Going into the season, there was a lot expected of Kyle Palmieri. He had a breakout season last year in New Jersey, tallying a career high 30 goals and 57 points in eighty-two games. Like most Devils, he got off to a slow start this season with just 4 goals in his first thirty games. Not only were Palmieri’s point totals down, but he was generating less shots than he was last season. He was averaging 1.93 shots on goal a game, which was well off his rate of 2.7 shots on goal a game from 2015-16. Through December 22nd, he was producing at a 43-point pace over an eighty-two game stretch and looked like a sure bet for a drop off in his production from last season.
Since that time, Palmieri has seen a pretty drastic turnaround in his play. In twenty-eight games played, he has 12 goals and 20 points, which is good for a 58 point pace over an 82 game stretch; almost identical to his point total from last season. A big reason for that is an increase in his shot totals. Over the last twenty-eight games, Palmieri is averaging 2.4 shots on goal a game, which puts him close to his average from last season and would put him on pace for 197 shots on goal over 82 games. For the 2015-16 season, Palmieri averaged 1.58 points per 60 minutes at even-strength. During this stretch of games, he’s averaging 1.50 points per 60; up from the 1.28 points per 60 minutes he was averaging through the first thirty games of this season.
Another big reason for Palmieri’s turnaround have been his line mates. Since December 22nd, he has seen 162 minutes of ice time with Taylor Hall and Travis Zajac and they’ve been the Devil’s best line when on the ice together. Via Puckalytics SuperWOWY feature, the trio has been on the ice for 5 goals for and 0 goals against at even-strength. They also have a 56.9% possession line and have been the Devils best shot generation and suppression line during this time span; averaging 62.9 shot attempts per 60 minutes and 47.7 shot attempts against per 60 minutes.
Since the turn of the calendar year, the Devils are 11-9-4. Their defensive struggles are still quite visible, but their offense has shown some signs of improvement. Part of the reason is because of increased production from players like Kyle Palmieri. With just twenty-two games remaining in the regular season, it’s important that he maintains his current scoring rates. The playoffs are out of reach for the Devils, but with an important offseason facing Ray Shero, he needs to know what he has up front. After recording 30 goals and 57 points in 2015-16, there was a bit of uncertainty if Palmieri could repeat what he did last season. Early on in the season, it looked like it could’ve been a fluke, but after a rough start, he’s producing at almost identical rates to last season and is on pace to finish with 51 points. With Palmieri signed long-term, and seemingly on his way to being a consistent 50-point scorer, it will show Ray Shero that he, along with Taylor Hall, have been the two most worthwhile investments he’s made as Devils GM to this point. That should give Devils fans something to look forward to this offseason and in the years to come.