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The battle to be Rask's successor in Boston will heat up with signing of Jeremy Swayman

The Boston Bruins officially signed Jeremy Swayman to an entry-level contract on Wednesday, making the race to take over the crease post-Tuukka Rask even more interesting in the short-term.
Steven Ellis/The Hockey News

Steven Ellis/The Hockey News

Imagine having one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL. Then, imagine having one of the best tandems in the AHL. After that, imagine having a unanimous first-team NCAA all-star come aboard.

Well, in the case of the Boston Bruins, no imagination necessary. That's reality after the Bruins inked now-former University of Maine netminder Jeremy Swayman to a three-year, entry-level deal Tuesday. In doing so, the Bruins have further solidified what was already one of the best creases among any NHL organization, and goaltending is perhaps the organization's deepest position.

The winner of the 2019-20 Walter Brown Award, given to the best American-born college hockey player in New England, Swayman made his mark on the Black Bears during his time in the collegiate circuit. A fourth-round pick, 111th overall, by the Bruins in 2017, Swayman was a workhorse college goaltender right out the gate. He played 31 games in his freshman season, peaked with a 35-game campaign as a sophomore and rounded out his college career with 34 appearances this season. All told, he manned the crease in 100 of Maine's of 108 games during his three-year tenure, and he did so incredibly effectively. Statistically, he was among the top goaltenders throughout his college career and his .939 save percentage in 2019-20 was the second-best mark in the NCAA.

And now that he's penned his deal with the Bruins, which comes with Swayman having nothing left to prove in college, it seems as though he's destined to make the battle for the blue paint in AHL Providence all the more intriguing next season.

Taking stock of the baby Bruins' crease, Swayman's addition makes things crowded. While Daniel Vladar is a restricted free agent at season's end, Kyle Keyser is signed through the end of the 2021-22 campaign. Mind you, suggesting Vladar and Keyser are Swayman's only competition is to assume Boston will walk away from veteran goaltender Maxime Lagace, who has been among the top netminders in the AHL this season. Granted, Vladar has been just as good. So, if the Bruins think Vladar can handle a heavy workload, they could elect to go with a Vladar-Keyser duo and allow Swayman to get his feet wet at the professional level in the ECHL.

As with most young goalies, Swayman, 21, is a few years away from full-time NHL duty, but among those in the system, he's the most intriguing keeper. He was one of the Bruins' biggest movers in our annual Future Watch issue and was ranked as the top goaltending prospect in the Bruins' system, outranking Vladar. But the question, even still, is whether Swayman can be the next Rask or if he will inevitably become the next Malcolm Subban? The Bruins had high hopes for the 2012 first-round selection, but he ultimately failed to take the reins. College scouts like Swayman's chances, however, as a potential long-term starting option.

"Among all the goaltenders I've seen go through the NCAA over the past decade, few are as confident in the crease as Swayman," one scout said. "Never lets a bad goal get to him. He plays every game like it's a national title game. That's the battler you want in net."

"His workload over the past three years is enough to showcase what he's got," said another. "His surface stats don't lie: he handles pressure and competition as well as anyone. I'd argue he's ready to challenge for Providence's starting role next season."

Regardless of where he ends up, turning pro stands to be of great benefit to Swayman, and how the Bruins choose to develop their goaltenders in the next few years will be of interest.

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