school hockey league. Where they differ, is that Mason is a defenseman, while Jamie was, of course, a Stanley Cup-winning forward.

 

On the younger side for a draft-eligible player, Mason already has good size at 6’2”. By all accounts, he uses his body effectively as a defender, with an active stick and making plays to stop attackers on the rush. With Eden Prairie high school, he produced five goals and 19 points in 25 games, mostly playing second-fiddle offensively to Luke Mittelstadt (brother of Buffalo’s Casey Mittelstadt).

 

In an interview with NHL.com, Mason emphasized that he had several interviews with Boston leading up to the draft, where the team assured him that they were fans of his game and potential and that if they chose him, it would not be due to his father’s role with the team. While Jamie may not have been the reason his son was chosen by Boston, Mason did note that he was excited to hit the ice and take instruction from him during the team’s future training camps. 

 

If all goes according to plan, he will suit up for Sioux City of the USHL to begin the upcoming season, before returning to Eden Prairie for one more run at a State Championship (where his team lost in the finals this past year). Beyond that, he is a Harvard commit for 2021-2022, where he will look to round out his game and prove that the Bruins made a smart bet on his upside.

 

Round 6, 182nd Overall, Riley Duran (C)

Leading his team in scoring, Duran piled up 22 goals and 44 points across 27 games for Lawrence Academy last season. He has a powerful wrist shot and can beat goalies from anywhere in the offensive zone. In a post-draft interview per NHL.com, the self-proclaimed Bruins fan noted that he plays with a high compete level. He works hard to be a two-way forward that excels at getting pucks on net. Duran will spend next season with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL before beginning his NCAA career with Providence College.

 

 

Offseason Moves

Restricted Free Agents

Received Qualifying Offer:

Jake DeBrusk (LW)

Peter Cehlarik (LW)

-Karson Kuhlman (RW) (signed two-year extension – $725,000 Cap Hit – RFA upon expiry)

-Zach Senyshyn (RW) (signed one-year, two-way extension – $700,000 Cap Hit – RFA upon expiry)

-Jakub Zboril (D) (signed two-year extension – $725,000 Cap Hit – RFA upon expiry)

-Matt Grzelcyk (D) (signed four-year extension – $3,687,500 Cap Hit – UFA upon expiry)

 

 

Did Not Receive Qualifying Offer:

-Brett Ritchie (RW)

-Brendan Gaunce (F)

-Wiley Sherman (D)

 

 

Other Signings:

-Anders Bjork (F) (signed three-year extension in July – $1,600,000 Cap Hit – RFA upon expiry)

-Victor Berglund (D) (signed three-year, entry-level contract in June)

-Dan Vladar (G) (signed three-year extension in August – $750,000 Cap Hit – RFA upon expiry)

 

 

Unrestricted Free Agents

Extended:

-Kevan Miller (D) (signed one-year extension – $1,250,000 Cap Hit – UFA upon expiry)

-Jaroslav Halak (G) (signed one-year extension in May – $2,250,000 Cap Hit – UFA upon expiry)

 

 

Incoming:

-Craig Smith (RW) (signed three-year contract – $3,100,000 Cap Hit)

-Robert Lantosi (RW) (signed one-year, entry-level contract in August – played under AHL contract in 2019-2020)

-Matt Filipe (F) (signed two-year, entry-level contract in August – drafted by Carolina in 2016)

-Greg McKegg (F) (signed one-year contract – $700,000 Cap Hit)

-Callum Booth (G) (signed one-year contract – $700,000 Cap Hit – unqualified RFA by Carolina)

 

 

Outgoing:

-Torey Krug (D) (signed seven-year contract with St. Louis – $6,500,000 Cap Hit)

-Zdeno Chara (D) (currently unsigned)

-Alexander Petrovic (D) (signed one-year contract with Calgary – $700,000 Cap Hit)

Ryan Fitzgerald (C) (currently unsigned)

-Joakim Nordstrom (F) (signed one-year contract with Calgary – $700,000 Cap Hit)

-Maxime Lagace (G) (signed one-year contract with Pittsburgh – $700,000 Cap Hit)

 

*Please note: unsigned UFAs could still return to Boston this offseason but are unsigned at the time of this article

 

**

Quotables

GM Don Sweeney

“We looked at a longer-term play with some of these players…”

 

“…if we provide the resources and if the player is committed to being the player they can become, then we have a chance to have some really good hockey players.”

 

“…we do have to improve. That’s through internal growth or obviously through some acquisition. And we’re going to explore them. I think you’re seeing sort of a new non-QO market emerge. You have to assess where those players necessarily fall into it.”

 

 

Notes, recap & comments

Sweeney’s post-draft comments allude to a commitment to internal development, both now and in the future. While on the surface, the Bruins choices in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft could be viewed as desired short term fixes (focus on size, established two-way play, and the selection of two overage players with the team’s first two picks), the reality is that these players will not be ready for pro ice time anywhere shortly. All four draft picks have chosen the NCAA route to continue their development, yet three of the four will not begin their collegiate careers until 2021-2022. Only 3rd round choice Trevor Kuntar will make that jump this season. However, he is joining a talented Boston College squad that will likely see him in a depth role to start. Factoring in college and AHL development, it is unlikely we see any 2020 selections suit up in a regular-season NHL game for the next three years at a minimum.

 

Moving on to the pre-existing internal development options, Sweeney’s comments begin to hold much more weight. For years, several promising prospects have been on the verge of becoming full-time NHLers. The departures of Torey Krug, Joakim Nordstrom, and potentially captain Zdeno Chara open spots for young Bruins to fill. Most notably, Jakub Zboril, whose defensive game has progressed well in the AHL. He’s a left-shot defenseman, like Krug, and will be eligible for waivers beginning this season. Also, eligible starting in 2020-2021 is Jeremy Lauzon, who has more experience and appeared to have played well enough to earn a spot last year. They’ll have competition from 2017 first-rounder Urho Vaakanainen, although Vaak’s waiver exemption likely means he gets sent back to Providence if all three play well in training camp. A final candidate would be freshly minted pro Jack Ahcan, also a lefty, and whose game translates more closely to that of Krug’s. It is unlikely Ahcan makes the immediate jump to the NHL, but if he does, he would hold the most fantasy appeal of the group. In any case, none are likely to jump into Krug’s power-play role, as this is expected to be filled by either Charlie McAvoy or Matt Grzelcyk, at least to begin the campaign.

 

On forward, the team’s signing of veteran goal-scorer Craig Smith eliminates a roster spot for one of these bubble prospects. However, there is still space for someone to earn their way into the NHL to start the year. The most likely candidates are Jack Studnicka, Zach Senyshyn, Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman and Peter Cehlarik (who still needs a new contract). Cehlarik has appeared to establish himself as a replacement-level player, while the others are still looking to gain their footing as full-time NHLers. Of this group, Studnicka holds by far the most fantasy potential and is the most likely to force his way into a top-nine role with an impressive training camp. If he makes the team to start the season, he might never return to the AHL and fantasy managers should be looking to acquire him immediately.

 

Further to Sweeney’s comments about the non-QO (qualifying offer) market, it should be expected that this is mostly about organizational depth. He brought in forward Matt Filipe and goaltender Callum Booth, both of whom were not re-upped by Carolina. Booth was a non-qualified RFA and