Rangers Prospects Gross and Miller Play First Game At 2019 WJC
With the World Junior Championships kicking off on December 26th, the New York Rangers have four players taken in the 2018 draft participating in the tournament; including all three first-round picks.
For Russia, Vitaly Kravstov, for Sweden, Nils Lundkvist, and who I will be covering, for the US, K’Andre Miller, and for Switzerland, Nico Gross. Let’s take a look at how Gross and Miller did in their opening games of the tournament.
Nico Gross – Switzerland vs. Czech Republic
Gross played a solid game against a high-powered Czech team. Here are some of the things that I noticed about Gross after Switzerland’s opening game of the tournament.
In the first period, Gross made a few noticeable plays. I noticed that Gross was chippy in front of his own net, protecting his netminder, which is something that the Swiss pride themselves on. Gross had a big-time block with seven minutes left in the first period. Overall, his first period was pretty good with the exception of two ill-advised plays (his only two of the entire game). In two separate instances, Gross made ill-advised plays in his own zone which turned into A+ scoring opportunities for the Czechs; more specifically the dangerous Zadina.
In the second period, Gross wasn’t on the ice all that much. The Czechs took five penalties in the period, keeping number 16 on the bench, being that he does not kill penalties. During the limited time that he did play in the second period, Gross had another big block against Colorado Avalanche first-round pick Martin Kaut Nico broke his stick while the Czechs had sustained pressure. After Gross broke his stick, he hung in tight and came up big on the dangerous Kaut with the block.
As for the third period, Gross was pretty quiet making the necessary plays in his own zone. The biggest thing he did in the third period was drawing a penalty late in the game giving the Swiss a chance to win. The Swiss eventually lost in overtime picking up one point out of a possible three.
Overall thoughts – Gross played a solid game on the back end for the Swiss team. He made the necessary plays in his own zone, maintaining good gap control and making good plays along the boards. Gross did not show much in the offensive department. He only had a couple of good breakout passes that led to offensive zone time. I was impressed by his play in his own zone. He did make the two mistakes as mentioned before. The two mistakes ended up on the stick of the lethal Zadina, but no damage was done. The most impressive thing to me about Gross was that he was consistently matched up with the Czech’s top line that includes, yes you guessed it, Filip Zadina. It shows the confidence that his coaching staff has in him. I would grade Gross’s performance a “B” – a solid game with only two mistakes.
K’Andre Miller – United States vs. Slovakia
I will start with this, K’Andre Miller is a WAGON and Rangers fans should be very excited about this kid. Here are my takeaways from Miller’s first game of the tournament.
In a game where Quinn Hughes was not only the highlight of the backend but the whole game, K’Andre Miller had his fair share of noticeable plays. Miller displayed why Jeff Gorton and the Rangers brass made the move up to draft him. The announcers described him as a “freight train,” and he is just that. His phenomenal skating ability was on full display tonight. Also, Miller’s stick was active the entire night, making a handful of great plays in his own zone. He was up and down the ice all night, getting involved in the offense, and making great plays in his own zone. Miller’s gap control was sound, and his play along the boards and behind his net was great as well. He was involved in 3-4 great scoring chances. Miller had a couple of big shots from the blue line that got through and were good scoring chances.
He was also involved in a number of very good passing plays. The highlights of Miller’s night were a couple of plays he made in the third period. First, he intercepted a pass at center ice as Slovakia tried moving the puck north. The interception nearly led to an odd-man rush for the United States. The second was to me, the best shift of the game for the 18-year-old Wisconsin Badger. With a little over six minutes left in the game, Miller jumped into the offensive play and had an A+ scoring chance. After a juicy rebound, the Slovaks moved out of their zone quickly. Miller skated nearly 200 feet back the other way to disrupt a blossoming play. This play is what Rangers fans should be excited about. It showed his ability to get involved offensively, his tremendous skating ability, and most of all his willingness to not give up on a play. I know it is extremely early, but Miller is really looking like something special.
Overall thoughts – Miller played a heck of a game in not a whole lot of ice time. If you watched the game, you understand why Quinn Hughes was on the ice as much as he was – he was the best player on the ice, plain and simple. Miller did great things in his own end, got involved in the offense, and as mentioned many times previously, displayed his unbelievable skating ability. I would give Miller’s performance an “A“ – even though he didn’t get on the score sheet, he was extremely noticeable in all three zones when he was on the ice.
P.S. – Quinn Hughes was number one on my draft board in the 2017 draft for the Rangers to draft (obviously they weren’t getting Dahlin or Svechnikov), and he displayed his extreme talent level tonight. Also, his brother Jack, the projected number one overall pick in the 2019 draft, wouldn’t look too bad in the Broadway Blueshirt.