Anaheim Ducks General Manager Bob Murray has been on a mission to find a replacement for Chris Kunitz ever since he traded the talented left wing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in February.MONTREAL --
He believes he found that player in Kyle Palmieri. The 5-foot-10 New Jersey native, chosen 26th overall, was the second of the Ducks' two first-round picks at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft on Friday at Bell Centre. Murray selected Guelph center Peter Holland with the 13th overall pick.
"We love the way he skates and his tenacity after the puck," Murray said. "He kind of reminds us of Chris Kunitz and we like that style of player and the way he goes after it -- he's like a little bull out there."
Palmieri may attend the University of Notre Dame in the fall, but his long-term goal is to wear a Ducks jersey.
"It's just really exciting," Palmieri told NHL.com. "It's been a long road and it's great to be here. Anaheim is a great team and a great organization. I hope to be a part of the team real soon. It's just a dream come true."
Palmieri of Montvale, N.J., is the fourth Anaheim player with roots in the Garden State -- George Parros grew up in Randolph, N.J., Bobby Ryan is from Cherry Hill and Drew Miller is a native of Dover.
Palmieri made headlines for all the wrong reasons in February when his season ended prematurely after being ejected from the U.S. National Team Development Program for violating team rules during the Five Nations Tournament in Sweden.
Murray said he had no qualms about drafting the 18-year-old forward.
"When we interviewed him (at the NHL Combine), we went over (the NTDP situation) and he was very honest and truthful," Murray said. "We were all young once, and we all made a few screw-ups along the way. He made a mistake, but that whole group tended to have some problems, so hopefully he learned from it and it'll help him down the road."
Palmieri, who played the past two seasons for the NTDP in Ann Arbor, Mich., was rated No. 20 on Central Scouting's final ratings released in April -- the highest ranking of any player competing for the Development Team.
While the full circumstances surrounding Palmieri's dismissal from the team are unknown, all signs point to him attending Notre Dame instead of joining Guelph. The Storm drafted Palmieri in the sixth round of the 2008 OHL entry draft, but he never reported.
"We're going to have to talk about where he'll be headed next," Murray said. "I know he has a school thing, but we may talk about something else. I've got to talk to him about that."
In February 2008, Palmieri scored the hat trick to lead the U-18 Team to a gold medal-clinching 5-3 victory over Finland in the Five Nations Tournament in Varkaus, Finland. He would also play a role for the bronze medal-winning U-18 Team in Kazan, Russia, in April 2008. In 66 games with the U-17 and U-18 teams, Palmieri posted 48 points, 29 goals, and 71 penalty minutes.
Prior to his dismissal from the NTDP, Palmieri had 15 goals and 30 points in 33 games with the Under-18 team this past season. In international competition, he led the team in scoring with 5 goals and 9 points in 8 games.
He is one of 43 Americans invited to the 2009 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., from Aug. 7-15. There, he'll have an opportunity to rejoin his U.S. teammates on the U.S. National Junior Team that will compete in the 2010 World Junior Championships in Saskatoon and Regina, Sask.
"People have questioned my height, but I make up for it with my work ethic and by being strong while outworking my opponents," Palmieri said. "I think just getting the job done is the way I'm going to make it to the next level."