With the 181st overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, the Bruins select defenseman Ryan Mast.
I am thinking it is reasonable to assume that when Boston Bruins fans saw those words across their television screens, computers, iPads, or whatever method they were watching the 2021 National Hockey League Draft, thousands scrambled onto Google and did a search to learn as much as they possibly could about Mast.
The NHL Draft isn’t about finding top flight players in every round that are expected to play in your top-6 forwards or top-4 defensemen. When you are picking 181st you hope you can find, in this case a defenseman, that will be capable of playing on your bottom pair. Sure, there are exceptions – very few of them. Let’s turn back the clock to 2018 and with the same 181st pick, the Bruins selected Dustyn McFaul – a player I had high hopes the Bruins would draft, and they did, knowing he was a long-term project, likely 5 or 6 years from his draft date to reaching the NHL – if he does.
Mast is a right shot defender and McFaul a left shot – and if their development curves go as expected, the Bruins may have solidified their bottom pair for years – although both players are a few years away from the reaching the NHL.
So, who is Ryan Mast?
Mast is a 6’4”, 215-pound defenseman who was born in Bloomfield, Michigan. He played for Compuware Under-16 (AAA) during the 2018-2019 season where he scored twice and assisted on two others in 18 games and helping Compuware to a championship.
In 2019, Mast was drafted in the 9th round, 169th overall by the Sarnia Sting at the Ontario Hockey League’s Priority Selection. He was also selected in the 5th round, 64th overall by the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League’s Futures Draft. This year, the Tri-City Storm selected him in the 18th round, 267th overall in the USHL Entry Draft.
Obviously, Mast had some options and he chose the Sarnia Sting and, in the fall of 2019, he made the Stings roster out of camp. Mast appeared in 58 games and scored once while assisting on 10.
As everyone knows by now, the COVID-19 Pandemic wiped out the entire 2020-2021 Ontario Hockey League Season and you can judge for yourself whether that had any impact on public rankings and the actual draft. Well, here’s where some outlets had him ranked prior to the draft:
NHL Central Scouting – 89th (North American Skaters)
Elite Prospects – 89th
FC Hockey – 277th
Red Line Report – Not Ranked
Hockey Prospect – Not Ranked
Brock Otten – 12th (among OHL players)
Yours truly, who usually attends 100-plus OHL games a season and watches countless others on film and has ranked OHL players for over 15 years, chose not to do a ranking because of the lost season and I felt I just couldn’t do it justice this time around.
You’ll read in some circles that those people believe there is some untapped offensive potential in Mast’s game. I will be honest: I question that based on what I saw in 2019-2020. I saw a defenseman that “played it safe” 100 percent of the time at the offensive blueline. I understand that as a blueliner, the best play to make on a 50-50 buck is to retreat, but 70-30 pucks?
He was also a rookie at the time, and maybe he lacked the confidence. What I do know is that Mast has well above average hockey sense so it’s not like he doesn’t have the IQ to play in the attacking zone. In fairness, Mast did play in the Erie Showcase (for OHL players eligible for the draft) and took it upon himself to try and have an impact on the o-zone, however, he got burned a few times.
Maybe those who think there is untapped offensive potential liked the fact that he was cognizant of it and that when he uses those hockey senses and becomes more confident, it will all work out for him.
Where Mast will make his bread and butter is defending. Few defenders were as adept as Mast in breaking up zone entries. His stick is as active as anyone’s you’ve seen and with such a huge reach, he is able to lure opponents in and then break up the play. But it’s just not his stick. Mast doesn’t shy away from using his size. He skates well backing up and laterally that he can ride opponents into the wall and take the puck himself.
His north-south and east-west skating is smooth and effective and he shows some excellent agility for a defender his size. However, he lacks that push or speed and it’s something he will need to work on.
Mast’s puck retrieval and transitioning game is excellent. He gets back to retrieve the puck and few are going to challenge him physically – only because few can. He is not going to dazzle anyone and bring them to the edge of their seats with end-to-end rushes. What you can expect is, that once he’s turned to face up ice, he will deliver a quick, hard, tape-to-tape pass the will send his teammates on the attack. He does it confidently and watching him you would think he already knows what he’s going to do before he retrieves the puck.
I’ll see plenty of Mast this upcoming season and will report back at a future date.
If you’re a fan of the Boston Bruins and the OHL, you should have some fun this season watching Mast and Brett Harrison of the Oshawa Generals. Not to mention Marc Savard, who today was named Head Coach of the Windsor Spitfires.