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Islanders big questions: Can Kyle Palmieri fill void left by Jordan Eberle?

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - JUNE 09: Kyle Palmieri #21 of the New York Islanders scores at 16:07 of the second period against Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Nassau Coliseum on June 09, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - JUNE 09: Kyle Palmieri #21 of the New York Islanders scores at 16:07 of the second period against Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Nassau Coliseum on June 09, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As the offseason continues to unfold, we have more questions than answers about the New York Islanders. So, as we prepare for the 2021-22 season, I wanted to look at some of the big questions facing the Isles: like can Kyle Palmieri fill the gap left by Jordan Eberle?

With Eberle picked up by the Seattle Kraken the New York Islanders top line is going to look different in 2021-22. Don’t forget, with Anders Lee healthy Barry Trotz doesn’t have to run Leo Komarov on the top line anymore. Not that he ever should have, but once he did he couldn’t stop himself.

But now that Eberle is gone, the assumption is Kyle Palmieri will step into that top-line RW role next to Barzal and Lee. Can he fill that role well?

New York Islanders: Can Kyle Palmieri be a good replacement for Jordan Eberle?

You’d think with 17 regular-season games and another 19 playoff games, that we’d have a clear sense of what Kyle Palmieri could do on Barzal’s wing. But that just hasn’t been the case. In the regular season, Palmieri and Barzal shared the ice for 21:55 of 5on5 time, add another 33:04 of 5on5 time in the playoffs.

Just to show you how little ice time they shared, Barzal and Lee had 348:52 of 5on5 time in nine fewer games. Palmieri and Barzal did not see the ice often.

(Ice times from NaturalStatTrick.)

But as the ice time began to become more consistent the results – as in production – started coming in. From Game 3 against the Bruins, until Game 7 against the Lightning, Barzal and Palmieri held a +3 5on5 goal differential (four goals-for, on goal-against). The pair seem to work.

Now, can it work in the regular season?

We already know that Barzal and Lee form a particularly potent duo when on the ice together. So the question is can Palmieri fill Eberle’s role?

Sure, Palmieri went through a rough 20-21 with 21 points in 51 games and an awful 8.7% shooting percentage. His finishing effectively fell by half last season from the 16.1% he held in 2019-20. But what we know about Palmieri, outside of that slump, is that he’s a consistent 20-25 goal scorer, a volume shooter, and a physical forward. That last part is perhaps just as important as the rest because that’s not necessarily Eberle’s game.

Palmieri has no issue playing a more physical and tough game. Palmieri put up 62 hits last year to Eberle’s 30. Something that suits Barry Trotz’s system very well. The way I see it Palmieri can play the Leo Komarov role from last year while also bringing top-line offensive talent to the table.

To me, that’s why Kyle Palmieri can easily fill the void left by Jordan Eberle. Assuming he gets top-line duties that is. That doesn’t mean he’ll be better than but he can give the Islanders exactly what they lost (and maybe a bit more) in Jordan Eberle.

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