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Palmieri Getting It Done

In 11 games, Nick Palmieri has five points (four goals, one assist) while playing with the Devils' top line. Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP Photo

Much of the New Jersey Devils’ rookie hype has gone to Mattias Tedenby, the exciting right-winger who leads all rookie skaters in points.

While Tedenby’s on-ice play is exciting, several people are overlooking an important rookie – Nick Palmieri. The rookie, playing on the top line, has carried his weight during his call-up and looks like he’s cemented a roster spot.

Palmieri isn’t a physically imposing player. At 6’3″ and 220 lbs, he actually looks a little too chubby for the NHL. He doesn’t have blazing speed or great hand-eye coordination. Palmieri, however, more than makes up for his lack of physical abilities with his hard work on the ice.

The Devils roster lacks power forwards willing to drive the net. Some players, like David Clarkson, were expected to fill this role. But, so far, the team hasn’t found a player willing to continually crash the net. Palmieri embraced this role. He’s used his big frame to continually crash the net, looking for the “garbage” goals. The strategy is paying off, as he’s scored three goals in his past five games.

Palmieri believes he can be a consistent scorer in the NHL.

“I think all throughout my career I’ve contributed offensively through scoring,” the rookie told Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger. “When they had me playing in Albany they definitely had me in a scoring role. I don’t know if that was what they thought when they initially called me up. But I’m happy to be contributing, whether it’s in a scoring role or whatever they want me to do.”

Despite his success, coach Jacques Lemaire believes he can improve.

“He’s OK. When you look at the four goals you get excited, but he’s a kid who has to improve,” Lemaire told Chere. “He could be a power winger. He’s strong, he can skate, he goes at the net, he’s strong with the puck, he brings the puck to the net, plays in traffic. But he has to stay in shape and keep working hard to be that type of player.”

Palmieri has had help along the way. He’s playing with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk, which brings more scoring chances and great linemates. That, however, shouldn’t dictate the story of his success this season.

Hopefully, Palmieri continues to improve throughout the season. He’ll never be an exciting scorer like Tedenby, but he provides a valuable skill to this lineup. His ability to crash the net and finish in front can’t be overlooked. Every team needs their share of “dirty” scorers, and Palmieri fits that bill. Plus, the rookie won’t go back to the AHL without a fight.

“I think my goal when I got called up was to come up here and make sure I made an impact and made it hard for them to send me back down,” Palmieri said to Chere.

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