There won’t be too much “watch and learn” for Islanders forward Anders Lee. Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano made it clear why the exciting prospect was signed out of college Monday to join the team.
“He’s going to play,” Capuano said. “He wouldn’t be here if we weren’t going to utilize him. It’s his first day with the guys. We’ll go over some systems and make sure he’s comfortable. I don’t want him thinking too much – that’s what I told him this morning. I want him to go out and play the way he knows how to play, within our team structure. He’s going to get his opportunity here shortly.”
The 22-year-old center wrapped up his junior season with the University of Notre Dame over the weekend with a 5-1 loss to St. Cloud State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Twenty-four hours later, he was aboard the Islanders team bus heading from Long Island to Newark, NJ.
“It’s been real busy - I’ve taken a lot of phone calls and been getting travel arrangements,” Lee said. “I didn’t even get a chance to go back home. I’ve been on the move for the last 24 hours. It’s been quite a ride.”
Lee signed an Entry-Level Contract with the Islanders, and joined the team officially for the first time at Monday’s morning skate before the team’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
“When you have this opportunity - it's a once in a lifetime thing - you've got to take advantage of it and be ready for it,” Lee said. “As a hockey player dreaming to play in the NHL, you can't turn away from that.”
In his collegiate career, Lee tallied 116 points (61 goals, 55 assists) and led the team in goals all three seasons. He served as an alternate captain as a sophomore and was the team’s captain this season.
“It's a dream come true,” Lee said. “My focus was the team at Notre Dame and the guys in that locker room. Unfortunately, we were knocked out, but this was the opportunity that comes from that.”
Lee joins an Islanders team in the thick of a playoff race with 35 points, tied with the eighth place New York Rangers. With 13 games remaining in the regular season, Lee wants to contribute at the NHL level.
“These guys have been battling hard all year,” Lee said. “We're right there. If there's anything I can do to help that push, I'm all for it.”
Lee will not be in the lineup against the Devils Monday, but Capuano didn’t rule out putting the youngster in Tuesday’s lineup, when the Islanders return home from their four-game road trip to face the Winnipeg Jets at Nassau Coliseum.