Sweatt was originally drafted 38th overall in the 2007 entry draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. From there, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the deal that also saw Kris Versteeg heading to the center of the universe. The Maple Leafs were, for whatever reason, unable to get Sweatt under contract, and he became a free agent on August 16. Three days later, he signed with the Vancouver Canucks.
This is awesome for a number of reasons. First, it's a free prospect, and a prospect with NHL potential. According to Hockey's Future:
Sweatt has unbelievable speed, but what sets him apart is his ability to make plays at high speeds. He also has great acceleration. Sweatt possesses great hands and is smart in his decisions with the puck. Rarely can he be found turning the puck over. Sweatt's superb defensive play and awareness is one area that has progressed quite nicely this season, and has made him an effective penalty killer. Sweatt also possesses excellent on-ice vision and has a keen sense of being able to find open spaces and knowing where the play is going to end up. While Sweatt has all of the necessary tools for future success, adding size and strength to his 6'0" frame will be essential to his pursuit of achieving that success.
Colorado College head coach Scott Owens' comments on Sweatt: "We've been very impressed with Billy's overall performance. His overall speed and ability to open things up were such that they were obvious from day one. Sometimes Billy goes so fast that it's hard for guys to stay up with him. He has a very good team game concept and we feel confident with him in all areas. He's been really good for us."
The site also states that Sweatt has all the necessary tools to make the NHL. This, ladies and gentleman, is an excellent depth signing, and Sweatt has the ability to be a bottom-sixer as early as this season. Consider Jannik Hansen and Jeff Tambellini on notice. Competition will be fierce and Sweatt will be in tough to make the teams. Word is that he wanted to leave Toronto so he'd get a better chance to play in the NHL this season, but that seems dodgy. Don't the Canucks have a little more forward depth than Toronto? Yes, but consider that, in Toronto, Sweatt would be competing against every other forward on the roster for a role in the bottom six. Zing.
There is a second reason this is an awesome signing: Sweatt is a prospect that cost us no assets to acquire--a free prospect, stolen out from under the nose of Brian Burke. Now, I'm sure we'll get a nifty little spin job about how Sweatt was a problem prospect with a high opinion of himself (just like R.J. Umberger, right?). But, in truth, Burke's second major prospect-based snafu (apart from the whole Seguin-is-a-Bruin thing) has to indicate why Burke refuses to build through prospects: he doesn't know how to handle them. His loss is our gain. What is it they say? Revenge is a dish with specific properties that make it, therefore, best enjoyed at a chilled temperature. I think it's safe to say that Gillis has Burke's number. Sadly, Bill Sweatt's agent doesn't appear to.
Will the Sweatts ever play together for the Canucks? Maybe, maybe not. Lee is a diminutive defenseman who's got a much tougher road than his 6', 180 lb. forward brother. But it's safe to assume they might both wear the Moose together. And that would be pretty neat. I know I always loved it when my Mom dressed us alike.
Update: other sources are linking to an open letter from a Maple Leafs fan to Bill Sweatt. I was a little more taken with this letter, from canucks.com forum member JustJokinen!:
Dear Toronto Maple Leafs,
Yes, that about sums up how I feel about this news.