Archive for J.T. Miller
When the season started, many anticipated that J.T. Miller would be third in the pecking order behind Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes. Certainly a solid player, but by no means someone that the Rangers should be counting on daily. He needed to take the next step, but was really looking at a third line role. Forty-two games into the season, and Miller is very clearly having the best season of that trio.
For starters, he leads all three in goal (8), assists (12), and points (20). He’s also the overall team leader in CF% at 50.06%, the only Rangers forward above 50% for the season. But it goes beyond the raw numbers, he’s playing a better all around game, not just with the puck. He’s better in his own end, making smarter passes, is more engaged, and making smarter plays getting to the net and getting the puck to the net.
New York Rangers’ general manager Jeff Gorton must be watching his team win game after game to start the new season while wondering what he’s done to deserve such luck. Why luck? The Rangers are likely headed toward a tough offseason with several young, but key, roster players due new contracts. The lucky part for Gorton right now, is that none of those players are making a strong case for (key word) significant pay rises.
As we enter mid-November, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Emerson Etem and veteran defenseman Keith Yandle are all approaching next summer with their future’s unclear. Particularly in the cases of Kreider, Hayes and Yandle all three should be significant parts of the Rangers future. Kreider is the power forward, goalscorer in waiting, Hayes has quickly become an integral and flexible part of the top nine while Yandle is the best puck mover the Rangers can turn to.
Other than the infamous “Potvin Sucks” chant, there’s not much that’s more annoying at MSG than the cries for players to “SHOOT THE PUCK!” on the power play.
Sure, shooting the puck is usually a great idea – as Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – but blasting a slapper from the point into the shin pads of an opposing forward when you’re the last line of defense is generally inadvisable.
The Rangers couldn’t really have asked for much more after two games. Two road games brought two wins against the reigning Stanley Cup champion and one of the Eastern conference’s rising powers. The first two games also gave significant insight into how the Rangers will have sustained success this season: depth and Hank.
Depth wins in the NHL, wins for the Rangers
Mats Zuccarello aside, the Rangers top line hasn’t got started yet and despite this the Rangers have two victories to kick off their season. Six Rangers have at least two points after two games, with rookie Oscar Lindberg starting his first Rangers’ October in sensational style with two big goals and JT Miller showing his difference making ability with three assists in his first two games. Indeed, the Rangers third line (with Viktor Stalberg) has been the team’s best thus far. They’ve established offensive zone time, generated offense and have gotten in on the forecheck consistently.
Isn’t everyone in a much better mood now that hockey is back? It doesn’t hurt that the Rangers won their opener against the defending champs and rained on their obnoxious banner-raising ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the Blackhawks organization, but my god, that was a little much. The Blueshirts are back at it tonight against Columbus, so I figured I would share some thoughts on game day…
In the interest of keeping this in some semblance of order, I’m going to try and compartmentalize these bullets into ‘Hawks thoughts and then Blue Jackets thoughts.
Last week, I went through the bottom half of the third annual Top 25 Under 25 for the New York Rangers. The bottom half of the list is fairly interesting, because it had some players fall off the list completely, and players like Ryan Bourque, Cristival “Boo” Nieves, and Steven Fogarty fall significantly. This has a lot to do with the recent influx of talented prospects from the 2015 draft.
Remember though, there are a good number of players under 25 years of age that are on the NHL roster, and naturally that puts them ahead of a lot of players that still qualify as prospects. So let’s round out the top-12 players in the Top 25 Under 25 for the Rangers.
12. Adam Tambellini – Forward, 2013 3rd round (LY: 16)
Jeff Gorton keeps on impressing, signing two more RFAs in Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller. Miller surprised a few by taking his qualifying offer of one year at $874,130. Fast signed a two year deal worth $950,000 per season. which is exactly what I had him pegged at. Gorton’s ability to get both Miller and Etem to sign their QOs should be seen as a tremendous victory, as the Rangers now have ample cap space to get Derek Stepan under contract.
Both Miller and Fast will continue to have significant roles with the team next year.
While all the attention lately has been on Derek Stepan and his arbitration hearing, there are three other key RFAs that need to be signed to fill out the roster. Perhaps the most important aspect of signing Emerson Etem, J.T. Miller, and Jesper Fast –who will all be getting bridge deals– is that they are going to be relatively cheap bridge deals, and will help the Rangers stay under the cap.
All three forwards are coming off their entry level deals, and all none of them have much leverage. Miller and Fast didn’t crack the NHL with any regularity until this season when they both found key roles on the Rangers. Etem still hasn’t found a regular role and, despite his talents, has spent a lot of time on the fourth line. That doesn’t make for much bargaining power.
With the front office’s apparent decision to hang on to Kevin Klein, it now seems likely the Rangers will entire next season with an identical defense and starting goaltender to the group that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The real cause for concern is up front, where the departures of Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin stripped the Blueshirts of 38 regular season goals, equivalent to over 15% of their total offense in 2014-2015. Read More→
Last season, the Rangers deployed Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello on their third line and Derek Dorsett, Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle on the fourth for much of the season. Needless to say, depth up front was a team strength.
Thanks to the cap crunch and some head-scratching offseason moves, the bottom-six just wasn’t quite the same this year. The team spent much of the season attempting to identify a third-line scoring winger and failed to support Dominic Moore on the checking unit. But though the sum of its parts wasn’t good enough, many members of the bottom-six did have terrific seasons.
What more could you ask for from the prized former Blackhawks first-round pick after he chose to join the Rangers last summer? Hayes really turned it on in the second-half, when it seemed like he improved every single game. Hayes has an impressive combination of size, hands and wheels, and the sky appears to be the limit for the 23-year-old. Hayes was a little quieter in the playoffs, but it’s hard to fault him for that.
Grade: A Read More→