Anders Lee is one of 31 players taking part in Islanders Rookie Camp. But there’s one thing Lee has that no one else skating at Nassau Coliseum this week can say that they do: an NHL goal.
After finishing his junior season at Notre Dame, the 2009 sixth-round (152nd overall) draft pick made his Islanders debut on April 2 vs. Winnipeg. At the 16:13 mark of the first period, Lee took his first NHL shot and beat Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
“It was pretty wild,” Lee said. “You’re getting in a couple days before and then next thing you know you’re on the ice. I was just trying to go out there and make plays, so I threw the puck on net and enjoyed the moment.”
The Islanders went on to beat the Jets that night, 5-2. Lee also added an assist in his second career game, a 4-2 Islanders win against Tampa Bay on April 6. Though Lee has played in just two professional games, Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Scott Pellerin looks at the Edina, Minn. native as someone who can help guide a young squad.
“You look at the age of our group and his experience,” Pellerin said. “Even though he’s technically a first-year pro, he’s a little bit older than some of the guys. I think that’s where your leadership skills just come out naturally.”
A player with three years of college experience, Lee, 23, served as captain of the Fighting Irish last season.
“You look at what he did in college at Notre Dame,” Pellerin continued. “He’s not changing his personality and that’s what I like to see. I want to see guys coming in comfortable and confident. They show what they bring and what they believe in and he’s one of those guys that leads by example.”
The players attending Rookie Camp all have varying degrees of experience. Some have played multiple years in the AHL, others are just out of college and a few played last season with their junior hockey teams. Lee understands the development process and feels that his three years at Notre Dame were a big help to his game.
“It takes different times for everybody,” Lee said. “For me, it was the right path to go to school for a little bit and get close to getting my degree while at the same time progressing as a hockey player. I’m happy to be here now. It’s a great opportunity. “
A big body up front at 6’3, 219 lbs., Lee has impressed the coaching staff at camp thus far with his all-around ability.
“You look at the size and strength of his game,” Pellerin said. “He’s got really good hands but he’s able to use his body to protect the puck. He takes quick shots and gets good body position around the net. He makes some pretty good passes, too. He’s really worked on his game and we’re seeing that.”
Lee has been used on a line with Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome at camp, two players who are poised to figure very prominently in the Islanders’ future.
“I’ve just been trying to get back in the swing of things and this Rookie Camp is great for that,” Lee said. “I’m just looking to go into Main Camp trying to play my game and doing what I do best, and we’ll go from there.”