Goaltender Brian Billett began the 2008-09 season as a member of the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs B Team in the Empire League. Now, a year on, Billett is firmly entrenched as the starting goaltender of the Monarchs EJHL team, committed to Boston College, and looking toward being selected in the 2010 NHL Draft.
“Brian is the backbone of our team,” said Monarchs coach and three-time EJHL Coach of the Year Sean Tremblay. “We try to build from the net out every single year and we knew he was going to be spectacular when we recruited him two years ago.”
Billett, who hails from Kennebunk, Maine, was twice named EJHL Defensive Player of the Week as a rookie and posted a 22-2-0 record with a 2.12 goals against average and .925 save percentage that year.
“He started last season on our B Team and we weren’t quite getting it done so we said ‘let’s bring him up, let’s see how he does’ and we went 29-0 down the stretch and won the league on the last day of the season. So we obviously knew what we were getting this year from him and he has certainly proved to be every bit as good, there’s no let down.”
Despite struggling with an ankle injury early this season, Billett has started 11 games for the league-leading Monarchs in 2009 and gone 9-1-1 with a 2.10 goals against average and .937 save percentage.
According to Tremblay, Billett possesses an incredible competitive spirit and gives the team a sense of calm in even the most hectic of game situations.
“He gives us no reason to panic,” said Tremblay, “and that’s a huge trait for a goaltender to have.”
Billett, after last season’s baptism of fire, feels he is settling in well as the regular starter for the Monarchs.
“The season’s going really well,” said Billett. “After last year being my first year, I feel really comfortable playing in net right now. Obviously, a lot of people know I had an ankle injury and missed about four weeks, but I was patient with it, I didn’t want to press it. Since I’ve been back I’ve really stepped it up. I’ve had time to think about my future and realize I do need to push myself a little bit harder.”
The next step for Billett will be at Boston College next fall and both coach and player feel that the move is coming at the right time.
“I think he’s going to be good,” said Tremblay of Billett’s step to the NCAA. “He’s going to be a true freshman, which as a goaltender you don’t hear too often nowadays, and I don’t think he’s going to miss a beat, I think he’s going to do a tremendous job. It’s nice in the sense that he’s going in at the right time when BC has four freshman defensemen and if those guys stick around until their sophomore or junior years, I think they can be a national championship team with Billett in the net.”
Billett, who will be 18 in March, feels that the EJHL has provided him with good preparation for college hockey.
“With the Monarchs I feel like I’m really getting prepared the right way,” he said. “I have my own goalie coach and Coach Tremblay and the rest of the staff are really great with me and the way they run practice is phenomenal. I’m excited to jump into the Boston College program and get in couple of games my first year and take off from there.”
Despite being drafted in the eighth round of QMJHL Draft by the Moncton Wildcats in 2009, Billett is committed to the college path.
“I think it’s a lot safer to take the college route,” said Billett. “Hockey only goes so far, there’s life after hockey and I really think I need to get my degree.”
Billett was listed as a "C" Prospect by NHL Central Scouting in its November Players to Watch List, a rating his coach feels is incorrect.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Tremblay. “I think it was based on the fact that he was hurt and it was more like a ‘Limited Viewing’ than anything. But the preliminary rankings don’t mean anything at the end of the day, that final ranking is going to mean the most. I have to think he’ll be a "B" player at the end of the day.”
Billett, on the other hand, refuses to concern himself with his rating.
“It really doesn’t bother me too much,” he said. “I have the rest of the season and it’s just a ranking, they aren’t the ones that are going to be picking me.”
The team that does pick Billett will get a player who is committed to improving as a player.
“My strengths are definitely my work ethic and how hard I work on and off the ice,” said Billett. “I try to stay hungry and motivated so I can always get better.”