J.T. Miller is only going to get better and better
It’s been quite a whirlwind start to J.T. Miller’s NHL career. The Blueshirts’ 2011 1st round pick rode the shuttle back and forth to Hartford for the better part of two seasons after coming up in the middle of the lock-out shortened 2013 season.
Remember when he scored two goals against the Islanders? That was cool. Miller hit rock-bottom in April 2014 when Alain Vigneault publicly called out Miller’s work ethic both on and off the ice, following his 6th demotion to Hartford during that season. This is what AV had to say: “He needs to show more commitment on the ice and off. Until he does that, he hasn’t earned the right.” Miller would return to the Rangers a few weeks later, and appeared in four playoff games as the Rangers went on their run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
2015 was a complete reversal of fortune for Miller. For much of the first two months of the season, JT was still riding the shuttle, but starting with the Rangers win 5-2 over Philadelphia on November 29 in which Miller scored a goal, he solidified his spot on the big league roster for the rest of the season (except for a few inexcusable scratches in favor of Tanner Glass). Miller was an integral part of the offense, posting 23 points (10G, 13A) in just 58 regular season games and 8 points (1G 7A) in the Rangers 19 playoff games. He has clearly shown that most of his offensive production is done when getting top six minutes.
One part of Miller’s game that has consistently been criticized is his turnovers. With the Rangers losing a few key players from last year’s roster including Martin St. Louis (retired) and Carl Hagelin (Anaheim), Miller will be relied upon to contribute more on both the offensive and defensive side.
The question is, who will be lining with to start the season? Well, that really depends on how much AV trusts Miller defensively. If AV doesn’t trust him defensively, look for him to be more of a top-six forward getting more offensive zone starts, probably on a line with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan. If AV would like him to play more of a two-way role, he can be placed on a line with Oscar Lindberg or perhaps the newcomer Jarret Stoll, while also getting some defensive zone starts. A lot of this also depends on how the coaching staff will use Kevin Hayes- either as a winger or center. Perhaps Miller gets more PP time? Nonetheless, expect a bigger season from Miller this year. He’s now a year older, more experienced and has better knowledge of the game at both ends of the ice. I expect Miller to increase his point production to 35 this season (15 Goals, 20 assists).
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