NHL Notebook: Maine’s coaching staff breaks down Jeremy Swayman’s development into one of hockey’s top goalie prospects

(Staff Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

In his three-plus decades of coaching, Red Gendron has just about seen it all.

At the high-school level, Gendron coached future NHL All-Star John LeClair for three seasons at Bellows Free Academy up in St. Albans, Vt. 

As an assistant coach at the University of Maine, he helped guide young stars like Paul Kariya,  Garth Snow, Mike Dunham and Scott Pellerin through the collegiate ranks, with the 42-1-2 Black Bears eventually capturing an NCAA title in 1993. 

Gendron served as an assistant coach with Team USA for three different World Junior Championships (1993, 2001, 2002) — instructing eventual NHLers like Brian Rafalski, Dustin Brown, Brian Rolston, Ryan Whitney, Rick DiPietro, Ron Hainsey, R.J. Umberger, Mike Komisarek, Keith Ballard and many others. 

As an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, Gendron helped run practices featuring the likes of Scott Stevens, Martin Brodeur, Scott Neidermeyer, Bill Guerin and more established talent. 

Fair to say, Gendron has developed quite the eye for both identifying and developing the next wave of NHL  talent over the years. 

So when he first received word of a lanky but promising netminder in the USHL close to five years ago, Gendron was quick to jump on the opportunity to size up what Jeremy Swayman had to offer. 

It didn’t take very long for the Alaska native to win the Black Bears' head coach over. 

We got a tip about Jeremy, we were looking for a goalie,” Gendron said Thursday while speaking on USA Hockey’s ongoing coaching webinar series. “The first time any of us went out to see him play, I mean, it was pretty clear that he had extraordinary athleticism. I'd had the good fortune to be at UMass, working there with 'Toot' Cahoon when we had Jon Quick

“And immediately I could see the lateral mobility and the puck-tracking skills that we'd become accustomed to seeing from somebody like Jon Quick. So that was pretty clear, and as, soon as we met Jeremy, it became very obvious that this guy wanted to be the best.”

Swayman certainly did his best to validate such sentiment over his three-year career up in Orono, departing the Black Bears in 2020 as one of the top players across the NCAA landscape. 

Drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round (117th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Swayman has seen his stock as a premier NHL prospect soar since first arriving in Maine three years ago. After averaging a .920 save percentage and 33 starts over his first two seasons with the Black Bears, Swayman orchestrated one of the more impressive netminder campaigns in recent memory as a junior in 2019-20. 

Maine put forward a resurgent 18-11-5 campaign this past season, with the stellar performance of Swayman in net holding plenty of, uh, sway over said results. Even though the Black Bears surrendered 34.6 shots against per game — 56th out of the 60 D-1 teams — Swayman was rarely dented by such a high shot volume, leading all Hockey East netminders with an absurd .939 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average.

Swayman had to install another shelf on his trophy case by the time the 2019-20 season came to a premature end due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite coming up short as one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, Swayman did take home the Mike Richter Award — given annually the nation's top collegiate goaltender — while also earning All-American First Team honors and the title of Hockey East Player of the Year. 

Not too shabby. 

While Swayman will now focus his efforts toward making the jump up to the pro ranks with the Bruins, the 21-year-old netminder did reflect on his time at Maine and his development at the collegiate level while speaking on the USA Hockey webinar. 

Joining both Swayman and Gendron were former NHL netminder and current Maine assistant coach Alfie Michaud and Matt Murray, the associate director of sports performance for Maine men’s ice hockey and field hockey. 

During the hour-long session, both Swayman and the Maine coaching/performance staff touched on a number of topics, including Swayman’s promise as a young goalie in the USHL, developing the proper regimen for the netminder at Maine and much more. 

Here are a couple of highlights from the webinar: