Following his junior season at the University of Maine in March of 2019, Boston Bruins prospect goaltender Jeremy Swayman decided to forgo his senior season and sign his entry-level contract. At the time of his decision, there were a lot of unknowns not only about hockey, but life in general as the NHL was at the beginning of their 2019-20 season pause because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ten months later, Swayman, who collected many accolades at Maine, finally got back on the ice in a hockey game as he found himself between the pipes for the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL). The P-Bruins were part of the AHL’s 25-game season, which was a big step for not only Swayman, but other Bruins’ prospects who were able to get some game action. With his first pro season under his belt, the Alaska, Anchorage native has an opportunity to make his mark in the NHL as early as this season.
Swayman’s 2020-21 Impressive Run
As expected, the Bruins began the 2020-21 season with veterans Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak in the net. Rask was entering the final year of his contract, while general manager Don Sweeney re-signed Halak in May of 2020 to back up his teammate for a third consecutive season. Of course, with a 56-game schedule and limited travel because of COVID-19, there were bound to be some unforeseen circumstances of interruptions and the Bruins would have to go deep into their goaltending depth.
Those unforeseen circumstances piled up for coach Bruce Cassidy midway through the season. Rask was sidelined with an injury and Halak was forced to be away from the team because of COVID-19 protocols. That opened the door for Swayman and fellow rookie Dan Vladar.
In nine games in Providence, Swayman was impressive with a 1.89 goals-against average (GAA) and a .933 save percentage (SV%). He won eight of his nine games, with one being a shutout. Then in the middle of March, Swayman got the call and made the most of his opportunity.
In 10 NHL games, the 111th pick overall in the 2017 Entry Draft went 7-3 in Boston with a 1.50 GAA with a .945 SV%. He had two shutouts and allowed just 15 goals on 271 shots. Numbers aside, he was impressive in the way he played. He was not afraid of the moment at 22 years old as he was active in the net, cutting down shooters’ angles, limited the number of rebounds, and was good at staying square to the puck. With every game he played, he gained more confidence.
Opportunity Knocks for Swayman in 2021-22
At the end of last season, the writing was on the wall that there were going to be changes in net for the Bruins. Rask announced that he played the second half of the season and playoffs on a torn hip labrum, which required surgery and will keep him out until early 2022. Currently a free agent, it’s not given that he does return to Boston, but the veteran has made it known that he would not continue his career in another city. Halak left in free agency in July, signing with the Vancouver Canucks.
With questions surrounding Rask’s future, Sweeney signed former Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark to a four-year, $20 million contract. Following the signing, Sweeney traded Vladar to the Calgary Flames for a third-round draft pick in 2022. That leaves Ullmark and Swayman heading into training camp and the regular season as the obvious two choices in the net.
Signing Ullmark was a surprise, but it very well could be a good move. Playing for a Sabres team in full rebuild mode, the 6-foot-4 from Sweden managed to finish three games above .500 in his 117 career games in Buffalo with a 2.78 GAA and a .912 SV%. Health has not been kind to him as he was limited to 20 games in 2020-21 with an injury and in the last three seasons, he finished with an above .500 record.
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Swayman is going into the upcoming season with a chance to seize the moment in the Bruins net. Rask is still a free agent and even if he does come back, he’ll be out until early 2022, nearly the halfway point of the season. Ullmark should be considered the favorite heading into training camp, but Swayman has an opportunity to earn get more playing time this season if he can carry over his strong play from last season to the upcoming season. If there was ever a time for Swayman to seize the moment and earn more playing time, it’s now.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.