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Mac Swanson’s Unselfish Play Breaks Records at the World Junior A Challenge

By Greg Bates, 12/28/23, 6:15PM EST


Swanson recorded nine assists, the most ever in a single tournament

Mac Swanson has proved that when he’s on the ice, he’s one of the most unselfish hockey players around.

The Team USA forward picked up nine assists in the six-game World Junior A Challenge in Truro, Nova Scotia, which ran from Dec. 10-17. Those nine assists were the most ever by a player in the 17-year history of the tournament.

“When you see all the NHL players that have played in that tournament, it’s definitely a really cool honor that I could do it, but my linemates helped me out a lot for sure,” Swanson said. 

Along with the nine helpers, Swanson added a pair of goals. His 11 points tied him as the second leading scorer in the tournament as he helped Team USA win a bronze medal with a record of 5-0-1-0 (W-OTW-OTL-L).

The Anchorage, Alaska, native was on the first line with fellow forwards Trevor Connelly and James Reeder.

Swanson — who played with Connelly in the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup but had never skated with Reeder prior to this tournament — felt an immediate connection when he started playing with his crafty linemates.

“They kind of got open a lot and I just tried to put it on their tape, and it worked out,” Swanson said. “We just had chemistry to start the tournament, and it just kind of carried on.”

Despite Team USA not accomplishing its ultimate goal of taking home the gold, Swanson really enjoyed his experience at the World Junior A Challenge.

“It was awesome,” Swanson said. “I did it last year too, but any time you can play for Team USA is a really cool honor.”

The tournament was also an eye-opening experience for Swanson, who picked up some valuable on-ice lessons.

“The big one is you can’t really make a big mistake because it’s such a quick tournament,” said Swanson, who will turn 18 on Jan. 10. “That one mistake could end up costing you a gold medal. You’ve really got to focus on the little details.”

Swanson is hoping to carry over his on-ice success with Team USA to his regular team, the Fargo Force.

“I know where my game can be at, especially in that tournament. That’s kind of my expectation now throughout the rest of the year,” Swanson said. “I think just knowing where my level can be at and just kind of working to get better and keep at that high level.”

Swanson is in his second season with the Fargo Force in the USHL. He played in 21 games before Christmas and racked up 26 points, with 19 of those being assists, tying him for fourth-most in the league.  

As a second-year player, Swanson is trying to put more on his shoulders.

“Coming into this year you kind of get more of a leadership role for sure being a returner,” said Swanson, who put up 55 points in 57 games last season. “I don’t consider myself one of the older guys, but I definitely try to lead by my actions, which I think is a really good thing.”

The Force have had a phenomenal first half of the season, winning 22 of their first 26 games and owning the best record in the USHL.

Swanson has some lofty goals for the rest of the season.

“As a team, just to win the Clark Cup. That’s everybody’s goal,” Swanson said. “But especially losing in the finals last year kind of makes you even hungrier to win it this year. And, individually to keep improving my game. With the draft and stuff like that hopefully just keep improving and eventually more to come in the summer.”

An advantage of playing juniors in Fargo for Swanson is being able to be near some quality college hockey just 80 miles up the road in Grand Forks.

The University of North Dakota had been on Swanson’s radar for quite some time when he committed to the hockey powerhouse in November 2022.

“Just going on a couple different visits, everything there, the facilities, the coaches, you don’t have any excuses not to get better, really,” Swanson said. “That’s just a great spot to keep improving and definitely go to the next level.”

Before Swanson turns his attention to the college game, he will have to look ahead to the professional game, as Swanson is eligible for the 2024 NHL Entry Draft.

Swanson — whose dad, Brian, played in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers and Atlanta Thrashers — is looking to show NHL teams he has the ability tocompete at the highest level.

“Just my two-way game and just being unselfish, that’s my two things that I try to focus on,” Swanson said. “Also, my work ethic every single game and try to prove to them why I’m good enough to get drafted.”

At just 5 feet 7 inches, 157 pounds, Swanson is on the smaller side when it comes to NHL players. However, he doesn’t let his size hamper his ability.

Swanson emulates guys such as Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield. At the same height as Swanson, Caufield dropped to the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 draft but has become an elite scorer in the league.

“You see he’s not the biggest guy, but he can play in the NHL at a high level,” Swanson said. “Some other guys like Mats Zuccarello on the Wild, I really like watching, too. Just being a smaller guy, you try to take stuff from those guys. They just prove that you can be any height to play in the NHL.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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