- There are those wondering if Kyle Palmieri's
release from USA Hockey's National Team Developmental Program last month will affect where he's drafted come June 26 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
According to the brain trust at the NHL's Central Scouting Service, it shouldn't.
Palmieri, who played the past two seasons for the NTDP in Ann Arbor, Mich., was rated No. 19 in Central Scouting's midterm ratings released earlier this year -- the highest of any player competing for the Developmental Team.
"No one really knows what happened," scout Gary Eggleston told NHL.com. "As with a lot of other situations, rumors and innuendo happen in times like this and it's hard to pry the truth. I've given up asking people because it's kind of a fruitless effort. I do know that I don't think it will affect his draft standing and I don't think it should. Shame on the people who are drafting if it does because it would be silly to let something like this get in the way of his play on the ice."
While the circumstances surrounding Palmieri's dismissal from the team are unknown, all signs point to him attending the University of Notre Dame in the fall instead of playing for the Ontario Hockey League's Guelph Storm. The Storm drafted Palmieri in the sixth round of the 2008 OHL entry draft, but the 18-year-old forward never reported.
The unfortunate scenario in all this is the fact Palmieri will be missing from the U.S. squad at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota and Minnesota beginning April 9.
"If they were waiting until April to see him in the Under-18 tournament, shame on them because you should know by now," Eggleston said. "The people at Notre Dame did make good on their scholarship, and that's nice to see."
In February 2008, Palmieri scored a 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 also played a role for the bronze medal winning U-18 Team at the World Men's Championships in Kazan, Russia, last April. In 66 games with the U-17 and U-18 teams, Palmieri scored 29 goals and 48 points with 71 penalty minutes.
"My first thought when I heard what had happened was kids will be kids and I thought back to what I did as a 17-18 year-old," United States Hockey League scout Jack Barzee said. "I was looking for someone to explain the situation because I was hearing so many different stories even before he was dismissed from the team. But I called someone in the system and was told, 'We're not going to touch that right now.'"
Despite the response, Barzee certainly understands why the NTDP would take that approach.
"I had an experience when I was coaching junior hockey with a guy who is probably going into the Hockey Hall of Fame one day," Barzee said. "He was my captain. The boys decided to celebrate his 19th birthday, so they went for a beer and, unfortunately, the group got into a fight with a football team. I had to get them all of jail and then suspend them all.
"But it doesn't really matter because (Palmieri's) a hockey player and hockey players do get in trouble sometimes for whatever reasons, but why should we look down on him. He hasn't been charged for anything illegal and was dismissed for team violations -- and that's their prerogative."
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Palmieri had 15 goals and 30 points in 33 games with the NTDP Under-18 team this season. In international competition, he led the team in scoring with 5 goals and 9 points in 8 games.
"It was disappointing to hear the news because he is the top-ranked player on that team and I was looking forward to seeing him at the World Championships but it's not like I had any reservation about his ability -- I didn't need to see him to feel comfortable about my opinion of him," Barzee said.
Ontario Hockey League scout Chris Edwards agrees with his partners at Central Scouting.
"As far as I'm concerned, skill wise, he's a first-round player," Edwards said. "Who knows what happened. The only thing we can control is providing those interested teams our opinion of his ability on the ice -- and we like what we see."
That said, don't be surprised if Palmieri is taken in the opening round of the 2009 Entry Draft.
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.