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Islanders: Why Kyle Palmieri is an upgrade over Jordan Eberle

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 21: Brock Nelson #29, Mathew Barzal #13 and Kyle Palmieri #21 of the New York Islanders warm-up prior to Game Five of the Stanley Cup Semifinals during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on June 21, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 21: Brock Nelson #29, Mathew Barzal #13 and Kyle Palmieri #21 of the New York Islanders warm-up prior to Game Five of the Stanley Cup Semifinals during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on June 21, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Kyle Palmieri will be back with the New York Islanders for another four years. The 2021 trade deadline acquisition and former New Jersey Devils player re-upped with the Isles this summer on a $20 million contract.

And while we still don’t know for sure where he’ll play next season, it’s easy to speculate that the 30-year-old will certainly see some time on the top line with Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee. In speaking with Newsday’s Andrew Gross, Lee believed Palmieri would be a good fit on the top line.

Why Palmieri is an upgrade over Eberle for New York Islanders

Lee’s full comment to Andrew Gross on Palmieri adds a bit more context as to why the captain believes Palmieri could be a good fit on that top line:

"“From the short period of time that I got to watch him play this past season, it was evident to me how much he loves getting dirty and getting to the dirty areas,” Lee said. “I really like his game, there’s a lot of facets to it from skill to grit. It fits exactly with our identity and who we want to be.”"

Lee is 1,000% correct here. Palmieri has some grit and some physicality to his game that lends itself well to the Islanders system on top of his offensive skills. I’d say that makes him a better fit than the player he’s effectively replacing; Jordan Eberle.

Of course, it’s hard to quantify “grit” but we already know that Palmieri is a more physical player. He had 1.2 hits per game last year compared to Eberle’s 0.54.

It’s hard to quantify “grit” outside of counting the number of hits a player has. But it is easy to show how Palmieri could be a better fit than Eberle was even when looking past the “grit” angle.

We know the Islanders operate a strategic dump-in scheme. They like to dump the puck where they know they’ll have a better chance of retrieving it, I like how Mike Kelly called it, “place and chase“. And, when compared against Eberle, Palmieri is better at that part of the game with 5.485 dump-in retrievals per 60 to Eberle’s 3.867.

And that might make you think that Palmieri is a better forecheck player than he is off the rush, but last year, with the Isles, Palmieri did just fine in creating off the rush with 9.75 rush shots/60 to Eberle’s 10.96. And he spent 99% of his time not playing with Mathew Barzal who lives for playing off the rush. I can only imagine those numbers go up if he gets the chance to play with Barzal.

(Advanced numbers taken from Corey Sznajder’s excellent tableau’s.)

The underlying numbers at least when you look at Palmieri’s style of play seem to indicate he should be a no-brainer to play on the top line with Lee and Barzal. If anything he fits the Islanders style of play better than Eberlr did. Of course, we don’t know if we’ll see Palmieri on the top line, but I can’t think of another player that Barry Trotz should place on that top line other than Palmieri.

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