Not only is Michigan wing Tyler Swystun 17 years old, but he also happens to be the youngest player on the Michigan hockey team.
He doesn’t turn 18 until January, but that hasn’t stopped him from making his presence felt early and often in the first nine games of the season.
Time and time again this year, Swystun has had good opportunities to notch a goal, but he hasn’t been able to convert his chances. His lone point this season came on a second-period goal against Merrimack on Oct. 16.
But Swystun hopes his luck will change now that he is on a line alongside seniors captain Andrew Ebbett and alternate captain Brandon Kaleniecki. Earlier this season, Michigan coach Red Berenson shifted Swystun around from line to line. But all the moving around seems to have been beneficial for the Cochrane, Alberta, native now that he has found a more permanent line.
“I’ve gotten to play with a variety of different guys,” Swystun said. “You get to see what kind of guys you can play with, and you get to learn to play with each and every one of them.”
Being on a top line like the Ebbett/Kaleniecki line would suggest high point totals for the members of that shift. But so far this season, Kaleniecki has struggled, collecting just two points in nine games. Including Swystun’s two points, the line has totaled 13 points, representing the Wolverines’ worst offensive line. Despite the low point total, the play of the three forwards has impressed the coaching staff.
“I think that line has played well,” Berenson said. “Swystun has played better than his youth would suggest. He’s made some good plays coming out of our zone, and he’s gotten better every week.”
Unlike other freshmen forwards like Zac MacVoy and Brandon Naurato, Swystun has played every game this season. The coaching staff has confidence in the youngster, evident by his spot on a veteran line.
“I think the line I’m on right now with (Kaleniecki and Ebbett) definitely has some chemistry,” Swystun said. “We have wheels, and we have shooters. So we have a little bit of everything.”
Teaming with the senior captains has paid off for Swystun because he can draw on their experiences and take his game to a new level.
“A key thing they have said is that you need to work hard and get pucks on the net,” Swystun said. “They tell me where to be on the ice in certain situations so I can complement them best.”
Because Michigan has been on the power play or the penalty kill so much this season, Swystun’s ice time has decreased, which has been a big factor in his low offensive output. The coaches do not have enough confidence in the 17-year-old yet to put him out there during special teams’ play.
“The games are so much about the penalty kill and power play right now that I only get out on the ice for a couple even-strength shifts a period,” Swystun said.
In order to get more ice time, Swystun needs to be out on the ice during special teams situations. Right now, Michigan’s penalty kill and power play have been playing great with mainstays Ebbett, Kaleniecki and junior T.J. Hensick leading the way. But Swystun knows what he needs to do to in order to receive more playing time.
“I really have to minimize the mistakes and make more smart plays that are team-oriented so I can build a reputation up with the coaches,” Swystun said. “I know I’ve had some ups and downs in my play, but I just got to keep playing.”