Even after they signed Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera. and PA Parenteau this offseason, the New York Islanders were still on the hunt for another top-six forward. They may have forgotten they had one all along, however. Anders Lee, who cleans up garbage in front of the net better than any Department of Sanitation worker tidies up around the Barclays Center, has 30-goal potential. It’s just a matter of staying healthy all season and getting some bounces his way.
Just when everything was beginning to click for Lee, his legs gave out on him. Literally. Well, at least one, anyway. Breaking his left fibula against the Rangers in April, the Isles winger missed the entire playoffs, one he would have been featured heavily in. On the surface, last season looked like a disappointment for Lee with just 15 goals, but in the end, it was one where he at least proved himself to be a weapon with the man-advantage – something he had yet to do in his previous few seasons with the team.
In his first full season in 2014-15, Lee spent 40 percent of his time on the ice with John Tavares and another 36 percent with Brock Nelson and a 50-point scoring Ryan Strome. Despite his solid shot and instincts around the net, Lee was surrounded by Isles that were producing.
His 25 goals in 2014-15 were good for second on the team, but with so much depth offensively, Lee was never looked at as a go-to guy. He was more like a pleasant surprise. Last year, was supposed to be different. But with Nelson consistently inconsistent and Strome slumping, Lee’s even-strength numbers were down, as was his plus/minus. Without those eight goals on the power play, Lee’s season would have gone down the tubes.
With PA Parenteau and Andrew Ladd thought by many to be John Tavares’ linemates this season, Lee has to make the most of his time with the man-advantage and hope he gets linemates that can get shots to the net so he can clean up. With 14 of his 36 points coming on the power play last season, compared to six of his 41 in 2014-15, it’s obvious Lee has some stepping up to do during even-strength as well.
But regardless of when he’s on the ice with, Lee’s spot on the ice is always obvious. Although his season-ending injury last season was caused by being in front of the net (thank you. Johnny Boychuk. and your mammoth slap shot), that’s exactly where he needs to be if he’s going to be more than a top-nine forward in the NHL. If Lee can get back to the eight goals he scored on the power play last season and get a few lucky bounces on even-strength, there’s no reason why he can’t crack the 25-goal plateau again in 2016-17.