Like all NHL teams, the Bruins did not have the benefit of seeing spring showcase tournaments and the June combine. They watched a lot more video than usual. They logged onto Microsoft Teams to hash out their draft boards.
In these uncertain times, perhaps it is coincidence they went a familiar route.
The Bruins made four picks in the 2020 draft, which concluded Wednesday. The newest crop of prospects includes defenseman Mason Lohrei (second round, 58th overall), forward Trevor Kuntar (third, 89th), defenseman Mason Langenbrunner (fifth, 151st) and forward Riley Duran (sixth, 182nd).
All four are American players with NCAA ties.
Lohrei has committed to Ohio State for 2021. Kuntar is at Boston College after his original choice, Harvard, postponed its season. Langenbrunner, the son of Bruins director of player development Jamie Langenbrunner, will head to Harvard next fall. Duran, from Woburn, will enroll at Providence in 2021.
General manager Don Sweeney did not add a draft pick for the rights to UFA-to-be Torey Krug, or make any other trades on Wednesday. When the free agent market opens at noon Friday, replacing Krug may be his first order of business.
“We have to improve, whether that’s through internal growth or acquisition,” Sweeney said. “We’re not as good as we need to be. We’re going to explore everything. Our cap situation is good, but you can tip that upside down in a hurry.”
Sweeney bowed out of the draft a round early, dealing his seventh-round pick (213th) to the Maple Leafs for a seventh-rounder in 2021.
His first two picks were late-bloomers. Both Lohrei (LORE-eye) and Kuntar were eligible in 2019, but both went undrafted.
“I felt like I was being overlooked but it’s the way things go,” said Lohrei, a 6-foot-4, 204-pound, left-shot defenseman out of USHL Green Bay. Scouts consider the Madison, Wisc., product a rangy, poised, two-way rearguard. But he was not ranked by NHL Central Scouting until the final list of 2020, when he placed 132nd overall.
“I wouldn’t say it was a struggle not being on lists or not getting drafted,” he said. “Kind of just kept my head down and went to work every day because I knew that this would come. And here we are. I couldn’t be happier.”
Lohrei grew “significantly” over the last year, Bruins director of scouting Ryan Nadeau said, and transitioned from forward to defense. The team liked how he transitioned from Culver (Ind.) Military Academy to the USHL. “His path this year was intriguing for us,” Nadeau said.
Kuntar, the third-rounder, is a left-shot forward out of Buffalo (Williamsville, N.Y.). He will be a freshman at Boston College after a 28-25—53 season in 44 games with USHL Youngstown.
“I’m a hard-working player,” Kuntar said. “A two-way power forward, I love to compete every night. I’d say someone I compare myself to is either Jamie Benn or Mathew Tkachuk.”
Kuntar had a “solid year” in Youngstown, Nadeau said, but his skating improved in the last year. “He works hard. He’s constantly a kid who’s abrasive to play against.”
Langenbrunner, the Bruins' fifth-rounder, is a 6-foot-2, 165-pound right-shot defenseman out of Eden Prairie (Minn.) High. He was ranked 131st among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He had a 5-16—21 line in 31 Minnesota high school games last season.
In 2017, the younger Langenbrunner was the Bruins' draft-floor runner in Chicago. He was on stage as the team welcomed first-round pick Urho Vaakanainen.
“We had some inside knowledge,” Sweeney said, adding that player development coordinator Chris Kelly, not Jamie Langenbrunner, will be in charge of Mason Langenbrunner’s development as a Bruins prospect.
Nadeau felt they were able to distance themselves enough to evaluate him.
“It can be a little bit of a challenge,” said Nadeau, who was with the organization when they took then-assistant GM Jim Benning’s son, Northeastern-bound Matt Benning, in 2012. “We also have some unique insight to the player, where he is maturity-wise and growth-wise.”
Duran (6-2, 175), the sixth-rounder, played for Woburn High, Malden Catholic and Lawrence Academy. He will spend this season with Youngstown (USHL) this season, then head to PC. Duran’s father, Jim, is Woburn High’s hockey coach and athletics director.
He models his game after Charlie Coyle, whom he has followed since his BU days. He has been a Bruins fan “from the day I was born,” he said.
“I think when my name came up, I legit just blacked out. I had no idea what was going on. I saw my mom, she was bobbling her phone when she went up to take a picture.”
. . .
The Bruins sent qualifying offers to restricted free agents Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Zach Senyshyn, Karson Kuhlman, Jakub Zboril and Peter Cehlarik. They did not qualify Brett Ritchie, Wiley Sherman and Brendan Gaunce, making them unrestricted free agents. Ritchie played 27 games as a Bruin (2-4—6) . . . The Bruins last hit the Canadian junior ranks in 2017, when they took Jack Studnicka (53rd), Cedric Pare (173rd) and Daniel Bukac (204th). Studnicka is the only one of the three they signed . . . The Bruins made the Lohrei pick after the Lightning jumped them, trading into the Canadiens' slot (57th overall) to pick 6-foot-6 center Jack Finley. The Bolts surrendered the 124th pick and a 2021 second-rounder . . . Kuntar’s father, Les, was a goalie drafted by Montreal (sixth round, 122nd overall) in 1987. He played six years in the pros, appearing in six games with the Canadiens in 1993-94. He then joined the Philadelphia organization, spending 1994-95 with the Worcester Ice Cats.