Archive for J.T. Miller
Last week, I went through the bottom half of the New York Rangers 2016 Top 25 Under 25. The bottom half had a lot of turnover, as the 2016 draft was an early success for the Rangers that warranted some shifting in the rankings. Couple that with four players who were ranked last year that are no longer with the organization, and you have a refreshed system that is something to get excited about.
Let’s remember that there are a good number of players on the NHL roster that are under 25 years old, so the top half of this list is mostly populated with them. There was a shift in the rankings for some of these kids though, as we’ve learned what each one is capable of in the lineup.
Full disclosure: this is pure speculation, but did the Rangers prioritise J.T. Miller when dealing with their own Free Agents? The Rangers wrapped up the Miller situation on Wednesday, agreeing to a new two year bridge deal with a cap hit of 2.65m per year. It’s clearly a prove yourself deal, which goes against the recent league wide trend of committing long term to younger players and is a deal that has frustrated a lot of the Rangers fanbase.
I personally have no problem with a bridge deal. Its already good value for the team, if Miller breaks out in a big way it’s a bargain, and in two years time Miller may indeed get a bigger deal but he’ll also get tied up for a lot longer. Rick Nash, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Tanner Glass (at a minimum) are highly unlikely to be Rangers in two years time. That’s a lot of money coming off the books. Retaining Miller shouldn’t be a problem unless he becomes a 60 goal scorer and demands max terms. But I digress…
The Rangers have re-signed their first major RFA, coming to terms with J.T. Miller on a two-year bridge deal. The 23-year-old winger will get $2.5 million next season and $2.75 million in 2017-2018, for a total cap hit of $2.65 million over the life of the deal.
I’m not the biggest fan of bridge deals for someone like Miller, since it paints the Rangers into a corner when it comes to buying out UFA years, like it did with Carl Hagelin. However you can’t be upset with the “right now” value. Miller comes in as a bargain given his production.
Miller will look to improve upon his first full year in the NHL, where he put up 22-21-43 in 82 games. He bounced between the second and third lines last season, but it is likely he has found his spot in the top-six going forward.
They say it takes five years to really judge a draft class in hockey. Very few players come in and play in the NHL immediately following their draft year. Heck, it’s usually two or three years before a draft pick even turns pro. Factor in another year or two in the minors, and you have a four or five year waiting period before some rookies even get a chance to play regularly in The Show.
If a team gets one NHL regular in a draft, it’s considered a successful draft. If they can land a second player, it’s a big win. For the Rangers, 2011 was the final time they would draft in the top-fifteen through today. They took J.T. Miller with that first round pick, their one consistent NHL player. The rest of the draft features Steven Fogarty, who just turned pro, and four mid-to-late round picks.
In addition to Henrik Lundqvist being tapped for Team Sweden yesterday, four other Rangers made the preliminary rosters for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. As expected, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh made Team USA, and Mats Zuccarello was added to Team Europe. J.T. Miller was the surprise, being selected for the U24 (23 and under) team.
I was a little surprised that Rick Nash wasn’t pegged for Team Canada. He may still get added to the roster when they are finalized.
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.