It's been an interesting and uneven Islanders tenure for forward Kyle Palmieri since being acquired at the trade deadline from the New Jersey Devils with Travis Zajac in 2021. Due to streaky scoring and injuries, nearly two years after the trade, we've only seen glimpses of the type of impact Palmieri can make on the lineup. But that impact is being felt right now since his return on Jan. 23.
As attention continues to be on the lack of playmakers available to put alongside Mathew Barzal, who has been most recently playing with Anthony Beauvillier and Casey Cizikas, head coach Lane Lambert has been able to find consistency and production with another line. Since returning on Jan. 23, Palmieri has been put on a line with Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, and that line has been by far the most productive for the Islanders over the last four games.
“Certainly he’s a big piece of the puzzle,” Lambert said. “You can see that in the way he plays. There’s no question we missed him when he was out.”
Though Palmieri has yet to find the back of the net, he's been highly noticeable throughout games and has provided the team with the offensive spark they have desperately been lacking. In four games, he has five assists for a team that has only scored eight goals in that stretch, meaning Palmieri has been involved in more than half of the team's goals since returning.
“He feels really strong on the puck,” Lee said. “I think he’s making and seeing a lot of plays. He’s been huge with [Nelson] and I. I think we’ve generate quite a bit that I think we’ve liked, and been able to walk away with a few here lately. But him on the line, great in the corners, gets pucks to the net. I think we’re gelling pretty good.”
Palmieri has 25-30 goal potential but has been notoriously streaky. He didn't score his first goal until Nov. 16 last year in the team's 13th game - his next goal didn't occur until Feb 15. He finished strong enough and, despite a few disallowed goals, ended the year with 15 goals in 69 games, right around a 20-25 goal pace for an 82-game season.
While the goals are slow to come again, he's creating opportunities for his new linemates, and Nelson and Lee have been able to convert. If Palmieri gets going and starts to produce like the $5M AAV he was signed to be, the line can be even more dangerous.
“It was a long time waiting there for things to be ready to go,” Palmieri said. “Happy to be back.”