Avoid Fool’s Gold

by Ryan Van Horne on February 20, 2010

Bill Sweatt


A good way to avoid wasting your time as a prospector – and your draft picks as a fantasy hockey GM – is to learn to spot fool’s gold.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been touting players that I thought might be worth having a look at. This week, I’m going to try to get you to steer clear of a player.

Fool’s gold is shiny, flashy and looks just like gold, but it’s worthless. With respect to hockey players, it can be just as difficult to tell the difference between the real stuff and the worthless stuff. However, there are a few signs.

One of the biggest sizzle factors that people marvel at is skating. Soccer coaches like good runners and water polo coaches like good swimmers, so it goes without saying that hockey coaches like good skaters. At lower levels, there is always some value in that and a smart coach can apply one limited skill, such as skating, and derive some benefit from that.

But as a player graduates to higher levels, it becomes more difficult to use raw speed to any tactical advantage.

I remember former the former coach of the Halifax Mooseheads, Bob Mongrain, trying to teach a valuable lesson to former Vancouver Canucks farmhand Brandon Reid. Reid had world-class speed when he first got to the Mooseheads, but didn’t know how to use it very well. Mongrain, a former NHLer often told Reid that he needed to learn how to use his speed. To do that, he had to combine smarts and hockey sense with the raw gift that he had. After he learned this with Halifax and later with Val-d’Or, Reid was a tremendous offensive force.

He lacked size and never quite made it in the pro ranks – despite his blazing speed and excellent hands. Other, more highly touted prospects had speed to burn, but their hands or their head couldn’t keep up with their feet. Rico Fata is probably the poster child for this type of prospect.

A more recent example of this type of prospect is Bill Sweatt, a second-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007. That he is a great skater and was drafted by the Blackhawks are two factors working in his favour. Sweatt also brings an excellent hockey IQ to the table, although his judgment off the ice can be questioned. He had an incident in college the spring before his draft in which he suffered severed tendons in his forearm. His story that he told teams at the combine? A female companion pushed him and he fell through a frathouse window. Appreciate the honesty, Bill, but a) you might not want to let girls push you around and b) if you do, you might choose to let discretion be the better part of valour.

Sweatt’s not the most gifted offensive player, although the reports on this are mixed. He has not put up very good offensive totals at Colorado College. His stats for a freshman were OK, but they tailed off his sophomore and junior years. This year as a senior, has finally broke out a bit even thought it’s a modest breakout. He’s scored 28 points in 31 games.

Basically, this guy is a Todd Marchant clone. Maybe Mike Fisher if it works out. If that kind of guy is valuable in your league, then keep holding a candle for this flashy skater. If that kind of offensive upside doesn’t help you – then walk away.

I’m in a 22-team keeper league and Bill Sweatt has not been drafted. It’s possible that he might be, but he’s going to have to show me something at the pro level before I’ll even consider putting him on my draft list. It’s possible that he might even become a valuable member of the Blackhawks and help them on the penalty kill and never be a fantasy asset. He’s a good faceoff man and has a good work ethic.

With Chicago’s depth, I don’t expect Sweatt to make it in the top six. On the flip side, I was surprised to see Kris Versteeg pan out the way he did, but he developed later after some AHL seasoning. I recommend doing the same with Sweatt before thinking he’ll be anything more than a modestly productive checker.

Upside: 15-25-40. Todd Marchant had one season of 60 points, but was a consistent 30-40 point man who made solid defensive contributions.