Despite coming into the year with only two full NHL seasons under his belt, Anders Lee was arguably the New York Islanders best player. In spite of being doubted at every level, Lee has succeeded at each stage of his hockey career.
The New York Islanders took Lee with the 152nd overall selection in the 2009 draft. When Lee was taken by the Isles it was known his skating would need to improve for him to succeed at the professional level. He was never looked at as any more than a 4th line player.
Scouts said he used his body well in the corners and has great instincts in front of the net. Eight years later, I would say those were fair assessments.
Lee was a star from the very beginning, no matter what his scouting report read. During his senior year at Edina High School in Minnesota, Lee scored 32 goals in 30 games. He’s no Wayne Gretzky but those are pretty good numbers if you ask me. Hockey wasn’t his only interest though.
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Lee was also the school’s starting quarterback in football and all state pitcher in baseball. He was a man of many tricks, but lucky for us he picked hockey as his main sport.
After the Islanders drafted Lee, he played the following season in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers. The top junior hockey league in the United States is the USHL.
With the Gamblers, Lee led the team in scoring with 35 goals and 31 assists. He was named to the 2010 All Star Game. Lee was also the playoff MVP after scoring 10 goals and 12 assists in 12 games. Most highly touted prospects put up big numbers in junior hockey. It was no different for the Islanders big man.
After his time with Green Bay, Lee went to the University of Notre Dame where he continued to produce. Along with top notch academics off the ice, Lee had a team leading 24 goals as a freshman and led to the team to the frozen four. The Irish would eventually fall to Minnesota Duluth. Lee would follow that season with 17 goals his sophomore year and a tournament quarterfinals appearance.
Lee would play one more season at Notre Dame before leaving to pursue a career with the Islanders. The Minnesota native made no stops in between college hockey and the NHL and it never seemed to phase him at all.
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I still remember to this day how crazy it seemed that the Islanders were throwing this college prospect right into the lineup during a playoff race. Lee was a talked about name but was never highly regarded like other prospects around him.
The 2012-13 Surprise
The Islanders 2012-2013 season was insane. It was a team of misfit toys who somehow managed to sneak into the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
They were the lovable losers who turned things around during a shortened season and Lee played a part. Although he only appeared in two games that season, he made one of my favorite memories.
During Lee’s NHL debut in April of that season, he scored on his first shot on goal in his first game. It was not only crazy that this guy was on the ice but in the blink of an eye he had a goal too.
From 2014 to today Lee has been one of if not the Islanders best diamond in the rough finds in recent memory. You would have been crazy to envision that in 2017 he would be playing alongside John Tavares and scoring 30+ goals a season.
Lee’s big body and net presence is something the Isles have been missing on recent teams. He can score a big goal and throw a mean hit all on the same shift. He isn’t afraid to get dirty and stick his face in the action. Lee also has the best hand eye coordination on the team outside of Tavares.
If the Isles plan to compete and get back to the playoffs in the 2017-2018 Lee will have to be a big part of that doing. Playing with both Eberle and Tavares should only make him better. Lee showed that his streaky scoring can change during the second half of last season.
He has been a star during every step of his hockey career and his outburst last season should have come as no surprise. We all know now what Lee is capable of and there is no reason the production should not stay the same if he remains healthy.