From the moment he took to the ice on Thursday during the Boston Bruins’ annual Development Camp, their fourth round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Jeremy Swayman, appeared calm and focused. The 18-year-old goaltender from Anchorage, Alaska, looked unfazed by the most recent step in his hockey career.
In the past four years he has spent time between the pipes representing four different teams, and this coming season, as he begins his collegiate career, he will be with yet another team. This team is about as far away from his hometown as possible, while still be in the United States, as he undertakes his freshman year at the University of Maine. Moving so frequently as he endeavors to improve and grow as a netminder speaks to a level of commitment not often seen in one so young.
“It’s been a lot of sacrifices and I think every sacrifice I’ve made has been completely worth it and turned out in the best way possible,” Swayman shared after that first day of development camp. “I think moving out at a younger age got me the maturity a lot of kids didn’t get maybe living at home for a little more time. Molding to the society around [me] definitely separated myself from other guys staying back home and getting to the next level.”
Perhaps it was this number of moves and his experience with the various billet families as he went from team to team that has infused him with the calmness that he displayed at his first professional development camp, despite understanding that the coaches and Bruins management were watching him.
“I got a lot of shots and it’s not easy out here. The quality of players are obviously extremely good and, you know, just having the opportunity to be with these kind of players and having that competitiveness and being with a good group of guys is just really amazing and so I’m just going to take every opportunity I can and capitalize on it,” he shared, smiling as he talked.
Swayman played with the USHL Sioux Falls Stampede during the previous season, suiting up in 32 games where he had a .914 save percentage and a 2.90 AAG. According to the NHL Central Scouting he was ranked 12th among North American goalies. And while he was the 12th goaltender drafted overall, he was actually just the eighth North American goaltender drafted.
“Being taken in the fourth round is [an] extremely humble feeling I get and that means that they wanted me and they knew another team could have gotten me,” he said of the draft. “The fact that they chose me that high, I think I have a lot to prove and I’m completely willing to do it.”
Coming into his first development camp, he had no illusions that the days would be easy.
“I expected a high compete level and a lot of competition and that’s exactly what’s played in front of me and I completely thrive off of that kind of energy,” Swayman said of the camp. “And I think, you know, having the teammates around here pushing each other is going to make me better and them better as well and so having that kind of team environment already is pretty special to me.”
Talking with Swayman, it is easy to forget that he has only been on this earth for 18 years. He speaks clearly and thoughtfully with a refreshing enthusiasm that is not at all naïve. Perhaps his savviness is the product of his many moves in the past four years, but he also attributes it to the support of his team in those situations.
“Just having to make more relationships with complete strangers and even, I think, it’s a better situation going with a team,” he said. “It definitely would have been harder if I was a single high schooler going in but having the teammates around you being that immediate family, it’s definitely an incredible experience and the situations I was in, just molding with the brotherhood was pretty cool.”
Development camp for most players is about learning and growing. Unlike training camp in September where players are vying for jobs, players come to development camp to learn about the culture of the team and to understand the areas in which they need to grow or improve. This is the emphasis of the coaches and management. For the players, who listen and appreciate the guidance, they also are hoping to prove to the team that management made a good choice in either drafting or inviting them.
“My high competitiveness. How I separate myself on and off the ice,” Swayman said honestly about what he hopes to show. “Just how I focus and can kind of treat everything like a professional, putting in the extra time and the extra hours. I hope that separates myself and what they’ll see.”
It is likely that come hockey season Sawyman will be suiting up in the Maine blue, white and navy blue of the University of Maine Black Bears, but his commitment and willingness to work will undoubtedly serve him well in the coming season. His return to the Bruins’ development camp next year should reveal an even more focused and improved player with additional experiences to aid him in his quest for a job in the NHL.