Q&A with Jeremy Swanson

By Holly Gunning

Jeremy Swanson spent four years in the OHL, one with Sault Ste. Marie and three with Barrie. In 2002, he was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the sixth round. This summer he signed a contract with Florida and is assigned to the Panthers new ECHL affiliate, the Texas Wildcatters, located in Beaumont. The 6’1 214-pound defender hails from Red Rock, Ontario. He had 34 points and 120 PIMs in 66 games last season.

Hockey’s Future spoke to Swanson following the Wildcatters’ 5-4 shootout loss against the Gwinnett Gladiators on Tuesday. He had two assists in the game.

HF: How do you feel like your personal season is going so far?
JS: So far it’s kind of been up and down, inconsistent stuff. I’m coming off of a shoulder injury, which is kind of frustrating, but I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. In the last couple of games we’ve been pretty consistent, so hopefully we can keep that going and start playing solid defense.

HF: How do you think the adjustment’s been from junior, have you had to change much in your game?
JS: Actually, not really. I was pretty well-prepared coming into the season. I went through a lot of pro camps, so I kind of knew the speed and stuff. There’s still a lot of things you have to change, it is a lot different playing, but so far it’s been alright.

HF: What is one thing you’ve had to change?
JS: Just your quickness on moving the puck. Guys are on you a lot quicker here than in junior. Guys play a lot more desperate than in junior. So just a little bit more urgency with the puck, you have to move it a bit quicker.

HF: How about the size of the players, has that been an adjustment for you?
JS: It’s not as bad. Going into junior was a big struggle, playing defense. This year I haven’t found it to be too bad. But you are playing against grown men and they are a lot stronger, but you just have to use different techniques to outwork them.

HF: You mentioned your shoulder injury, can you explain what happened with that?
JS: I had surgery in July, it was from last season. I don’t even really know what happened. So I had surgery on it and I’m just coming off that right now and just working on shoulders, using the bands and stuff.

HF: So there was no particular play when you injured it?
JS: Yeah it was kind of weird. My shoulder started bothering me in about February and we didn’t really know what it was. It didn’t hurt too bad playing so I just kind of kept playing. I couldn’t really miss too much hockey with my junior team back home, so I just kept playing and in the summertime finally figured out what it was and I had to get it fixed.

HF: So, what was it exactly then?
JS: I tore the ligaments that hold the labrun — that holds your arm to your shoulder.

HF: Have there been any surprises for you coming into this league or was it what you expected?
JS: I really didn’t know too much about this league. I was at the AHL training camp in San Antonio and kind of had expectations for that, but coming down here, it’s a little bit rougher. Guys are a little bit rougher. But other than that, it’s pretty much the same kind of hockey, everyone’s trying to make it to the next level, so it’s pretty much hard work, everyone’s working hard.

HF: You were playing a lot with (veteran Brian) Stacey tonight, but you only had five defensemen, is he a guy you play with a lot?
JS: I think it’s just the way it’s working out right now, with the five defense, with the rotation. One of our d-men is hurt, but when he was playing, it was me and Jimmy DeMone, the other young guy. We both came from San Antonio so our coach put us together so we could get a feel for each other in case we both move up.

HF: Is (Stacey) more of an offensive guy, is it a good pairing because of that?
JS: Yeah, my coaches told me that I’m kind of a stay-at-home defenseman so they put me out there with guys like that, and he is a little more offensive, same as Jimmy DeMone. I kind of stay back if they take it up. If I have a chance to go up, I go up but that’s just kind of the way it’s worked out so far.

HF: That’s funny the way you phrased that, you said your coaches told you you were a stay-at-home guy, like it was a surprise to you.
JS: (laughing) No, I’ve always known that I’ve been a strong defensive defenseman. I’m not totally lacking in offensive skill, but I take pride in defense so I like to stay back and take care of my end first. Try to keep it simple, try to move it to the forwards as much as I can.

HF: You were voted second best penalty killer in your conference in junior last year, is penalty-killing something you take a lot of pride in too?
JS: Yeah, it’s defense. I try to be the hardest worker on the ice and when you’re penalty-killing, that helps a lot. I learned a lot in my junior years from the older guys, they taught me a lot. They helped me with my penalty-killing. So when the coaches around the league put you in the top two, it’s pretty nice.

HF: Who exactly helped you with it?
JS: One of the players was Erik Reitz, he plays in Houston now. He helped me out a lot. He showed me how to play in juniors and how to make it to the next level with work ethic and everything like that. It was a great opportunity playing with him.

HF: There’s not a lot of information out there about you or many defensive defensemen really. You guys don’t get a lot of publicity.
JS: It is true. My four years in junior, it took me a couple years to get recognized. Actually last year was really good for me, I got recognized for All-Stars and Team Canada and stuff like that. But it’s the role that we play, you know. We’re not the famous guys who score all the goals and highlight reel stuff. We’re the guys at the end of the game in there blocking shots and getting the win. It’s nice when you get the odd interview or something like that (laughing)…

HF: This is ground breaking.
JS: Exactly (laughing).

HF: What would you say is your most memorable highlight of your career so far, besides being drafted?
JS: I’d have to say it was a season that was the most memorable. My first year in Barrie, we went to the finals. The guys that we played with were just unreal. I learned a lot that year and it was just an unreal experience.

HF: What is the main thing that you’re working on in your game right now?
JS: Right now I’m just trying to get quicker. I’m still coming off my injury and still trying to get back into game form. Just the odd thing you’ll miss out on, make the wrong play or you hesitate, something like that. Just trying to get my mind back into it, my hands, my feet. I’ve got to get a lot stronger because I missed out on the summer working out. Basically speed and strength right now.

HF: Do you have any personal goals for this season?
JS: To not get scored on (smiling). Actually, right now it’s kind of tough with the lockout and stuff, but I want to move back up to the American League. It’s going to be tough because (some of) the guys up there are NHL players, but I want to hopefully get back up there by the end of the season, but if not I want to help turn this team around down here and get a winning record.

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