August 31 2011 01:44PM
Anytime you read about Canucks forward prospect Bill Sweatt, you'll hear some cliche about his one clear-cut, NHL-level skill - his speed. Though his defensive instincts, offensive skill and shot velocity are occasionally called out as "suspect" - no one debates the fact that Sweatt the younger can flat out fly. Now that I've met my "cliche about Bill Sweatt's skating ability quota," we can move on!
Originally a second round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks - Bill Sweatt, who is himself from Illinois - was traded along with Kris Versteeg to the Maple Leafs for Viktor Stalberg and a bunch of spare parts. The Leafs renounced their exclusive rights to Sweatt, when they inked German power-forward Marcel Mueller - which made Bill Sweatt a free-agent. Mike Gillis swooped in, signed both Bill, and his brother Lee (whose tenure with the Canucks was pretty wild) both of whom suited up for the Canucks former AHL affiliate the Manitoba Moose last season.
Last year in Winnipeg - Sweatt spent most of his season on the first line, skating alongside Sergei Shirokov and Cody Hodgson. He was Manitoba's leading point producer, but his offensive numbers aren't gaudy considering his ample opportunity with the top-line. He averaged a hair over two shots per game, and shot 11% - though the percentages abandoned him in the playoffs as he only managed a single goal on 29 shots in fourteen postseason games.
Corey Pronman, prospects guru for hockeyprospectus.com, ranked Bill Sweatt as the 7th best Canucks prospect and had this to say about Sweatt's offensive abilities:
Sweatt doesn't have a whole lot of offensive upside. While he shows decent hands and passing ability at times, he doesn't really show above-average offensive skills, creativity, or instincts with consistency. He also has to improve his physical game; despite the fact that he will engage and pressure opponents physically on the forecheck, his strength level isn't all that effective.
So what we have in Bill Sweatt is a speedy forward and a solid forechecker with questionable physical strength and finishing ability. Add in the fact that his shooting percentage falls off a cliff in the postseason, and you've basically got the prototypical Vancouver Canucks winger!
Though Bill Sweatt is likely to begin next season in the AHL, I've put together his NHLE numbers based on Gabe Desjardin's work with league translations. By the equivalency numbers it looks as if Sweatt's offensive production slipped a bit as he adjusted to the professional game:
|Bill Sweatt Stats and NHLE|
|Year/Team||GP||G||A||Pts||NHLE G||NHLE A||NHLE PTS|
|2009/10 - Colorado College||39||15||18||33||14||16||30|
|2010/11 - Moose||80||19||27||46||9||12||21|
From what Bill Sweatt has thus far shown - he looks like a pretty good bet to be a solid contributor on Vancouver's bottom-6 in the not-to-distant future. He's got an outside shot at going beyond that, and breaking into a top-6 role - but even if he never gets that far, quick, responsible third line forwards are useful to have in the system.
Sweatt isn't a particularly young prospect (he'll turn 23 this fall) so it's fair to say that his time is now. With a loaded Wolves team - it would be nice to see him be a very late cut from the main-teams roster this September and push for 55+ AHL points this season, while continuing to improve his two-way play.
Here's a highlight package containing some Sweatty plays from the 2010-11 Moose season. The clip is set to Interpol which, is a blast from that past that I'm down with - and check out Viktor Oreskovich's Sedin-like pass at the 1:02 mark of the video -that gave me a laugh...