Stanley Cup Playoffs or not, the 2016-17 New York Islanders will be a season remembered as Anders Lee’s breakout.
Whether the New York Islanders make the playoffs or not for the 2016-17 campaign, there can be some positives to look back at for the season. One of those is the progression Anders Lee has made as a hockey player.
The 26-year-old from Edina, Minnesota is on pace for his best season across the stat sheet in his third full season in the NHL. Through 60 games played, Lee has collected 23 goals with 14 assists, giving him a total of 37 points with a plus-9 rating. At this pace, Lee is set to break all of his career highs. His 23 goals are currently tied with John Tavares for the team lead. Lee has scored 20 of the goals since Thanksgiving. Only Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens has scored more over that time frame.
Not much was expected when Lee was drafted in the sixth round out of the University of Notre Dame in the 2009 draft. The Islanders have had their fair share of prospect forwards over the years dating back to Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome and now to Matt Barzal, Kieffer Bellows, and Josh Ho-Sang. Being a sixth-round pick, Lee never had the buzz around him that these guys had and currently have.
Since around late December, Lee has been paired up on the first line with John Tavares and Josh Bailey. Since the Islanders have turned their season around under interim head coach Doug Weight, this line has been on absolute fire and a main reason why the Islanders are still in playoff contention.
Many would say that Lee is having a great season because he’s paired up with Tavares. Anyone can produce these points when you’re playing with one of the elite centers in the NHL, right?
But you could also say Lee has helped out Tavares.
Since paired up, Tavares has 28 points in his last 27 games compared to 25 points in his first 35 games. Their chemistry continues to improve right in front of us. Islander fans have always been saying that Tavares needed a true winger on his line and many thought that guy would be Andrew Ladd when they signed him this past summer. Maybe that winger is Anders Lee. It’s only a short time frame, but they’ve shown over the last two-plus months that they can produce together. Game after game, they just keep on delivering these sweet looking goals.
Where Lee has been at his best is battling it out in front of the net during the powerplay. Lee shows how gritty he can be fighting off defenders to get in position to deflect in goals or scoop up rebounds. No better example of this is his game winner goal against the Los Angeles Kings on January 21st which turned out to be the game-winner.
It’s gritty plays like this that has Lee becoming a fan favorite on Long Island. Lee is under contract through the 2018-19 season, so fans can hope that the winger can keep improving on his game.
Lee and the Islanders will look to rebound from a 7-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets when they face the Dallas Stars tonight for game four of a nine-game road trip.