There was one particular moment at yesterday’s training camp session that probably best describes Lee Sweatt’s determination to make this team. During one of the drills, the forward (in this case Rick Rypien) was supposed to stop on the wing just inside the blue line and pass the puck back to the defenseman (Sweatt) joining the rush. Rypien’s pass was far behind Sweatt, the play was broken, and while Sweatt was skating off, he shot Rypien one of those “WTF was that” kinda looks.
If looks could kill.
With a revamped defense corps – a much deeper defense corps – the elder Sweatt was a long-shot at making this Canucks team. After trading for Keith Ballard, signing Dan Hamhuis, and re-signing Shane O’Brien and Aaron Rome, the Canucks have 8 NHL-caliber defensemen on one-way contracts (9 if you count Andrew Alberts). Needless to say, Sweatt has an uphill battle in front of him.
It hasn’t fazed him; he knows what it will take to make it.
“I’m responsible defensively and I like to throw the body around,” said Sweatt, a native of Elburn, Ill., whose younger brother Bill also signed with the Canucks this summer. “For me to be successful here, I need to move the puck quick and jump up in the play and create scoring chances. I need to be the fourth guy in. I also need to be on the power play and contributing there.”
So far, so good.
In Penticton this weekend, he displayed a good first pass, smart pinches and smart reads on defense. And despite his size he hasn’t shied away from the physical stuff, even laying Darcy Hordichuk out in one drill and then proceeding to put a puck past Roberto Luongo.
His play this weekend wasn’t lost on the Canucks.
“He’s turned a lot of heads,” said Henning. “He can skate, he’s got smarts and he competes. Nothing is written in stone. If a guy comes in and plays well, we’ll make room for him.”
And Lee is determined to make that happen.