Photo by Hickling Images
Sioux Falls Stampede goaltender Jeremy Swayman hopes to continue to grow in the USHL this season, literally.
When he first attended the USA Hockey National Camp, the goaltender was measured at 5’7”, a far cry from his current 6’2” frame. Swayman laughed and mentioned his father stands at a towering 6’6”.
“I still have some more growing to do.”
Much like his height, Swayman stood tall on opening night at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, stopping 48 of 50 Tri-City Storm shots to give his team a 3-2 shootout win over the defending Clark Cup Champions.
The first year NHL Draft eligible goaltender said that preseason was the key to the Stampede’s big night on Saturday.
“I think right away, the team bonded,” Swayman said. “Off ice as well, so it was reflected on the ice. From my experience, I thought the pace was a lot faster than I was used to. I adapted as fast as I could and I feel like I’m where I belong. I hope to sustain that for as long as I can.”
Stampede head coach Scott Owens was not surprised by how his starting goaltender performed. He said that Swayman has been a strong goaltender since he arrived earlier this summer.
“Jeremy made a great impression at our June camp,” the second year Sioux Falls head coach said. “He came as a drafted player, he made a great impression here, played outstanding since he’s come into camp at the end of August and just continued his play.
“I’m not surprised, but his adjustment has been quicker than I anticipated. He played AAA at Pikes Peak. I think he’s come in here and he’s been consistent. He’s played very, very well. He’s going to be a good one for us.”
The Pikes Peak Miners are a AAA organization based out of Colorado Springs, CO. It was there that Owens first heard of the goaltender from Anchorage, AK. Swayman posted an impresive .940 SV% and a 1.79 GAA in 18 games while with the Miners. He was emphatic in talking about how much that experience prepared him for the USHL.
“It was unbelievable,” Swayman said. “Coach Greg Vanover was by far the best mentor I’ve ever had. We’re going to keep in touch for a long time. It was my first year away from home. I learned a lot from that. I adapted well to being in Colorado Springs. The altitude helped a lot with the off-ice so it was reflected in the on-ice. I couldn’t be more thankful for the coaching staff and the team we had there. It prepared me really well for this league.”
Before his time in Colorado, Swayman was playing in his hometown with the South Anchorage High School team in a state that has produced such previous USHL netminders as University of Minnesota’s Eric Schiehorn (Muskegon Lumberjacks) and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Kris Oldham (Omaha Lancers).
Swayman said because of the distance between Alaska and the contiguous United States, players have to take special advantage of the times they are watched by scouts and coaches.
“Being from Alaska, you don’t get the opportunity to be seen by coaches every day, and when you get that opportunity, you want to perform. Every time you get that opportunity, you want to do as well, if not better, than all the other kids around you,” said Swayman. “I think a lot of coaches from outer states want to see those guys that don’t get seen often and that gives us an advantage on being seen by the right people.”
That visibility has only increased since leading the USHL in save percentage during the preseason, as well as his early regular season start. Swayman, currently uncommitted, has fielded offers from many NCAA Division I programs, something that has been exciting and fun for the young netminder.
After all, it was just a year ago that Swayman was cut from his first junior hockey team. He said that experience set him on the path he’s currently on and he used it as motivation to make the Sioux Falls opening night roster, as well as motivation for the rest of his career.
“I did have goals for this year and one was to never be cut from a team again,” said Swayman. “I really thought I could do it, so I had no doubt in my mind that I would make this team. But it is a weird scenario for me because I had a tough time last year being cut from the North American Hockey League. I took what I learned from that and put everything into this. I’m really fortunate where I ended up, but I’m really happy where I am now. “
That fire and determination, alongside additional playing minutes to help develop in Pikes Peak, is what first attracted Owens to Swayman. The Stampede drafted the goalie in the 12th round of last season’s USHL Phase II Draft.
“We heard he was a talented goaltender and he was playing well,” said Owens. “We saw him play a few times at their showcases and saw he had a little bit of size and athletic ability. Then we took him in the draft. We knew we needed one goalie for sure and so we grabbed him.
“It’s really a tribute to him because he got taken in the North American Hockey League, but he made our camp and has played really well.”
Being a late 1998 birth-year goaltender, Swayman is considered a rookie this season. He described himself as a late bloomer but said he has had plenty of experience playing with older players, and that will pay off significantly in the long run.
“I did play up my whole life, and that helped me out a lot in the long run, playing against bigger, stronger, older guys,” said Swayman. “Now that I’m in this league, I’m getting to experience this all over again and I love it. I’m here and I’m ready to take on the task. I’m getting where I want to be, but I’m not done yet.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in four consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
Tag(s): Player News