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Anders Leethal

March 12, 2014
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Islanders This Week | By Sean Cuthbert | Islanders Ticket Deals

He hasn’t exactly set the league on fire (..yet?), but anytime I get the opportunity to use a cheeseball headline like “Anders Leethal,” I’m going to take it.  And now that the dust has pretty much settled on the debacle that was the Thomas Vanek trade deadline saga (covered extensively by our Tony Stabile here), we are forced to look away from the standings and away from front office dealings if we are to take home any sort of silver lining from what has been a disastrous 2013-2014 season.  Thankfully, the young Anders Lee has emerged to provide some of that silver I’m talking about.

Since making his season debut on February 27th against the Maple Leafs (a game in which he notched two big 3rd period goals in route to a come from behind OT victory), Lee has put up numbers to the tune of 5-2-7, +2 and 14 hits in his seven games played while averaging 14:20 per game (he logged a personal high of 17:38 Monday night).  To add some perspective to that, he now trails Josh Bailey by only one goal on the season stat sheet despite playing in 55 fewer contests.  And believe it or not, Lee has averaged exactly a point per game in his short NHL career (nine games) when you add in his two-game stint from last season (1g, 1a).

It would be silly to expect Lee to keep up that sort of  pace, but over the course of his small sampling with the big boys, he has certainly seized the opportunity.  What’s most impressive about Lee’s performance thus far aside from his production is just how comfortable he’s looked.  His confidence on the ice has been very noticeable and he hasn’t been shy about using his 6’2” 225 frame to muck it up in the dirty areas along the boards, and even better, in front of the net.  And it’s not just his willingness to challenge in these areas that’s impressed, but rather his success in doing so.  His net presence has actually been largely responsible for his point totals by fighting off defenders and depositing loose pucks around the crease into the net (as he displayed in the twilight zone 3rd period that occurred Monday night in Vancouver).

You never want to see your star players go down with injuries, or be traded away for a bottle of O’Doul’s and a napkin when you were expecting at least a pint of Guinness and a shot of Jameson, but the aforementioned turns of misfortune have opened the door for Lee to not only get a chance, but to make a statement as we’ve seen thus far.  At earlier points in the season when it was sadly already reasonable to contemplate next year, I was penciling Lee in to at least start the season in Bridgeport until he’s eventually worked into the roster at a later point like Ryan Strome was this year.  Lee has exceled as a player and a leader since his years at Notre Dame and beyond, and if he continues to make his presence felt from here through April, training camp in September may serve as more of a formality than a tryout.

Speaking of Strome, I would be remiss not to mention his name, as he has also contributed his fair share since being recalled.  Strome has put up five points (2-3-5) and has shown some more comfort since his first appearance on the Island, but thus far he has been out-shined by Lee and that is why this piece isn’t titled, “Stroming Along” or something equally as awful.  If nothing else, this is a good bit of news for the Islanders and their remaining supporters who haven’t quite reached the jersey-burning levels of some since the trade deadline.  Perhaps these are two players that will help keep the memorabilia away from the flames and back on the mantel next season.

Sean Cuthbert
Hockey This Week

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at scuthbert@hockeythisweek.com for words of slander or admiration.

Also be sure to follow me on twitter @HTW_Sean for insights, updates, and general goof balling.

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Sean Cuthbert

Senior Editor, NHL columnist at Hockey This Week

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