( Photo Credit: The Portland Press Herald )

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Starting in the mid-90’s and continuing through the early 2000s, the Bruins struggled to draft their next brick wall.  They drafted Andrew Raycroft but traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs after an impeccable rookie year.  Toronto sent Tuukka Rask to Boston and the Bruins paired him with Tim Thomas to eventually bring home their sixth Stanley Cup.

Tim Thomas eventually retired, handing the keys to Rask, who recently surpassed Tiny Thompson as the club’s most winningest goaltender.  Rask’s 33rd birthday will be celebrated in March and he has two years left on a 7-year deal.  The Bruins will more than likely re-sign Rask to make him a Bruin for life, but they’ll need to develop his successor now.  Thankfully, they already have a few goalies in the pipeline: Kyle Keyser, Daniel Vladar, and Jeremy Swayman.

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Jeremy Swayman was the Bruins’ 111th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.  The Bruins drafted him from the United States Hockey League, where he was already committed to the University of Maine next fall.  Swayman ended his freshman year with a 15-12-3 record and a .960 save percentage.  He was awarded several awards throughout the season and recorded a season-high 50-save game against Quinnipiac.  He continued these heroic high-save performances in his sophomore year, recording 91 saves in a series with the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.

In his first two years with UMaine, it’s clear his team could rely on him for their defensive lapses.  Currently, his third year is no different.  His team ranks ninth in the Hockey East, only in front of Merrimack College and the winless University of Vermont Catamounts.

Swayman ranks first in saves throughout the entire National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) Division One hockey program with 822 saves in 25 games played.  He has 89 more saves than the second-highest goalie.  He averages 33 saves per game and still posts a .934 save percentage, which ranks sixth in Division One hockey. In fact, in all his years of playing junior or higher-level hockey, Swayman’s goals-against average has never been below .910.  He recently won the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week following a 73-save two-game split versus the fifth-ranked Boston College Eagles.

One word that best describes Swayman is consistent, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.  He has been nominated for the NCAA’s best player of the year: the Hobey Baker Award.  It has been awarded to only two goaltenders in its 38 years of existence: Robb Stauber and Ryan Miller.

Swayman has attended the Bruins Development Camp three times since he was drafted.  He has been sent back to the University of Maine all three times but was able to show off what opposing college hockey teams see each night.

It is not uncommon to send young goaltenders back to college for an extended period of time.  Their development is much more fluid than a skater and has even been a mystery to some teams in the past.  “There have been 95 goaltenders to make their NHL debut since the start of the 2008-09 season. Thirty-five (nearly 37 percent) of them were never drafted.”  Teams have invested more time, energy, and manpower in developing goaltenders.  Every NHL team has a goalie coach at almost every level, some of which are former players.  Bob Essensa, Dwayne Roloson, Bill Ranford, Mike Dunham, and Johan Hedberg are employed by the Bruins, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, and San Jose Sharks respectively as goalie coaches.

Development camps give coaches and Bruins management time to evaluate their prospects.  General Manager Don Sweeney has the final call on each player’s movement, and he’s sent Jeremy back to college each time thus far.  Don may send Jeremy to finish his college career with UMaine next year, which can only help his development.  He has stiff competition with the likes of Keyser and Vladar in the AHL. Still, if he continues his consistent play and reliability, it will be hard for Bruins management to overlook when he enters the Bruins development camp for the last time.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 163 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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