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Road to the Top: Jeremy Swayman

If you are a follower of the Boston Bruins, it is nearly impossible to avoid the conversation around goaltender Jeremy Swayman. Only in his third season with the Bruins, Swayman, nicknamed “Sway,” is making a name for himself among the best goaltenders in the league. A goalie that never seems to waver under pressure, always with a spectacular attitude, Swayman’s infectious personality, dedication, and positive influence on the Bruins, and his tandem with Linus Ullmark is a reliable quality of the 24-year-old. While he is still rising up the ranks and proving himself within the league and the Bruins, it is undeniable that he is an extremely valuable person within the Bruins roster and the league itself. This article will chronicle Swayman’s start, from his roots all the way to where he is today.

The First Step

Jeremy Swayman was born in Anchorage, Alaska. He began watching college ice hockey games as an infant when his father, Ken Swayman, would take him to watch the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. Swayman first played as a goaltender when he was five years old, and he quickly became attached to the position. He played youth hockey around Anchorage throughout his childhood and spent two years with the South Anchorage High School team before starting his junior ice hockey career. He had expected to stay in Alaska and play for the Kenai River Brown bears of the North American Hockey League, but he was cut from the team in favor of two older goaltenders. Instead, through the help of several family friends, Swayman joined the Pikes Peak Miners of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League. In 18 games played for the Miners, Swayman had a .940 save percentage and a 1.79 goals against average.

After one season played with the Miners, Swayman was selected by the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League (USHL) in the twelvth round of the 2016 USHL Phase II Draft. After leading all USHL goaltenders in preseason save percentage, Swayman stopped 48 shots on goal in his Stampede debut, a 3–2 shootout win over the Tri-City Storm. In 32 games played with Sioux Falls, Swayman posted a 7–18–3 record, .914 save percentage, and 2.90 goals against average. For this outstanding performance, the NHL Central Scouting Bureau named him the number 12th prospect among all North American goaltenders. At the end of the USHL season, the Boston Bruins selected Swayman in the fourth round, 111th overall, of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. 

College Days

At the time the Bruins drafted him, a 19 year-old Swayman had already committed to playing college hockey for the University of Maine, beginning in the 2017–18 season. Swayman made his collegiate hockey debut on October 7th, 2017, making 26 saves but taking the loss in Maine’s 5–1 defeat against UConn. After making 40 saves to give the Black Bears a 5–2 win over Boston University on November 17th, the Hockey East conference named Swayman their Rookie of the Week. He received the award again on January 8 after posting his first career shutout, stopping all 31 shots he faced in a 3–0 win over Boston University. He was named the Hockey East Rookie of the Month for the month of January after going 4–2–2 with a conference rookie-leading .928 save percentage and 2.34 goals against average in eight games. Swayman finished his freshman season with a .920 save percentage and 2.74 goals against average, while his 15–13–3 record was the best of any Maine rookie goaltender since Ben Bishop. He was added to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and was named an All-Star Honorable Mention.

Swayman’s first Hockey East honor of the 2018–19 season came on November 19th, when he was named the Defensive Player of the Week after making 79 saves in a two-game series against Boston University. He won the award again on December 3 after stopping 74 shots in a two-game series against Vermont. On January 25, Swayman made a career-high 53 saves in Maine’s 4–3 upset win over UMass. After going 5–2–1 with a .918 save percentage and 2.86 goals against average in the month of February, with 30 or more saves in six of his outings, Swayman was named the Hockey East Goaltender of the Month. Swayman finished his sophomore season with a .919 save percentage, a 2.77 goals against average, and a 14–17–4 record in 35 games, and he was named to the All-Hockey East Third Team. 

After a difficult start to the 2019–20 season, Swayman posted a .962 save percentage and 1.22 goals against average in the next six games. He was named the Hockey East Goaltender of the Month for February 2020 after going 4–2–1 with 210 saves for the month, including two shutouts. Swayman finished the season with an 18–11–5 record, .939 save percentage, 2.07 goals against average, and led all NCAA Division I goaltenders with 1,099 saves for the year. He earned a number of awards at the end of the season, beginning with the Walter Brown Award, given to the top American-born college hockey player in New England. Hockey East named him a First-Team All-Star, the Goaltending Champion, and the Player of the Year. He was the runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top men’s college ice hockey player in the United States, an honor which went that year to Scott Perunovich of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. Swayman closed out the 2020 collegiate awards season with the Mike Richter Award, given to the top NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey goaltender of the year.

At the conclusion of the 2019–20 season, Swayman announced that he would be leaving Maine to begin his professional hockey career with the Bruins. He finished his college career as Maine’s all-time leader with 3,130 saves and 5,906:45 minutes played, while his 2.51 goals against average was fifth in franchise history and his .927 save percentage was behind only that of Jimmy Howard.

The Competition

Swayman officially signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Bruins on March 18, 2020. At the time, ice hockey at the NCAA, NHL, and American Hockey League (AHL) levels had all been suspended due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Swayman’s professional hockey career began in the 2020–21 season, when he was assigned to the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL affiliate. He won his first seven games of the season, posting a 1.57 goals against average and .942 save percentage in that time frame. In nine games for Providence, Swayman went 8–1–0 with a .933 save percentage and 1.89 goals against average, and he was named to the AHL Atlantic Division All-Star Team at the end of the season. 

Swayman was ultimately promoted to Boston Bruins’ starting goaltender when Tuukka Rask was put out with a hip injury, and backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak tested positive for COVID-19. On April 6th, 2021, Swayman made his debut with the Bruins against the New York Islanders where he stopped all 25 shots he faced, leaving the Bruins with a 3-0 shutout win. Swayman played in 10 games for the last six weeks of the Bruins’ regular season, during which he went 7–3–0 with a .945 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average. That regular season performance prompted then-coach Bruce Cassidy to select Swayman over Halak as Rask’s backup goaltender heading into the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Swayman made his postseason debut in Game 5 of the Bruins’ second-round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Islanders, taking over for Rask in the third period. Swayman faced three shots, stopping two and allowing a Brock Nelson goal in a game that the Bruins lost 5–4. Cassidy opted not to play Swayman in Game 6, and the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs with their following 6–2 loss to the Islanders.

The following season, Halak was sent to play for the Vancouver Canucks and Tuuka Rask underwent hip surgery and was expected to miss the first half of the 2021-22 season. Without their two starting goaltenders, the Bruins placed Swayman in net with newcomer Linus Ullmark as backup. Swayman played well to start the season and Rask returned on January 11th, prompting the Bruins to send Swayman back down to Providence to make room for Ullmark’s improvement. However, Rask soon suffered a setback in his recovery and Swayman was sent back up at the end of January, which remained a permanent position when Rask announced his retirement in February. After going 5–1–1 with a .960 save percentage, a 1.13 goals against average, and two shutouts in seven starts that month, Swayman was named the NHL Rookie of the Month for February 2022.

The Impact

Swayman has been an unwavering presence for the Bruins and has quickly become a reliable source of stability for the Bruins goaltending alongside tandem partner Linus Ullmark, who has been playing impeccably alongside him throughout the season. Both goaltenders starting a tradition of hugging following every game which started in the 2021-22 season. The ritual began after the Bruins won their home opener of that season and which has kept up after every win since. The fan-favorite goaltender has an infectious positive attitude that impacts the Bruins team chemistry. His road to the top is only beginning, it is a certainty that Swayman will make an astounding impact on the Boston Bruins and the NHL.

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