Top-6 forward spot open on Canucks roster
PENTICTON – Last season, as a rookie pro, Bill Sweatt showed enough at rookie camp, made it to main camp and got into three NHL preseason games, scoring no points and going minus-3.The Chicago-born winger also showed NHL wheels and a strong two-way work ethic.
A year later, he's hungry for more – a lot more.
With centre Ryan Kesler (hip surgery) likely to miss an indeterminate number of games at the start of the season and winger Mason Raymond sure to be out with a fractured vertebrae, the door is open wider in the top-six forward group than you might expect from a team that got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
Certainly, players such as Cody Hodgson, Chris Higgins and free agent signing Marco Sturm are in the queue for those second line jobs, but Sweatt will be looking to show at the Young Stars prospects tournament here that he intends to be a serious contender.
"I just want to show I've improved and learned the pro game and can play at this level," said Sweatt, 22. "Hopefully I can go into main camp and have a really good camp and hopefully make the team off the bat this year."
Sweatt, originally a second-round pick of Chicago in 2007 but signed as a free agent by Vancouver last summer, had a good rookie pro season with the Canucks' Manitoba Moose AHL team. He had a typical slow start, but came on and finished second on the Moose in scoring, both in points and goals (19-27-46 in 80 games) to the now departed Sergei Shirokov.
"I didn't know what to expect, it was my first year pro," said Sweatt. "Then we went on a long road trip, like seven games in 10 days. It was like a battle. I kind of got my wind and started to score some goals, got some points and kept going from there. I improved my offensive game and my defensive game. I'm just trying to take that momentum into this season."
Sweatt, a 6-foot, 190 pounder who played four seasons at Colorado College, credits Claude Noel, his coach with the Moose, for working with him on his game.
"Winnipeg was a great organization and Claude is a great coach and he taught me a lot," said Sweatt. "He broke down my game with me and I tried to do everything he said.
Sweatt feels his game is more pro ready now – on both sides of the puck.
"I think working on having more patience with the puck, maintaining possession, trying to get everything on net," he said. "Last year a lot of my goals came from just being in front of the net, sticking your nose in there, tips, pucks going off of you, rebounds at the net front. Defensive zone was just around the boards, getting help or chipping it out to they can go on a rush."
But Sweatt said he's not going to get too caught up in being one of the vets here.
"I think I just go out there and concentrate on playing hard, working hard," he said. "If you have the intention you should be scoring two goals a game because I'm the older guy and I was there last year and you don't it really gets to you mentally. Jusst go out and work hard and do the little things right, and see what happens."
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Edited by Dasein, 10 September 2011 - 10:23 PM.