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PROVIDENCE, R.I. –  I’ll be the first to admit: when the Boston Bruins called Jeremy Swayman’s name on June 24, 2017, my first thought was “why?” With Zane McIntyre coming off a remarkable campaign in Providence and Dan Vladar making noteworthy progress down in Atlanta, a fourth-round pick on an unremarkable goalie seemed unnecessary at the time.

Over the course of the University of Maine Black Bears’ 2017-18 season, Swayman took the uneducated masses – myself included – and commanded respect, earning the starting goaltender position from his upperclassman teammate. His performance earned him an invitation to travel with the USA Hockey’s U-20 team to Buffalo for the World Junior Classic.

By the end of the 2017-18 season, Swayman heaped accolades on himself as a freshman netminder against older and more mature competition on the Maine roster and across the very talented NCAA Hockey East conference. Sufficed to say, he distinguished himself, and carried the Black Bears on their deepest playoff run since 2006-07.

Swayman tracking
Swayman tracks the puck during one-zone, three-on-three drills. Photo: Joshua Bemis/The Sin Bin

Swayman continued to impress with a strong showing at Boston Bruins Development Camp. The 6-foot-2 goaltender has excellent size and wingspan, both upper (arms) and lower (legs), covering the net through natural size and superb athleticism. Even casual observers of the game of hockey would recognize Swayman’s goaltending style as aggressive. He routinely challenges shooters, making explosive, yet smart, positional saves. His combative style is derived from a position of strength that usually doesn’t leave him vulnerable or flopping about the crease. Nevertheless, his style can get him into trouble by being “too” aggressive. Case in point: after a solid three days of 90-minute on-ice drill sessions, Swayman’s experience with scrimmage day did not end well as he allowed four straight goals.

To his credit, Swayman is incredibly mature for his age, and rebounds well — he came back into the locker room with a smile on his face despite a rough outing. Later, during a “mock interview” conducted by fellow prospect goalie Dan Vladar, Swayman joked: “My pads felt a little heavier… the puck looked a lot smaller.” He was all smiles as he packed his hockey bag, letting go of a smudge in an otherwise stellar week.

My interest in Jeremy began in earnest following a podcast interview he did in early 2018. For almost an hour, he answered questions in a fun, ebullient way that encouraged you to get to know him.  A few months later, I was fortunate enough to interview him myself, and that quick interaction after a tough loss to Providence College was my first interview as a credentialed media member.

Less than six months later, we picked up right where we left off in Providence. In town for Bruins Development Camp, Swayman has been staying with a former Maine teammate in nearby Braintree. When asked how he’s been getting around, Swayman grimaced at first —he might be a prospect, but he’s already a salty New England commuter. He then admitted, “I’ve been getting familiar with the ‘T’ and all the different train systems.” Despite the traffic, Jeremy was quick to praise some of the local attractions, especially Cape Cod. “It’s a gorgeous area, absolutely loved it,” but also noted, “It’s a different world out here with all the traffic.”

In the previous quote, Swayman was comparing New England to his childhood home of Anchorage in the rugged wilderness of Alaska. While not prone to homesickness due to excellent billet families from his days in the USHL, Swayman speaks fondly of home. “I was very fortunate to grow up in Alaska [and] always being outdoors.” He continued, “There’s untouched land everywhere you go. One minute you can be in the city, and ten minutes later you can be in the middle of nowhere.” While he and I differed on calling Alaska “exotic,” we both agreed on the majesty of the last great American frontier.

Hundreds upon thousands of acres of untouched land is prime real estate for pond hockey, and the Swayman family embraced that way of life. “I was always surrounded by hockey, growing up in Alaska,” Jeremy said. “There was pond hockey in the winters…[you] really skated anywhere you could.”

Swayman first took the ice at the tender age of two but didn’t guard the cage until three years later. “I grew up watching the University of Alaska-Anchorage NCAA Division I ice hockey [Seawolves]. It’s kinda my dad’s fault how I transitioned into a goalie,” Swayman said. “Our season ticket seats were right behind the nets, so as a three [to] four-year-old kid all I saw was the goalies.” His smile brightened as he continued, “I love the pads and really fell in love with the game, and the position [and] ran with it from there.”

Back in the present, the bright-eyed young man from Anchorage is now a veteran of two development camps. “It’s really nice seeing a lot of familiar faces. Being a second-year guy, I learned a lot last year and I want to keep going. I know it’s an awesome opportunity to be around a professional environment, with the coaching staff being so welcoming and helpful. [The Bruins] are a first-class organization and I’m so happy and fortunate to be back.”

Swayman Warmups
Swayman tracks pucks and deflects them out of danger during warm-ups on scrimmage day. Photo: Joshua Bemis/The Sin Bin

Like many of his fellow prospects, Swayman is focused on improving his skating this year. More goalie-specific, Swayman was also using development camp as a time to work on “sucking in” pucks — swallowing them up to prevent rebounds. He was quick to praise the shot quality of the fellow prospects on the ice with him noting a lot of skaters had an explosive or tricky release that might fool goalies. Needless to say, Swayman has been making the most of the Bruins on-ice sessions to return to the NCAA stage an even more refined goalie.

After the conclusion of Bruins Development Camp, Swayman will play in the Foxboro Pro League summer hockey tournament for the “Harlow” team. Their schedule can be found at the Foxboro Sports Center website. I encourage you to watch Swayman’s extraordinary play for a glimpse into the future of Providence, and quite possibly Boston.

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