When asked on Monday who I thought was going to have a breakout season for the New York Islanders, the first person that came to mind was 24-year-old Kieffer Bellows. But there is another player that needs to have his best season as a member of the Islanders, and that’s 31-year-old and second-year Islander Kyle Palmieri.
New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert trusts these three players and is giving Kyle Palmieri the first crack alongside Mathew Barzal, because Palmieri is a goal scorer. That line has a playmaker, a grinder, and a goal scorer, and Palmieri is confident they could be a dynamic line.
“I think as a line, we play with a lot of pace. We try and stay on pucks and be aggressive, and I mean, both those guys are really talented players. So it kind of makes the game a little easier, and we had a little success in our time together last year,” Palmieri said. “I think it was right on one of the west coast trips, and then Barzal got hurt, but I thought we had a good thing going, and I think we want to take this opportunity and kind of get that fire started again and see what we do chemistry wise and get comfortable each other.”
“I think as a line, it should work pretty well. Like I said, we play with a lot of pace, and we play aggressively, and I think that’s kind of what we want to shift towards as a team is play a little faster and attack. So I think as a line, we kind of complement each other pretty well with that, and hopefully, we can find something to get going here early.”
During the 2021-22 season, the Parise-Barzal-Palmieri line played 26 games together, (102.4 minutes) with six goals for, six goals against, and 108 shot attempts over that span (4.15 shot attempts per game) per Money Puck.
Mat Barzal has not been an easy player for many Islanders to play with, given his shiftiness and unpredictability, but Palmieri shared that he does not have to change his game too much.
“A little bit, but I mean, at the same time, you’re put on his line because, obviously, coach thinks you’ll work well together,” Palmieri said. “So the things you’re doing is, is kind of the things he expects, but like I said, he’s [Barzal] a talented player and has the ability to find time and space and kind of dictate the pace of whether you’re playing in the offensive zone or coming up through the neutral zone.”
“So I think being able to time it and keep your speed going so you’re not too far ahead, and he cuts back and things like that, it’s a little bit of an adjustment, but anytime you get get the chance to play with a talented player like that, it’s an exciting opportunity.”
Last season was a nightmare for the Islanders, but for Kyle Palmieri especially.
Through Palmieri’s first 30 games, he had just three goals, and that came after a strong postseason performance that turned into a four-year extension worth $20 million.
Palmieri ended his nightmarish season with 15 goals and 18 assists in 69 games played, thanks to a 14-goal second half.
The 13-year NHL vet played the majority of his minutes last season alongside Josh Bailey and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Per Natural Statrick, Palmieri owned an Expected Goals For of 18.17, which was third highest on the roster, so not too far off from his actual goal total.
He shot the puck at a 9.6% clip, his highest mark since the 2019-20 season. His 156 shots on goal were his highest since putting up 224 back in 2018-19, but he did miss the net 59 times, the third-highest mark on the team. He rang pucks off the post more than any player on the roster, seven times per NHL.com’s stat sheet, which ranked seventh in the NHL.
Add on top of that the seven or so disallowed goals.
If things went Palmieri’s way, he may have had close to a 30-goal campaign.
But all that matters is what actually happened, and it wasn’t enough early in the year.
“Obviously, you get to February, I only have one [goal]. It’s not the best thing to look at,” Kyle Palmieri said. “But I mean, you go through stretches in your career where things don’t go your way. I mean, there’s some games I wasn’t happy with the way I played, but there’s a lot of times I felt good about the things that were going on and the chances I was getting, and just sometimes they don’t go in. I mean, it’s the NHL. There’s good goalies, you get bad breaks that add up, and all of a sudden, you’re on a little bit of a drought.”
“So it’s something you go through, and I mean, hopefully, it’s not something that repeats itself. So I’m looking forward to having a fresh start.”
For Palmieri, the most important thing he did this offseason was to take a deep breath after a roller coaster of a 2021-22 season.
“I mean, the biggest thing is taking a deep breath. I mean, it was a tough road, both individually and as a team, to fall that short of where we expected to be,” Palmieri said. “So I think doing that, getting healthy and kind of re-energizing and recharging. It’s a long season. You can kind of put too much pressure on training camp or the first game or the first five games. It’s a long season, and you want to be there to help your team win throughout the entire year.”
“So that’s how you make it to the playoffs. And we’re a group that’s hungry to do that.”
Kyle Palmieri will play alongside Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise to start the 2022-23 season, and that line’s success weighs heavily on Palmieri’s ability to finish the chances created. It starts with coming into the season with a fresh mind, putting the start of last season behind him, and building on his strong finish.
And through training camp and preseason, Palmieri has looked like the player he showed at the end of the 2021-22 season.
“He looks great. He’s moving really well. And you know, he’s so easy to play with,” linemate Zach Parise told NYI Hockey Now. “I think he’s really, as a linemate, predictable, where you know where he’s gonna go…and he’s always in a good spot to shoot. And I realized that when we started playing with him last year, at the end of the year, he’s always presenting himself in the slot for a one-timer or for a good shot. And so, for a linemate, it’s really easy to play with a guy like that.”
Zach Parise was also a veteran who struggled to produce in the first half of the 2021-22 season and could relate to what Palmieri went through.
“It’s one of the things you can relate to. I mean, from my standpoint, I played against Kyle a lot. And I know his game, and I also know he’s a streaky scorer,” Parise said. “That’s just how he’s been. But yeah, I think we could both relate to each other. ‘I know what you’re going through. It sucks’. But I mean, you just reassure each other like, ‘You’re doing the right things, you’re getting the looks. Don’t change your game. And, sure enough, I mean, he had a great, I mean, probably the second half, he is probably on a 30-goal pace.
“And I think that’s what everyone’s used to seeing. It’s just one of those, one of the things that happens. It happens to every player in every sport, you know, and I thought he came on real strong at the end and played really well.”
New York Islanders captain Anders Lee thought Palmieri had looked strong during camp.
“He’s ready to go and ready to have a great year,” Lee told NYI Hockey Now. “I think he took advantage of his offseason, to come in flying and playing really well, so expect nothing but a great year from him.”
Kyle Palmieri had one goal in five preseason games and has looked rather strong in camp. But as Zach Parise said, Palmieri is a streaky goal scorer, and the New York Islanders desperately need him to get off to a strong start and be a catalyst for Mathew Barzal and Parise.