New York Islanders: Where's Anders Lee?
Apr 5, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) shoots the puck as Washington Capitals left wing Andre Burakovsky (65) chases in the third period at Verizon Center. The Islanders won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a question that has befuddled analysts and superfans alike: what happened to New York Islanders youngster Anders Lee?

The third-year winger has been nearly invisible this season, and it’s worrying.

Who is Anders Lee?

Lee, 26, was drafted by the Isles in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL Draft. He was a three-sport star in high school and was actively recruited as a football quarterback. He ended up transitioning to hockey, where he was named to the Pioneer Press All-State First Team in his senior season.

Lee, who was arguably the best athlete in the nation, ultimately committed to Notre Dame University, where he shined as a power forward. He then went to the USHL, where he was awarded with the “Rookie of the Year” crown and led the league in scoring. This warranted an NHL call-up.

Lee scored his first career goal in the opening period of his first career game. After a short stint in Bridgeport (AHL), he was reinserted into the Isles lineup, where he’d remain for the next couple of seasons.

Lee has been lauded for his size (6-3, 227 pounds) and goal-scoring ability (when he scores, he does so in bunches). However, he’s struggled with a lack of consistency and can use some work when the puck isn’t on his stick.

Why isn’t he producing?

It’s very simple: ‘he’s struggled with a lack of consistency, and can use some work when the puck isn’t on his stick.’ The problem is that when Lee isn’t scoring, he’s simply not doing enough of the other things.

Newsday’s Arthur Staple thinks it’s another thing: improper usage. “Anders Lee is a streaky player who, to me, needs to be on the top PP unit. He’s not the best skater or shooter; his utility depends on being the net-front guy to jam in rebounds and cause havoc. Not giving him the fullest chance to do that seems like the wrong call.”

Where do we go from here?

“I think there’s plenty of concern,” Staple wrote, “but not many mid-season solutions.” It’s no shocker that general manager Garth Snow is whispered to be looking for another forward via trade or free agency. In theory, swapping Lee for a dependable winger would be beneficial for both parties (the Isles would upgrade offensively and Lee would be given a different opportunity to prove himself).

But like Staple noted, it might not be reasonable to expect the Isles to ship Lee elsewhere. For now, it seems like he’ll be stuck in Brooklyn.

Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.