Former University of Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman decided to forgo his senior year at UMaine and join the Boston Bruins in 2020, and ever since his stock has been rising rapidly. Now entering his second professional season in the NHL, he has a real shot to be the number one goaltender in Boston.
Swayman would not make his professional debut until February of 2021 last season. After almost 11 months removed from playing a competitive game due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Swayman showed no signs of rust and was the stud we remembered him as at the AHL level.
With the Providence Bruins of the AHL, Swayman boasted save percentages and goals against averages that ranked in the top five amongst qualified goalies at the time. Swayman was expected to be in the minor leagues for the entirety of his first professional season, but injuries and stellar play from Swayman opened a door for him to come up to the NHL.
Swayman made his NHL debut on April 6, 2021 in Philadelphia against the Flyers. In his debut, Swayman saved 40 shots en route to a Bruins 2-1 victory, showcasing himself as a real talent. During his time with the Bruins, Swayman played 10 games and was the primary backup for the majority of their playoff appearances over two rounds. In those 10 regular season games, Swayman put up a .945 save percentage and 1.50 goals against average. Both figures would be league bests had they been over the course of a full season.
The rise of Jeremy Swayman as a true NHL talent has given the Bruins confidence to move on from backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Halak was good during his three year tenure, but the 36-year-old’s contract was up and it made sense for the Bruins to go with the younger option who has more potential.
A surprise circumstance also arose to give Swayman the opportunity to take the number one spot in Boston. Bruins longtime goalie Tuukka Rask suffered a hip injury which required surgery, keeping him out of action until at least January of 2022.
This meant that going into free agency this offseason, Jeremy Swayman was the clear number one goalie in most people’s minds until Rask returns from his injury. The Bruins then surprised many by signing goaltender Linus Ullmark for four years at five million dollars per year.
Last year with the Buffalo Sabres, Ullmark put up a respectable .917 save percentage, despite playing behind one of the worst defences in the league. The 28-year-old has played 112 career NHL games and has been good on a bad team, something that is very difficult to do as a goalie.
The experience of Ullmark and the contract that he signed makes it clear that the Bruins will give him the opportunity to be the number one goalie over Swayman. This makes a ton of sense and is not necessarily a bad thing for Swayman.
Swayman is only 22 and has only played 10 career NHL games. The lack of experience and age suggest that he may not quite be ready to be a true number one, and the Bruins were smart to sign Ullmark so they wouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket.
As the backup, Swayman will get NHL experience without having the full weight of expectations that the Bruins fan base has for their goaltending. If Rasks returns to being fully healthy, Swayman may even spend time back in the AHL to accrue more experience.
Although we want to see Swayman be a true number one goalie in the NHL, it seems as though he is not going to be that this year. With good development from Swayman, in due time he can be a full time starter at the NHL level.