Life can certainly take people on some long and winding roads. For right winger Kyle Palmieri, all roads seem to lead to the Garden State.
Palmieri was born on Long Island, but grew up in the small northern New Jersey town of Montvale and learned to play hockey with the New Jersey Devils Youth Hockey Club in Englewood. After moving on to play one season at the University of Notre Dame, the Anaheim Ducks selected Palmieri with the No. 26 overall pick in the 2009 entry draft.
But it wasn’t all that long before Palmieri was playing hockey in the Garden State again. In exchange for a second-round pick, the Devils acquired the 25-year-old before the 2015-16 season.
With his new team in his old home, Palmieri has flourished into a terrific fantasy option and should remain one with the Devils for years to come.
Palmieri was always a pretty good support player during his five years with the Ducks, but because he never received top-six forward minutes, his fantasy value was limited. The best scoring season he ever had in Anaheim was 14 goals and 31 points over 71 games in 2013-14.
During his first NHL season in New Jersey, Palmieri has more than doubled his career-high in goals and still has a chance to do the same in points.
Other than receiving a chance to play, nothing too drastic has changed in his game. Palmieri hasn’t played the entire season on the same line, but Devils coach John Hynes has paired him with center Travis Zajac for almost the entire year.
The two have been a great pair. Not only has Palmieri’s goals doubled from last season, Zajac is one assist away from doubling up in that category. That’s pretty unusual for a 30-year-old playing for the same team, and he’s managed to do that in fewer games than last season.
Playing top-six forward minutes in New Jersey, Palmieri logs 17:37 minutes of ice time per game, which is 3:31 more than 2014-15. Additionally, he ranks fourth on the Devils in power play ice time at 2:29 per game. Anaheim finished with the best power play percentage in the league last season, but it didn’t help Pamieri all that much because he only averaged 1:29 minutes per game on the man advantage.
This season, the power play is where Palmieri is doing most of his damage. He has 11 goals and 10 assists on the man advantage, which makes up over 40 percent of his points. His 11 power play goals ties him for 10th in the NHL with Evgeni Malkin, Corey Perry, Joe Pavelski, Wayne Simmonds and Shane Doan.
But to say Palmieri hasn’t excelled in 5-on-5 situations would be incorrect. His 18 even strength goals by themselves would set a new career high in goals. He has 28 points at even strength in 75 games; last season, Palmieri scored a total of 29 points.
The best part about his career year is how strongly he is finishing the season despite the Devils basically falling out of the playoff picture. In 11 games this month, Palmieri has six goals and 12 points with a plus-three rating. He is averaging 3.18 shots on goal per contest. Over the last five games, the 25-year-old has four goals and seven points, including a pair of scores in the shutout victory against the Penguins on Thursday.
No right winger in the league has more points than Palmieri does in March. He is also tied with Nikita Kucherov for fourth-most goals (29) by a right winger this season.
That’s pretty good considering Fantasy Pros’ consensus rankings had Palmieri listed as the 63rd-best fantasy option at right winger coming into the season. He had a preseason 237.2 ADP according to Fantasy Pros, meaning he didn’t get drafted until the 24th round (if your league had that many rounds) of 10-team leagues.
It’s safe to say owners won’t be able to grab him that late next season. Palmieri has found a home in New Jersey, but maybe his heart never really left.