NEWARK, NJ – Prior to his success with the New Jersey Devils, Kyle Palmieri, the team’s leading goal scorer this year took the ice for St. Peter’s Prep of Jersey City in the 2007 NJSIAA hockey state final.

“Looking back on it, going through the state championships was probably one of the more fun times and tournaments that I’ve been a part of,” said Palmieri, 25, a native of Montvale, NJ in an interview with TAP into. “Having the opportunity to play in front of the people that you went to school with was such an incredible experience and one that I’ll never forget.”

During his breakout sophomore season, Palmieri netted 34 goals and 28 assists, which earned him an opportunity to play for the U.S. National Development Team. His tryout coincided with the semifinals matchup against hockey powerhouse Christian Brothers Academy, whom St. Peter’s hadn’t ever beaten going into the game.

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“My team had to play the state semis without me and they did a great job,” said Palmieri. “I was following it and talking to my teammates while I was out in Michigan, but I was ecstatic when they won and we were going to have the opportunity to play in the state championship.”

St. Peter’s ultimately lost the final to St. Augustine 3-1 at Mennen Arena in Morristown and it would be the last time that Palmieri would skate for the Jersey City prep school.

Palmieri says it’s been a ‘long road’ to get to the NHL from a young kid, which began in the New Jersey Devils Youth Hockey Club. A former first round draft pick, Palmieri, who was traded to the Devils this season is having a career year. In addition to being leading goal scorer (25), he leads the team in points (44) and power play points (9).

“It’s crazy to think that it was only eight or nine years ago that I was playing at the South Mountain Arena and watching the Devils practice when they were practicing there,” suggested Palmieri. “It’s been a long road. There’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of fun along the way.”

“It’s something when you look back on and you see kids at that same age that I was before all this was happening; I think it’s pretty cool for them to look and see someone who grew up through New Jersey hockey system playing in this league and on this team, said Palmieri. “At the same time for me it’s cool to look back on and know that I was in their shoes eight years ago. It’s cool seeing how much hockey’s grown and how many different teams there are and new rinks in the six or seven years that I’ve been gone.”

Palmieri was impressed with the accomplishments of the Randolph – NJSIAA finalists in eight of the last 13 years –  and Morristown – finalists in four of the last five years – hockey programs, who will take the ice in tonight’s 2016 NJSIAA final in the Public A bracket.

“Especially with a public school, having teams that are continually in the state championships and top ranked, it’s tough because teams like that can’t recruit,” suggested Palmieri. “Having teams like this that are consistently in the running is impressive.”

His advice for kids playing in tonight’s NJSIAA hockey finals was simple.

“Just have fun with it,” said Palmieri. “I only got one opportunity to do it. You never know what the future is going to bring and whether you get back there.”

In addition to Palmieri, seven NHL players have come through the ranks of the NJSIAA High School Ice Hockey Championships, including former Devils player Jim Dowd along with George Parros, John Carlson, James van Riemsdyk, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Johnny Gaudreau and Kenny Agostino.