"He's a competitor. The kid plays hard every night, plays hard every shift. He can hurt you in a lot of different ways."
-- Saginaw Spirit coach Todd Watson
His coach, though, thought he played just fine.
Szwarz raised his totals from 12 goals and 33 points as a rookie to 17 goals and 51 points in 2008-09. He was fourth on the team in scoring, and his plus-17 was second. He also had 1 goal and 5 assists in eight games as the Spirit advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
A 5-foot-11, 189-pound forward, Szwarz is No. 68 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2009 Entry Draft.
"He's a competitor," Saginaw coach Todd Watson told NHL.com. "The kid plays hard every night, plays hard every shift. He can hurt you in a lot of different ways. He can score goals. ... He's a smart player, that's one of his biggest strengths, his smarts and competitiveness. He's tough as nails, he's in great shape. His biggest strengths are his competitiveness and his smarts for the game."
Despite those platitudes from his coach, Szwarz said he felt the offensive part of his game was lacking.
"Some of my production went down a bit," he told NHL.com. "I started at a point a game (pace) and then that started slipping off. I was getting frustrated with myself not putting the points up. I was still playing very well, doing all the little things very good, but I knew I needed to pick it up."
Szwarz said he felt he turned the corner about the same time the calendar flipped to 2009, and the numbers bear that out. He had 7 goals in 35 games before the New Year, and 10 goals in 32 games after that.
Watson said he wasn't worried about Szwarz's scoring because of all the other things the young forward did right.
"The reason he was like that in his eyes was he wanted to score consistently (but) I told him it's not about goals," Watson said. "He is a well-rounded player, but I think that's why he gave you the reason that he was inconsistent. I don't think he was inconsistent. In his mind he was, but as far as his play, it was consistent year-round."
Szwarz was smart enough to understand that doing other things than scoring goals is what will get him noticed by the NHL talent evaluators.
"I definitely I think I'm a very good two-way player," Szwarz said. "I care just as much about the defensive side as I do the offensive side. I'm a very tenacious kid. I'm not the biggest kid, I'm 5-11, but I play very physical and I like to be an in-your-face kind of guy. I've got great hockey sense, I can anticipate plays, I know where to be without the puck. I just know different situations on the ice.
"My main focus the past two seasons was being an all-round kind of guy, showing my coach what I could do, getting me a little higher in his books. As for next year, I need to step up my offensive game a lot more -- still worry about the D zone (but) pick up my offense."
Watson is sure Szwarz has the work ethic to do whatever he needs to fully round out his game, calling his level of commitment, "probably the best on our team."
"I just know that if there's a kid that will make it on work ethic and hard work, he's the one," Watson added. "If it's based on that, he's got a great chance. Other factors come in and he has to produce, but ... he's as well-rounded player as I've coached."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.