When this big young man walked toward us after a game in the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena this week, we first thought that USA Hockey media relations sent us a forward instead of the goaltender we asked for.
But as he politely introduced himself, there was no mistake. It was Joe Palmer.
“He is a big, strong guy,” were the first words of Chicago Blackhawk scout Ron Anderson to Hockey’s Future about his team’s fourth-round pick at the last NHL draft.
Palmer, at 6’1, 205-pounds, is one of five goaltenders invited to the U.S. Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid.
When he first started playing hockey at the age 9, it wasn’t in the net. Born in Yorkville, NY, he began just a little bit later in goal after a coach asked the forward to satisfy a need in this crucial position during a practice.
“He is an aggressive guy on the ice and takes a lot of space. I wouldn’t say Joe Palmer is athletic, but he is quick, he has got good reflexes,” observed Anderson in Lake Placid during one of the exhibition games played at the USA Camp.
“Palmer is pretty good reading the game and understanding how to play at this position,” added Anderson.
USA Head Coach Ron Rolston knows Palmer pretty well having been his coach with the U.S. Under-18 team that won the gold medal at the 2005 IIHF World Championship.
“Joe is a man of strong character and an extremely mentally tough goalie,” commented Rolston. “He is someone that is going to be in the future in the USA Hockey teams and in big competition because of his mental toughness, his size and his overall ability in the net.”
According to Anderson, “Palmer is a pretty intelligent man which is important when you play at this position. He is also a pretty mature kid, well-rounded. We had some good talks especially when we had the Rookie Development Camp in Chicago a week after the draft.
“He has really good grass roots, he knows where he stands right now and he knows the things he has to work on. Our goaltender coach Stephane Waite worked with him at the Prospects Camp and he liked him very much,” stated Anderson.
“It was a great experience being at the Hawks Camp,” said Palmer. “It gave me the opportunity to see the guys they have in their system, so I could rank myself on the depth chart and see where I could be in a few years.”
Used to winning
Palmer, who will be a freshman next fall at The Ohio State University of the CCHA, is a pure product of the USA Development Program. He took part in the USA Hockey’s Select 15 and 16 Festivals in 2002 and 2003. These camps are reserved for the 240 best U.S. players or so for each age group.
He then was a member of the U.S. NTDP for two seasons, playing for the National U-17 and U-18 teams. Palmer helped backup the U-17 team to win the NAHL championship in his first season into the NTDP.
In 2004-05, Palmer and his team also finished in the first place of the Four Nations Cup in Rochester, NY.
Along with Erik Johnson, Palmer is the only U.S. member to have won back-to-back gold medals at the IIHF U-18 World Championship in 2005 (Belarus) and 2006 (Sweden).
“It was an awesome experience in Sweden. I was more involved in the game in the second trip to the U-18 World Championship and it just tasted a lot better,” stated Palmer.
Among his other experiences on the international scene, he also participated at the 2003 IIHF World Development Camp in Finland and played at the Four Nations Cup in Russia.
Pleased to be in Lake Placid
It is the first visit for Palmer to Lake Placid and he is very pleased to be here.
“It is pretty awesome, I get positive vibes from being out there. We have a coach, (John) Harrington, he was on the 1980 Olympic Team, he is a great guy, he has a lot to say, shares good experiences with us.
“It is just fantastic to be here, the place where it all happened. It is great, been with the cream of the crop, the top 40 or 50 best guys in the USA. It is just great to see all the young talent that USA Hockey has, to see how you are ranked with other guys.”
Asked what his activities are during the camp, Palmer said, “We’re twice a day on the ice, that keeps you very busy. So, I just do some light workouts at the Olympic Training Center.
“I go in the cold tub once in a while just relaxing my muscles and I also play some ping pong for the hand-eye reflexes and for fun too.”
Palmer didn’t allow a goal in the first half game he played against Sweden. In the second game, against Finland, he gave up three goals in the second part of the game. He wasn’t satisfied by his performance in the latter game.
“I didn’t start the game, entering halfway through. In these circumstances, you are not going fresh off the warm up and are a little cold and everything.”
“USA were leading 7-2 at some point so I think it does create a tendency to get a little bit lazy, not only Joe but the whole team,” observed Anderson about the three goals against given by Palmer.
But Palmer is confident about making the team. “I think that if I play my game and step up towards the end of the year, I have a good chance.”
Having played in the USA Hockey program the last two years could be an advantage as well as having already played for Rolston.
“There are a lot of good talented players here, sure I would love to make it, it would be great.”
“The team staff will have an interesting decision to make,” stated Anderson about Palmer’s chance to make the team. “There is no guy here that is clearly the No. 1. The way these guys play when they will go back to their regular teams will have a lot to do with it.”
Certainly the Hawk staff would be pleased to see their young prospect traveling to Sweden next December.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.