JT Miller has been a pleasant surprise in his brief stay with the Rangers this season. His call up has coincided with (perhaps even caused) the re-emergence of the Rangers much anticipated offensive depth, and has caused players such as Brian Boyle to find themselves in the press box or with less prominent roles.
Whether we see Miller much longer in New York however, remains to be seen. Last season Carl Hagelin’s introduction to the Rangers also created a spark and the young speedy Swede forced the Rangers to keep him on the roster. Miller could conceivably do the same thing, albeit with slightly different circumstances. However, the Rangers could choose to use Miller as a spark for the rest of the roster and that’s it.
They may choose to place Miller back in the AHL and see if he can elevate his game there following his fine Broadway introduction. This move would preserve that first year of his entry contract. Miller could be used as the ‘threat’ to the roster. Every coach wants options and Miller offers John Tortorella a viable threat to established roster players who aren’t performing. They’ve seen how Miller has coped with the transition to the NHL seamlessly and will not want to sit.
All of a sudden coach Tortorella has a healthy Ryan Callahan, a healthy and looking-more-ready Chris Kreider, and it’s likely Miller’s presence will have shown Brian Boyle that he needs to step up if he wants back in as well. Tortorella will almost certainly find a way to at least give Boyle another chance.
Boyle has been too good a supporting a player for the Rangers, has previously been one of the coaches key defensive players, and won’t simply be tossed to the scrap heap after one bad start to a season. Miller may have changed the dynamic of the roster in a variety of ways, but may also find himself in the AHL sooner than he (and most fans) wants.
Even with five impressive games Miller may not have a choice. With Callahan, Boyle and Kreider present on the roster –and Aaron Asham’s ability to play between the third and fourth lines– there may not be a need to rush the young American. The entire rosters’ individual and collective performance over the next two games will have more of an influence than his World Junior’s performance. As the Rangers continue to search for some extended consistency this may be the story worth the most attention.