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Zach Parise Turns 38, Made Major Impact on Islanders Teammates in Year 1

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New York Islanders foward Zach Parise celebrating with his teammates (Photo-via New York Islanders Instagram)

On Thursday, New York Islanders forward Zach Parise celebrated his 38th birthday. The young gun is set to enter his 18th season in the NHL, his second season as a member of the New York Islanders, after signing a one-year extension back on Trade Deadline Day.

After being bought out by the Minnesota Wild over a year ago, Zach Parise never doubted his ability to continue playing in the NHL. It was just about finding a team that still believed in him.

New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello had drafted Zach Parise 12th overall in the 2003 NHL Draft while at the helm in New Jersey. Zach’s father, the late J.P. Parise, played for the New York Islanders as well, so that was another connection for Zach to Long Island.

Parise’s style, effort, and leadership made him a perfect fit for the New York Islanders, and the two sides agreed on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million (750K cap hit), with a second-year on the table.

Despite hustling and leaving it all out there on each shift, it was a slow start for Zach Parise on the island. In 39 games in the first half, Parise had just three goals and 10 assists. He knew he was not getting the production he wanted, but like most Islanders, he saw an uptick in the second half.

In 43 second-half games, Parise notched 10 goals and 12 assists, as he finished the season with 35 points. He was the only New York Islanders player to suit up for all 82 games that season and, besides Brock Nelson, was their most consistent forward in terms of what he brought to the ice each night.

“I think slow statistically, the first half of the season, slower than I would have liked,” Parise said following a game against the New York Rangers on March 17. “But I didn’t mind the way I was playing. I think that you know, after Christmas, I felt a little more comfortable and started getting rewarded a little more…”

As mentioned, Zach Parise signed an extension in late March.

“I mean, we had spoke last year, last summer about even then doing a two-year deal, and we did the one to start,” Parise said. “So I was pretty confident that, you know, that I would be coming back, and we had chatted again about it last week and so just happy that we were able to get it done.”

Come season’s end, Zach Parise received the 2021 Bob Nystrom Award, an award voted on by the fans and given to the player who best exemplifies leadership, hustle, and dedication. All those character traits were on display, whether it be at practice or a big game.

He never took a shift off. Even when Parise struggled, his mindset never changed, and it certainly did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“Zach’s such a hard-working guy, but he’s so easygoing, and he’s always thinking about what’s next for him in the sense of what can he do to be better and looking at little things, the smallest things in the game,” New York Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “And I love talking to him about that. And, you know, we share a lot of the same stuff with how we play the game around the net.”

“So working with him off the ice, little drills, I’ve learned a ton from him, and it’s cool for me because you know, I got I’ve watched him play for a long time and so to now be teammates and working together and doing the same stuff, being able to pick his brain has definitely made me a better player.”

Following a game on April 13, in which Zach Parise scored a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal for the first time in his NHL career, I asked Jean-Gabriel Pageau what it was like to play with Parise.

“He’s been great. I played with him, for the most part, this season, and I’ve learned a lot, not only off the ice but on the ice.” Pageau said. “His work ethic is outstanding. He never quits on pucks. You would ask anyone, the way he works every day, it’s contagious when you play with him, and I love that.”

Islanders forward Kyle Palmieri, who grew up in New Jersey, got to watch a ton of Zach Parise growing up. Getting to play with him was a really cool experience.

“I think Zach’s a guy that, going back to being a high school hockey player in New Jersey, watching him play for the Devils and following that, to be able to come back and eventually play with him,”  “It’s pretty incredible,” Palmieri said following the season. “And he’s an awesome human being off the ice.”

“So I think his professionalism and the way he takes care of his body is definitely something that’s second to none.”

When asked if he had told Parise he watched him in high school, Palmieri said, “I showed him the picture. It was back, I think, it was my sophomore year at St. Peter’s. Me and Kevin Fox were the players of the month that we got to take a picture with Zach Parise, so I showed him that picture a couple of times.”

Mathew Barzal played a lot of hockey this past season alongside Zach Parise and had nothing but incredible things to say about him.

“I love Zach. I thought, you know, as much I learned from him, just as his work ethic and his play, I thought toward the end of the season, I thought, really really fun chemistry with him and give-and-goes and finding where he’s going to be at, he knows where I’m going to be at, so I think that that goes a long way. I think you know even with me, him, and Palms (Palmieri) the last five, six games, I think that’s something to look forward to next year.”

In his last year as a member of the Minnesota Wild (2020-21), his hometown club, Parise, struggled with just seven goals in 45 games. He dealt with a coaching change as rookie head coach Dean Evason replaced the veteran Bruce Boudreau.

The Wild were trying to get younger, and Parise saw his ice time take a hit, even being a healthy scratch at times.

“It wasn’t fun, I’ll say that much,” Parise said in an interview with the Pioneer Press in July of 2021.

That offseason, he and Ryan Suter, who had both signed 13-year contracts, saw the final four years of their deal bought out.

And then Parise became a New York Islander.

Zach Parise was a perfect fit on and off the ice. There’s no doubt he will continue to lead by example in 2022-23.