Speedy Sweatt Set for Next Level

Rising sophomore from Colorado College is the No. 1 collegian entry in the NHL draft

June 18, 2007

By Matthew Conyers

Special to CSTV.com

 

When it comes to Colorado College sensation Billy Sweatt, the top current collegian available in this year's NHL Draft, brother and former teammate Lee Sweatt put it best.

 

"Billy is fast -- real fast," said the elder Sweatt.

 

While the statement may lack the wisdom of a Mark Twain quote or the blunt humor of a Yogi Berra catchphrase, big bro couldn't be more right.

 

"The first thing that comes to mind when you talk about Billy's abilities on the ice is his speed," Colorado College head coach Scott Owens said. "When it comes to skating straight on, there are few better. But the thing is he can make great plays at such a high speed. He has elite speed that is just perfect for the new NHL."


 

 

 

In less than a week, however, Sweatt hopes to cash in on more than just his speed.

 

Ranked as high as 27th among North American skaters, Sweatt is poised to become one of the big prizes of the NHL Draft.

 

Or so he hopes.

 

"It's huge honor to be just getting considered for the NHL," Sweatt said.

 

With his lethal legs, quick decision-making and standup puck control, Sweatt is listed highly on several draft boards. In fact, the winger, who found the net nine times as a freshman for the Tigers, is just about on the mind of every pro team -- according to Sweatt, he has spoken with 25 NHL clubs.

 

In Owens' opinion, one of those teams will be getting a guy who knows no surrender.

 

"Billy is a fierce competitor," Owens said. "He really plays for keeps and his game really translates well to the pros."

 

At the moment, Sweatt figures to go somewhere between the late first round and early second round. Wherever he lands though, Owens is confident that Sweatt is exactly the kind of player most coaches and general managers desire.

 

"With his teammates, Billy is extremely respected -- he's an unselfish player, works extremely hard and is someone who wants to win at all costs," Owens said. "Any team would be lucky to have him."

 

Yet, as far as Sweatt is concerned, none of the pre-draft hype has had any effect on him.

 

"There are so many lists and rankings out there, you can't really put too much thought into them," Sweatt said. "Obviously, I know what is being said, but it's a big crapshoot when it comes down to it. You have to take everything with a grain of salt. I'm honored to be on the lists and just working to find myself on a pro team."

 

At this point, Sweatt, a 26-point man in his first season with CC, is just sitting back and hoping his hard work during the season and at the combines pays off.

 

"It doesn't matter where I go, it was just always my dream to play in the NHL," said Sweatt. "Right now, I'm living out a dream -- a dream I hope to continue once I start playing pro hockey."

 

During his interviews with various teams and discussions with pro scouts, Sweatt said he tried to remain as natural and real as possible.

 

"These teams don't want some type of robot," said Sweatt. "You have to show your own personality and not be fake. For me it was just very natural. I just wanted to let them know that I love playing this game."

 

No matter what the situation, Sweatt says he has never felt the pressure that being ranked highly can sometimes bring.

 

"I've know what to expect from the beginning, said Sweatt. "I've never really felt any pressure."

 

Sweatt claims it is this desire and love for hockey that helped him develop quickly during his freshman campaign. Although he missed more than three weeks because of mononucleosis and a portion of Colorado College's schedule for World Juniors, Sweatt emerged quickly on Owens' depth chart.

 

"He was a big part of our team this year although he was out for a couple periods," said Owens. "He was key on our power play and going down low into the corner for us."

 

Alongside his brother, who played his final season for CC in 2006-07, the younger Sweatt felt he learned a lot during his freshman campaign.

 

"I was playing against better competition and stronger players," said Sweatt. "Doing that made me more experienced. We were always playing at a high level."

 

The elder Sweatt agrees.

 

"He developed through the last half of the season tremendously," Lee Sweatt said. "He had more confidence and was stepping up more often for big time plays. He's more of a man now. "

 

Despite the praise from every angle, the rising sophomore still feels he has plenty to work on before taking the next big step. With his size being one of the few criticisms he faces, Sweatt fully acknowledges the need to beef up. 

 

"I still want to improve on every aspect of the game," said Sweatt. "Most importantly, I need to improve upon my strength and put on some weight. I also could get better hands and a harder shot."

 

The willingness to develop and improve also bodes well for the Tigers and their fan base. Fully admitting he still has major steps left to take before jumping to the big leagues, Sweatt says he is fully committed to playing with the Tigers next season and maybe further down the road.

 

"I'll be back for another year for sure," Sweatt said. "Beyond that, I haven't really thought of any of other plans."

 

As far as the Colorado College loyalists are concerned, that's one decision that need not be rushed.

 

In fact, they'd prefer for the first time, Sweatt take his time and ignore the need for speed.