2007 prospects: Bill Sweatt

By DJ Powers

He is the youngest player on the Colorado College roster and the third youngest in the WCHA. But watching Bill Sweatt play, you’d never know that the Elburn, Ill native turned 18 only on Sept. 21. 

“Sometimes I’ll see him sitting in the locker room and realize again how young he is by looking at his face,” Colorado College head coach Scott Owens told Hockey’s Future in a December interview. “When you put him out on the ice and watch him out there, he doesn’t look like somebody that young.”

History  

Sweatt came to Colorado College from the U.S. National Team Development Program, where he recorded 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) in 59 games in 2005-06. While with the USNTDP, Sweatt helped guide Team USA to a gold medal at the 2006 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championship in Sweden, posting seven points (five goals, two assists) and being named the Best Forward in the tournament. In 2005, he helped guide Team USA to a gold medal at the Four Nations Cup Tournament as well.

=”FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial”>Most recently, he represented the United States at the 2007 IIHF U-20 World Junior Championship in Sweden, helping the Americans win a bronze medal. For Sweatt, the experience was both exhilarating and an honor. 

“It was an awesome experience. It’s always a great honor to put on the USA jersey and represent your country,” Sweatt told Hockey’s Future in a recent interview. “It was pretty disappointing in the semi-final game when we lost to Canada in the shootout because I felt we really came together as a team and we had a really good group of guys over there. We were able to win the bronze medal and that’s a very good feat.”

In addition to international success in ice hockey, Sweatt has also enjoyed international success as an inline player as well. He was a member of Team USA’s gold medal-winning squad at the 2006 World Inline Championship in Budapest, Hungary.

Over the years, Sweatt caught the attention of many scouts and collegiate recruiters alike. He was one of the most highly sought-after players coming out of the NTDP amongst the various D-I programs. Colorado College won the recruiting battle for the coveted young left winger over Boston University, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin.

One of the main reasons Sweatt chose Colorado College was because of his older brother Lee. The elder Sweatt is a senior defenseman with the Tigers who serves as one of the team’s captains this season. Surprisingly, the two brothers have never played ice hockey together on the same team prior to this year.

“It’s been awesome because we’ve never gotten the chance to play ice hockey together until this year. We’ve already gotten a chance to assist on each other’s goals. The first time it happened is a moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” said the younger Sweatt.

Talent analysis

Bill Sweatt can flat out fly. However, what sets Sweatt apart from so many other speedsters in the collegiate ranks, rookies or otherwise, is his ability to make plays at high speeds. He also has great acceleration with the ability to get up to the so-called “fourth gear” very quickly.

“In this day and age, regardless if it’s in college or the pros, speed kills. Billy has that and the ability to play the game at that speed,” said Owens. “Sometimes you get really fast people who can’t do anything with that speed, but Billy can. He can make plays at that speed. He’s a game breaker with his speed and he’s got very good offensive instincts for a youngster.”

Sweatt feels that his natural speed is his greatest asset and it’s one that he takes full advantage of.

“It’s definitely the greatest asset to my game. Because I am fast, I can recover from my mistakes and contribute offensively,” said Sweatt. “It allows me to drive wide and drive defensemen wide to be able to get the puck to the net to create scoring opportunities.”

While having a lightning fast player like Sweatt on your team is certainly a blessing, as Owens admits it can also present a unique challenge as well.

“Sometimes Billy goes so fast that it’s hard for guys to stay up with him. I think he could use that speed maybe a little bit more wisely at times.”

Owens describes Sweatt as a “playmaking forward that can score and has great speed.” Sweatt possesses great hands and is very smart in his decisions with the puck. What seems to be an often-recurring theme in college hockey among rookies are players wanting to do too much, too soon as far as the puck is concerned. It’s something that isn’t a problem with Sweatt. He moves the puck very well and seems to be as comfortable shooting the puck as he is passing it off to a teammate. Though Sweatt admits, he’d like to pass a little less and shoot a little more.

“I tend to pass a little too much. Sometimes I’ll pass to teammates who aren’t really, really open or I’ll pass when I have a clear shot at the net. I’m trying to get it through my head that when I do have the opportunity, I should take it.”

So how does Sweatt describe himself as a player? 

“I would describe myself as an aggressive, fast player who’ll never give up on things. I’ll work my bag off for anybody and I’ll do whatever is asked of me no matter what as long as it helps the team win.” 

The maturity with which he plays and approaches the game can be viewed in how he is utilized by his coaches. At Colorado College, Sweatt can be seen playing in a variety of different situations. Though he is still learning the finer points of defensive responsibility at the collegiate level, his defensive play and awareness is actually quite good for someone so young and inexperienced.

“Billy’s defensive game is as solid as it can be for a youngster like that. We have trust in him and we use him on the penalty kill,” said Owens. “He’s still learning some of the nuances of the penalty kill, such as the rotation, a little bit of his point coverage in the defensive zone and a little bit of the wall play but a lot of that just comes with experience and a little more savvy.”

“Two of my other strengths are penalty killing and in shot blocking because when I was with the NTDP, Coach (John) Hynes was a really big believer in shot blocking and we always practiced that. I became pretty good at it and then I ended up becoming one of our top penalty killers there,” said Sweatt.

Another attribute that makes Sweatt such a special player is his superb on-ice vision. He has a keen sense of being able to find open lanes and knows where the play is going.

“I think his overall vision on the ice is underrated, said Owens. “He can see plays, people and he can see openings on the ice way ahead of many other players.”

Like virtually all young players coming into the collegiate ranks, adding weight and strength to his 6’0 frame will be essential to Sweatt’s continued development and future success.

At Colorado College

Sweatt can be seen playing on the Tigers second line alongside senior Brandon Polich and most recently, with junior Derek Patrosso. He has played in 13 games this season registering 11 points (four goals, seven assists). His 11 points rank second amongst all Tigers freshmen. Of Sweatt’s four goals, two have come on the power play and one came short-handed.

He registered his first collegiate point on Oct. 7 versus Alabama-Huntsville. Sweatt’s most memorable game to date came on Nov. 18, when he registered three points (two goals, one assist) in helping to lead Colorado College to a 7-2 win over Minnesota State-Mankato.

Sweatt missed five games earlier in the season due to a bout with mono. While the illness temporarily shut down the Tigers rookie sensation, it did almost nothing to inhibit his progress and contribution to the team upon his return to the lineup.

“Billy was very sluggish the first game back but since then he has picked up where he left off and he’s been feeling great,” said Owens.

Sweatt cites the coaching staff as another reason he chose to come to Colorado College and he hopes to help guide the Tigers to another NCAA Tournament berth and possibly to a national championship while he’s there as well.

“Coach Owens has taught me a lot of different things in developing my game. One thing he told me was to just go out there and play the way I can play and everything will work out for me in the end. It’ll be great to play a couple more years under him and I hope that we can continue to do well.

“The ultimate goal for our entire team is definitely getting into that tournament. If we could win the national championship, it would be the best feeling and the best thing that we could have as a team together. For me personally, I just want to go out there and play my best every day and not worry about the outside stuff such as the NHL Draft until the season is over with and then go from there.”

Outlook for the draft

On the NHL Central Scouting’s “Players to Watch” listing, Sweatt is one of four collegians listed as an “A” player, meaning that he is one of the top players eligible for the 2007 draft. The main question is how high he will go. Sweatt could conceivably go in the first round, but early indications are that he’ll likely be taken in either the second or early in the third round.  He could very well be the first collegian chosen.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.

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