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Fantasy Hockey: Don’t Overlook Anders Lee

It hasn’t taken long for Anders Lee to reward fantasy managers who took him in the last round of their drafts as a sleeper with big potential or grabbed him out of the free agent pool post-draft. The Minnesota-native has already scored five points in the first six games of the 2015-16 season which is thanks in part to who he is playing with. According to Left Wing Lock Anders Lee has been featured not only on the top line of the Islanders with John Tavares at even strength, but also on the Islanders top power play unit.

Following being a healthy scratch in games six and seven of the Islanders 2015 Playoff series against the Washington Capitals, Lee was given a four-year contract extension. The disappointing end to his surprisingly productive 2014-15 campaign helped Lee slip through the cracks on most fantasy hockey cheat sheets, especially with all of the bargain options for centers available late in the draft. However, the emergence of John Tavares as hockey’s least-talked about superstar will and already is having a big impact on Lee in the world of fantasy hockey. Playing on Tavares’ left wing with Ryan Strome on his opposite wing has Lee primed to duplicate and likely surpass his 25 goal, 16 assist production from last season.

Lee’s presence on the wing on the Tavares line means that he will also likely become left wing eligible in fantasy leagues that support multiple position eligibility like Yahoo Fantasy Hockey does. Although it may not seem like much, a player’s ability to be plugged into your lineup at more than one position is incredibly valuable and often overlooked in fantasy hockey. It can mean sometimes avoiding the infuriating inevitably of leaving points on the table. Players that can play multiple positions is something that savvy fantasy managers, especially in Yahoo leagues, have come to covet and the fact that Anders Lee seems destined to become left wing eligible gives his fantasy value a serious bump.

When writing about Chris Kunitz’s fantasy value, I touched on the “third man theory.” Anders Lee of the Islanders is yet another example of my theory because, simply put, he’s playing with the right guy on the New York Islanders. Who picked up assists on both of Lee’s goals this season? You guessed it. Tavares did.

Lee will be fantasy relevant as long he stays in the Islanders’ top six forward group which seems like it is all but an inevitably this season.

If Lee continues to play on the Tavares line he will quickly become one of the most valuable free agents available in fantasy hockey over the next few weeks because, one can argue, he already is. Lee is currently less than 40% owned in Yahoo leagues. There is also the possibility that Lee might find himself skating with Tavares and Kyle Okposo given that Ryan Strome has some work to do in regards to rounding out his game and earning the trust of Jack Capuano.

With all of that being said, Anders Lee is far from a household name, so why should he be on your fantasy radar? Before Lee’s surprise fantasy season last year he gave some indications that he might be a special player when he scored 41 points in the AHL with the Sound Tigers in 54 games and 14 points with the Islanders in 22 games back in 2013-14. Playing at Notre Dame Lee’s goal and assist totals were more balanced, but in 106 NHL games he has scored 37 goals and 25 assists. In other words, he has done well to finish on chances set up by fellow forwards like Brock Nelson and John Tavares and all signs point to him continuing to do just that on the Islanders’ top line. He’s also not a kid. Anders Lee and John Tavares are both 25 years old so the chances are good that he will avoid any kind of sophomore slump after one and half offensively productive seasons at the NHL level.

If your team is in need of some shots on goal and some offensive production, Anders Lee is the player you should probably be targeting. The potential for Lee to be a big steal as a late addition to your fantasy team makes him a great gamble to make early in the season. At the end of last fantasy season the big center finished with the 161st best statistics in standard scoring categories which made him more valuable than sexy sleeper picks from this year’s draft like Ryan O’Reilly and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

All signs point to Anders Lee being a productive and valuable fantasy player this season. If he continues to play on Tavares’ wing Lee scoring 30 goals, which is something that only 15 players did in 2014-15, is within the realm of possibility. If he doesn’t hit that milestone, which is far from a sure thing, he will still be a productive and valuable asset to any fantasy hockey team that isn’t already spoiled with center and left wing depth. The chances of Lee being available in your league are pretty high, if you need to add an impact player at center or left wing don’t sleep on adding one of John Tavares’ preferred triggermen to your fantasy team.

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