Using a Pit Stop To Catch Up With Billy Sweatt

Billy Sweatt has wheels, on wheels, on wheels.

Having watched my share of Chicago Wolves games this season, the main takeaway for me has been the speed that the team plays the game with. They are quite impressive in their ability to counter-attack, getting the play going in the right direction before the opposition knows what hit them. 

The best of the bunch in that regard is Billy Sweatt, who bears a remarkable set of wheels. There have been numerous occasions when he has created a scoring opportunity for either himself or his team, by simply outskating the opposing defenders. He has spent a big chunk of the season next to Jordan Schroeder, whom he has developed a good rapport with dating back to their time together last year.

With the Wolves having a full week off – and Billy having time to kill as his tires get changed – I figured I’d check in with him. In case you had forgotten and would like to refresh your memory, or simply had a plethora of better things to do with your summer and missed it, I chatted with Billy for the first time back in July. Don’t worry, the following chat is completely new material.

Read Past the Jump to See What Billy Sweatt Has to Say This Time Around.

Before we get into the chat, I should point out that Sweatt came in at number 13 on our top 20 prospects list from the summer. The biggest need for improvement in Sweatt’s game is his finishing ability around the net. He only has 3 goals in 11 games played this season, despite consistently being amongst the leaders in scoring chances for the Wolves. Canucks fans are surely all too familiar with a winger who is a tenacious skater, yet routinely struggles to convert glorious opportunities.

This makes a potential partnership on the third line between Sweatt and the Honey Badger so very enticing. They would be an absolute nuisance for the opposition, and would provide us with ample opportunity to wonder "what could have been" if they had just buried that one magnificent chance, all the time. They’d be fascinating to watch on the forecheck, that’s for sure.

There are plenty of things about the AHL that you need to take with a grain of salt. Often, we see players impose their will on the league, registering outlandish point totals, despite never having made good on their looks in the big leagues. We call those guys AHL ‘lifers’. I’m confident in the fact that the sort of speed Billy Sweatt possesses translates well to to the NHL, though. It’s a legitimate tool. It also kills.

Dimitri Filipovic: What was the experience like coming to Abbotsford back in October? Obviously you had been there before, but this time around things were different. It was in front of a rowdy, hockey-starved crowd. Don’t you think it makes all the sense in the world for Vancouver’s AHL affiliate to be located there?

Billy Sweatt: You’re right. You could definitely tell that the crowd was louder and more into the game. It’s expected because of the NHL lockout, and all those Vancouver fans who just want to see some hockey being played. It makes sense in terms of proximity, but sometimes things don’t work out that way in the minors. There’s plenty of teams with affiliates all the way across the country, and you just have to accept that that’s the way it is.

DF: Did you feel any extra pressure, knowing that most of the Canucks brass was in the building? It wasn’t your typical weekend series. Heck, I felt some extra pressure that I could have lived without when I saw Mike Gillis using the urinal beside me.

BS: [Laughs]. Honestly, not really. We have been to Abbotsford plenty of times, and the brass is always there. If you go into the experience knowing what to expect, you don’t get too worried or nervous about it.

DF: With the lockout, there are plenty of guys who would ordinarily be in the NHL, playing in the AHL. Do you view that as a great opportunity to prove yourself, against tougher competition?

BS: That’s exactly it. I feel like I have a strong opportunity in front of me. If I can prove to people that I can still produce offensively while not being a defensive liability, despite the stronger competition this year, I feel like it’ll really help my case for whenever the NHL figures itself out.

DF: Are you a stats guy? Do you keep an eye on your own personal stats, and those of others as the season goes along? 

BS: Here’s the thing – a lot of guys want to say that they don’t look at the stats, but I know they do. It’s hard not to. It’s generally a good snapshot for how a player is doing throughout the year. I try not to focus on it too much. But hey, when the offense is going well I find myself looking at it a lot more. Go figure.

DF: Let’s talk a little video game action, because I know from your tweets that you’re into NHL13. You’ve got a rating of 68 in that game. You think that’s fair? Or did you get snubbed a little bit? They could have at least rounded up to 70, right?

BS: [Laughs]. Yeah, I’m sure everyone wishes they could be ranked a bit higher. But pretty much every guy currently in the AHL is rated roughly in the same ballpark. Oh well. At least they gave me an 85 on speed, so I can live with that.

DF: Have you been following the Fake Season, that @TheStanchion has been running? I know Eddie Lack has. Do you guys – you, Eddie, and the rest of the team as a whole – talk about it amongst each other? If you want, I could probably put in a good word in for a mid-season call-up for Billy Sweatt. You know, kind of like last year in real life.

BS: [Laughs]. I haven’t seen all of it, but it has definitely come to my attention on Twitter through retweets and what not. I initially thought it was just a one time thing, but I guess he’s going all out and doing it for the entire season. It’s some pretty intense stuff. Of course I’d love to get a fantasy call-up. Let him know that maybe I’d be willing to plug it for him in return for an audition. Sounds like a fair deal to me.

Zack Kassian is like the sun. You don’t want to look directly at him.

DF: While we were talking about your trip to Abbotsford, I forgot to mention that I made the mistake of staring directly into Zack Kassian’s eyes during the postgame scrum. You’re around him a lot. Do you try to avoid making the mistake that I did? I was completely mesmerized. That gaze was like nothing else. 

BS: Kass can be an intimidating guy to play against, even in practice for his teammates. I honestly think that to this day, some guys on our team still aren’t all that sure whether he’s being serious, or just kidding. That’s just the type of guy that he is. But he’s a great guy, and a tremendous teammate to have.

DF: I’ll let you out on this last, slightly more serious question: you’ve been absolutely flying on the ice recently, and skating is clearly your strongest attribute. I’m wondering what your preference for linemates is. Do you think you gel best with guys that can match your speed and tempo, or do you like to play with guys that stay back a bit more (which would in theory allow you to really let loose with your skating, knowing you have support behind you)?

BS: That’s a tough question. It all depends on the particulars, really. I wouldn’t say that I play poorly with one specific kind of player, or poorly with another. Sometimes chemistry is a tricky thing to figure out, and it can be hard to get guys that you really fit well with. 

Jordan [Schroeder] and I have been together a lot over the past two years, and we seem to gel really well. He is quick, but also makes great breakout passes to get us out of our own zone. He sets me up really well as I’m driving down the wing. 

DF: Thanks for being a good sport, Billy. If you’re a Canucks fan who also happens to be enthusiastic about Apple products, then I can’t for the life of me think of a better follow for you than @billysweatt.

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  • elvis15

    Great interview!

    Would like to see him given a shot on the Nucks team. Need more youth, ASAP. You’d think that a great defensive/gritty player like Sweatt would be AV’s favorite.