As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, the fantasy hockey staff identifies relevant players from each team for 2018-19. Today, we look at New York Islanders players, listed in order of rank in NHL.com's top 250. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.
[Islanders 31 IN 31: Season Preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | NHL.com/Fantasy]
Mathew Barzal, C (NHL.com rank: 61) -- The reigning Calder Trophy winner is poised for an expanded role after elite center John Tavares left the New York Islanders to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Barzal (85 points in 82 games) was the first NHL rookie to average a point per game or better (minimum 75 games) since Evgeni Malkin in 2006-07. Barzal, 21, is New York's No. 1 center moving forward with an array of wing options in Jordan Eberle and either Anders Lee or Anthony Beauvillier. However with Barzal's upside comes the risk of regression because he'll now be the primary focus of opposing defenses. Still, Barzal has multipoint potential any given night and is fair game to draft anytime outside the fantasy top 50 overall.
Video: Mathew Barzal takes the No. 16 spot on the list
Anders Lee, LW* (127) -- He scored the most goals (40) by an Islanders player since Jason Blake in 2006-07 and also set NHL career highs in assists (22), points (62), power-play goals (14), power-play points (22) and shots on goal (208). But it will be difficult for Lee and right wing Josh Bailey (71 points in 76 games) to replicate their stellar production after the departure of their trusted linemate Tavares. Lee will compete with Beauvillier for the top-line left wing spot with Barzal, giving the 28-year-old a chance to stay afloat in the 30-goal range. But Lee, a potential 2019 unrestricted free agent, isn't worth reaching for inside the top 100 because his scoring likely will decline and he's no lock to play with Barzal at even strength. But, even with a potential step back offensively, Lee should remain valuable in hits leagues (102 last season; 1.9 per game in NHL career).
Jordan Eberle, RW* (153) -- Another 28-year-old potential 2019 UFA, Eberle is likely to move up to the top line with Barzal, his frequent linemate from last season, and take Bailey's spot. Eberle did not play on the first power-play unit with Tavares often but still had 10 PPP and 59 points overall. He's a five-time 50-point scorer who has eclipsed 60 points twice and 70 points once, meaning he still has a higher fantasy ceiling if he remains with Barzal. One of the lone short-term beneficiaries of Tavares leaving, Eberle will take on a bigger role in all situations and is a fringe top 150 overall player who could far exceed his average draft position.
Video: NYI@CGY: Eberle backhands in his own rebound
Nick Leddy, D (156) -- The Islanders made a big splash by hiring coach Barry Trotz, who won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals last season. Trotz brings defensive and neutral-zone expertise to the Islanders, who allowed the most goals in the NHL (293) last season. Leddy had a great start (20 points in first 24 games; T-2nd among defensemen) but was held to 22 points (four goals, 18 assists) over his final 56 games and was an NHL-worst minus-44 in the span. Trotz and new director of goaltending Mitch Korn should improve New York's back end, and Leddy has had a high floor since joining the Islanders in 2014-15 (at least 37 points in each of four seasons). Leddy is a bounce-back candidate who can realistically finish among the top 20 scorers at his position, giving him added value in a points-only league.
Ryan Pulock, D (169) -- He had 10 goals and 11 PPP in 68 games as a rookie, impressive totals on mostly the second unit. He also provided strong category coverage of SOG (184) and hits (113). Pulock has been under-utilized by New York in his NHL career, playing six games in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs but one regular-season game in 2016-17 before averaging 18:24 per game last season, when he finished 12th among defensemen in goals per 60 minutes (0.48; minimum 65 games). With a chance at first power-play minutes in a fresh system, Pulock could be one of the biggest fantasy sleepers at the position.
Video: TBL@NYI: Pulock blasts home one-timer for PPG
Anthony Beauvillier, C/LW** (177) -- He was a healthy scratch multiple times last season and assigned to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League on Jan. 1 (two goals in three AHL games), but was then recalled by the Islanders before latching onto the second line with Barzal and Eberle. Beauvillier scratched the surface of fantasy relevance with 36 points (21 goals, 15 assists) in 71 games and can challenge Lee for top-line usage. Beauvillier, 21, leads a young nucleus of forwards (Kieffer Bellows, Joshua Ho-Sang, Oliver Wahlstrom) that can help the Islanders overcome the loss of Tavares in free agency. Beauvillier carries late-round upside, especially if he plays with Barzal at even strength and/or on the first power-play unit.
Robin Lehner, G* (186) -- He has the urgency of a one-year contract and a big opportunity to prove himself to Korn, who has worked with elite goalies Dominik Hasek, Pekka Rinne and Braden Holtby in the past. Even without Tavares, the Islanders should provide more goal support than the Buffalo Sabres did for Lehner over the past three seasons; he had a .916 save percentage over the span. Fantasy owners will reach a point later in drafts to begin considering components of strong tandems (Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche) or lower-tier starters, and that's where Lehner is worth a flier in case he finally reaches his potential under the new Islanders regime.
Other players with fantasy upside in late rounds or off waiver wire: Josh Bailey, RW (228); Kieffer Bellows, LW; Joshua Ho-Sang, RW, NYI**; Brock Nelson, C/LW*; Jan Kovar, C*
*Potential 2019 unrestricted free agent
**Potential 2019 restricted free agent