Islanders rookie Anders Lee has been off to a fine start in the NHL since leaving college, while Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat is making a strong case for Calder contention.
Any time a rookie bursts onto the scene with 12 points in his first 12 NHL games, the fantasy world takes notice.
Players returned from Sochi in late February and when the puck dropped again for the Islanders on Feb. 27, there was no John Tavares in the lineup. The victim of a knee injury that wiped out the rest of his season as he was on pace to finish top five in league scoring.
The Islanders turned to their promising pipeline and called up Anders Lee, a 23-year-old who was drafted in the sixth round in 2009 (152nd overall). Lee turned pro in March after his junior campaign for Notre Dame (CCHA). It was a productive college career that saw him tally 116 points in 125 games. But lots of solid prospects finish with near point-per-game numbers in college, only to become depth players in the NHL or even in the American League.
But Lee has really adapted well. As an AHL rookie he has 41 points in 54 games. And now, here in the NHL, his stats are even better. He's not afraid to use his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame to dish out thundering hits and he's so far proven to be a pretty fearless goal scorer. He has 29 goals in 66 NHL and AHL games. With Kyle Okposo coming into his own this year as Tavares’ right winger, have the Islanders found a winger for the left side?
The potential here is very promising. Tavares would have about 440 pounds playing alongside him, with either one of them capable of 35-plus goals. Lee should at the very least get a long look there, unless the team somehow signs a stud free agent left winger in the off-season (but we know their track record when it comes to landing the big fish).
As for the short term, it's a little much to expect this torrid pace to continue. He's 13th in league scoring since the Olympic break, so there's bound to be a slowdown, but not enough to take all the lustre off his fantasy appeal. And as a bonus - for those leagues that count hits - he has 19 of them in just 10 games with the Islanders this season while seeing modest ice time.
Palat's doing just fine, thank you
Ondrej Palat has been a revelation in fantasy hockey this year, but there was some concern over his long-term fantasy value. After all, the Lightning were without Steven Stamkos and when he returned from his broken leg, power play time was bound to be cut from other players. And how much of Palat's offense stemmed from playing with Martin St-Louis? So when Stamkos returned to the lineup and St-Louis was traded to the Rangers - at pretty much the same time - Palat owners were a little antsy.
It turns out that he's going to be OK. Since the trade deadline when St-Louis was traded for Ryan Callahan, Palat has four goals and nine points in seven contests. He's well on his way to a 55-point rookie campaign and sits behind only Nathan MacKinnon in the rookie scoring race. And he's doing it without playing with Stamkos.
Palat's long-term outlook is starting to look pretty promising.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.