K’Andre Miller should play a big role for the New York Rangers this season

k'andre miller
Jan 16, 2021; New York, NY, USA; K’Andre Miller #79 of the New York Rangers takes the shot in warm-ups prior to the game against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on January 16, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers defense will finally get to see young Nils Lundkvist next season. But the most important blue-liner to the team’s success may be K’Andre Miller.

There is no denying that Miller had an amazing rookie season. It all culminated for the 21 year-old budding star with a spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team. In his first season fresh out of college he recored 12 points, a +9 rating in 53 games while averaging 21:07 a game.

This season, the New York Rangers will need the sophomore to step it up again as he is a top four defender.

Conditioning will be Key for Miller

It didn’t take long for the kid from college to adjust to the NHL. K’Andre Miller’s combination of size, speed, and raw talent made him look like a star early in the year. However; I noticed that late in the season he tailed off with more minutes per night.

In 34 games where Miller played under 22 minutes, he recorded 9 points, had a + rating of 9, and the team went 17-14-3. When I looked at games where he crossed the 22 minute threshold Miller had 3 points, and an even rating in 19 games. The Rangers record was fairly similar at 9-7-3. Miller’s point production did drop from .27 to .13 per game when he went over 22 minutes.

k'andre miller
Apr 9, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller (79) celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers utilized Miller to the tune of 20:25 minutes per game in the first half (26 games). He notched 7 points with a +10 rating, that was good for .26 points per game. Towards the second half of the year, it was becoming evident that Miller seemed to be struggling. When the Rangers started giving him more ice time, he only recored 5 points and had a -1 rating averaging 21:47 a night.

This season, the Rangers are going to expect more from Miller and his conditioning will be vital. Miller now personally knows about the grind and what it takes to make it in the NHL. He’s been skating in the Da Beauty League with fellow Blueshirt defenseman Ryan Lindgren and looks physically ready for the season.

The kid is also absolutely tearing that summer league up with two hat-trick under his belt. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t pro-level hockey hockey, but it’s great to see the kid jump into the offense and dominate.

Monitoring Miller’s minutes can help in the long run

There is nothing to say that Miller simply won’t get better playing a ton of minutes next season. Matter of fact, I think that’s the only path forward.

The Rangers were wise to add veteran left defenseman Patrik Nemeth. He was brought in to ease Nils Lundkvist’s transition this season, but could occasionally ease the burden on the young Miller too.

The bottom line is that Miller is the future of the Rangers defense. It will be up to Gerard Gallant to make sure he doesn’t take a backwards step on his path to stardom. Throttling back a few shifts a game could be all the difference for Miller in the long run.

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