The kid can play. To be sure, there is an attractive offer on the table for Jake Palmerio to attend school in Michigan and play at the Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic Association level beginning next season.
The hockey team has made him an offer and Palmerio has fulfilled the education requirements that would make him a student-athlete at the school in question.
But Palmerio, a 1997 birth-year forward with the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, wants to wait it out before committing to a particular school.
For one, Palmerio still has another season of junior hockey eligibility remaining after this season.
Then there is the fact that there are other Division 3, NCAA schools that have been made aware of — and are in the process of checking out — the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Palmerio, a hard-working, character kid who plays bigger than his size.
Having passed the 20-goal mark and averaging a point-per-game as an all-purpose performer for the Eagles this season, Palmerio is a lead-by-example player who continues to impress coaches Jim Capy and Bruno Bragagnolo.
Dependable. Tough. Relentless. Hard-working.
Those are just a few of the words that coaches Capy and Bragagnolo have used to describe Palmerio, a Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native who is in his second season with the Michigan-based Eagles.
But while Palmerio will no doubt have more than one Division 3, NCAA offer to choose from when he opts to move on from the Eagles and the NOJHL and head to school, there has to be at least one Division 1 school out there that should have the kid’s name somewhere in the files.
And to be sure, the youngster’s coach from two seasons ago with the erstwhile Batchewana Attack of the now-defunct Canadian International Hockey League — the reputable Denny Lambert — is but a phone call away from any Division 1 coach who wants to ask about Palmerio.
Suffice to say that Lambert, the retired National Hockey League journeyman of more than 500 games and recently-hired as associate coach of the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League, knows a player when he sees one. Lambert is also high on character mixed with ability — and he continues to follow Palmerio.
As a matter of fact, when I asked Lambert if he thought Palmerio had the overall ability and make up to play at the Division 1, NCAA level, the reply was quick and without hesitation.
“Absolutely. Without question,” was Lambert’s response.
Lambert knows what it is like to be on the small side and off the main radar.
Never drafted into the Ontario Hockey League, Lambert made the Soo Greyhounds as an 18-year old walk-on and stuck around to play three full seasons.
Never drafted into the NHL, Lambert persevered and eventually made it to the “Show” and lasted to skate in more than 500 games in what was an improbable career.
So when the now 47-year old Lambert — who had eight years of coaching experience in the OHL with the Greyhounds prior to his current QMJHL gig in Gatineau — gives his opinion on a player, the tendency is to take him at his word.
If a guy like Lambert says a kid like Palmerio can play Division 1, NCAA hockey then I believe it.
And if there is a Division 1, NCAA coach out there looking for a reference on Palmerio, all they need do is to give Lambert a call.
PHOTO: Jake Palmerio, in action for the Soo Eagles of the NOJHL. (Photo by Ali Pearson.)