There will be no playoff games for the Islanders this season, but for three of the prospects within the organization the hope of securing a championship remains.
Notre Dame’s Anders Lee and University of North Dakota’s Brock Nelson and Jason Gregoire will play in the Frozen Four tournament this weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota with an NCAA title on the line.
Just like his team’s tournament run this season, Lee has been a pleasant surprise for those within the Islanders organization who selected him late in the 2008 draft (6th-round, 152nd overall).
Regarded as a tremendous athlete—Lee was also a standout football and baseball player in high school—the 20-year-old center has ascended the ranks to become one of the team’s top prospects.
After earning Rookie of the Year and playoff MVP honors with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers last year, Lee put together an impressive freshman season for the Fighting Irish.
Playing on the wing for the first time, he averaged more than a point a game with 24 goals and 20 assists in 43 games for Notre Dame. Lee also tallied twice—including the game-winner-- in the team’s come-from-behind upset win over Stephane Da Costa and Merrimack College in the first round last weekend.
“We kind of just stumbled into the tournament,” Lee said. “The last couple of games we’ve gotten some good bounces and I was fortunate to be on the end of one of them. That’s the way it’s got to happen.”
The Edina, MN native is hoping that his team can continue their run with a win over University of Minnesota-Duluth Thursday with several of his friends and family on hand to watch.
“It’s going to be pretty fun for me to go home to St. Paul. Anywhere you go, it’s going to be pretty hockey-driven. It’s exciting that the tournament is going to be held there.” Lee said.“For our team coming in, no one expects us to do much, but we like our match-up against Minnesota-Duluth. It all depends on how we play.”
Entering the tournament with a No. 2 seed and advancing to the semifinals with decisive wins over Rensselaer (6-0) and Denver (6-1), UND appears to be a favorite heading into Thursday’s game against University of Michigan.
Gregoire, drafted in the 3rd round (76th overall) of the 2007 draft is third on the team in scoring with 25 points and 18 assists in 34 games for the Fighting Sioux. Nelson, a first-round pick last June, finished with 21 points (8 goals and 13 assists) in his freshman campaign. Both have chipped in a tournament goal for UND as the team makes a push for its eighth NCAA title.