Going into the 2021-22 season, the New York Islanders are going to have a new look on the top line. With Jordan Eberle selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 Expansion Draft, Kyle Palmieri will step into the top RW slot.
On the surface that seems like a perfect fit. Palmieri plays a physical style that suits the Islanders system as well as being a 25 goal scorer. But there’s a growing narrative that Anders Lee and Kyle Palmieri play too similar a style to be effective together.
That’s a false narrative. Lee and Palmieri are not the same type of player.
New York Islanders top-line wingers aren’t carbon-copies of each other
The narrative I’m referencing here is that both Kyle Palmieri and Anders Lee are net-front players. Both are most effective standing in front of the crease. While that is absolutely the case for Anders Lee it isn’t the case for Kyle Palmieri.
Using Icy-Data’s player shot maps we can see from where Lee and Palmieri like to shoot the puck. These shot maps show exactly where these two guys like to fire the puck.
For Anders Lee, 25% of his shots come from immediately around the net while Kyle Palmieri is at 16% front directly in front of the net. Those numbers alone should convince you that Kyle Palmieri is a different player than Anders Lee is.
Shots from the slot are 13% lower for Palmieri than for Lee. Palmieri spreads his shots around including from outside the slot. Of course, Palmieri’s numbers around the slot and around the net are still high, but what else were people expecting? Any good forward should be firing pucks from the slot or around the net. Staying strictly to the perimeter is not how a player makes it in the NHL.
Maybe those numbers aren’t enough to convince you because I’m talking about shots on the net and not goals. Where do these two players get their goals from?
Again, the goal maps show two different playing styles here. With Anders Lee, the Islanders have a focused net-front winger. Again, that shouldn’t be news to any Isles fan.
With Kyle Palmieri, the Isles have a more rounded winger who can score from not only those high-danger areas but from the perimeter as well.
While doing this comparison I thought about looking and Jordan Eberle’s goal map. Was it more perimeter heavy than Palmieri? Was he less of a net-front guy? I was surprised to find out that Eberle was closer to Lee than Palmieri is.
Eberle goal % from slot: 50% [Palmieri 41%]
Eberle goal % net-front: 27% [Palmieri 22%]
Eberle was closer to Lee, in terms of where he scores his goals than Palmieri is. Yet we’ve never heard the same duplication of efforts narrative when Lee and Eberle were playing together.
Islanders fans should not be worried that Lee and Palmieri will both somehow sit in front of the net and leave Barzal to do all the work around the perimeter. If anything the Islanders get more balance with Palmieri out there over Eberle.