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Is Kyle Palmieri an upgrade over Jordan Eberle?

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New York Islanders Center Kyle Palmieri (21) skates past the bench and is congratulated by teammates for scoring a goal during the third period of the National Hockey League game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders on May 8, 2021, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY.

The New York Islanders lost a top-line forward when Jordan Eberle was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the NHL Expansion Draft, but who could take his spot come the start of the season? Oliver Wahlstrom is the name that comes to everyone’s mind, but more than likely Kyle Palmieri will get a shot at that spot first.

It begs the question of whether or not Palmieri will be an upgrade over Eberle or just a substitute.

Looking at the careers of both forwards, Eberle has had the better offensive numbers. His 1.05 goals per 60 minutes beat that of Palmieri’s 0.85. Point-wise, Eberle has produced 0.71 points per game over his 11-year career, knocking off Palmieri’s 0.59 points per game over that same span.

Statistically, the production of Eberle seems to take the win over that of Palmieri’s. But if you take a closer look at their production over the last three seasons, the numbers tell a bit of a different story.

It’s hard to compare Eberle’s 16-goal, 17-assist season to that of Palmieri’s 10-goal, 11-assist campaign.

On the surface, it would appear to be pretty straightforward, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. Eberle was the focal point alongside Barzal when Anders Lee went down with his injury, meaning the offense had to go through only two players instead of three. It was not a recipe for team success, but helped Eberle sit third in goals when the regular season came to a close.

Kyle Palmieri, on a struggling New Jersey Devils team, reflected the issues of the team he was playing for at the time.

For the first time in his six seasons in New Jersey, Palmieri failed to reach the 20 goal mark and he took more penalties. Once he was traded to the Islanders, a fresh start turned into a rough one with only two goals in 17 games before the postseason began.

Unlike Palmieri, Eberle has not been able to be as consistent as the Islanders would have liked when they brought him in.

Based on trajectory, the projections indicated that in 82 games, Eberle would have cracked the 20-goal plateau in each of the last three seasons. But the Islanders needed results and Eberle never truly lived up to his.

While it is easy to blame the lack of games as a reason for why Eberle was not able to rack up the goals as he did in his first season on the island, it ultimately came down to his streakiness. A quality that left something to be desired each season.

Regular season numbers do not mean a whole lot if the team is winning. Once the schedule switches over to the postseason, each point is magnified and over both players’ postseason careers, Palmieri has come through more.

Eberle had 16 goals in 63 career postseason games, while Palmieri had 15 goals in 57 career games. It seemed that Palmieri was able to shake off his rough regular season and rough start with the Islanders upon being acquired as he was tied with Brock Nelson for the team lead this past postseason as he netted seven goals.

Eberle had four.

When Eberle was left unprotected, that showed Lamoriello’s hand on how much the skilled forward was valued. Palmieri, a pending unrestricted free agent, did not need to be protected under the NHL Expansion Draft rulebook.

Palmieri’s consistent postseason production certainly played a part in his new contract with the Islanders. The fact that Lamoriello elected to sign the 30-year old forward to a four-year, $20 million deal showed the belief in Palmieri and his ability to play a critical role in the Islanders’ quest for a fifth Stanley Cup.

With Lee healthy, the Islanders’ top line has the opportunity to be a consistent scoring threat. While both Eberle and Palmieri are categorized as goal scorers, Palmieri plays a much grittier style that could bode well for his linemates. Lee, the big body on the line, has been one to wreak havoc on opposing netminders.

Palmieri also has a knack for crashing the net and possesses a lethal shot that should bode well for both his line and the Isles offense.

On the brink of a Stanley Cup Final appearance, the Islanders are going to need Palmieri to produce at a higher rate than Eberle did during his time on the island.

If Kyle Palmieri can produce for the Islanders this upcoming season, that takes a ton of pressure off the entire offense, and the hunt for an elite sniper does not need to be a discussion during the upcoming year.

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