Who Is J.T. Miller?

When the Rangers selected JT Miller during the first round of the NHL draft many, probably the vast majority of Rangers fans were caught off guard. Many expected (many hoped) Mark McNeil’s name to be called as the much fancied center was still on the board. However Gordie Clark and the Rangers went back to a well they have visited a lot recently.

The Rangers went with another college bound and US NTDP prospect in JT Miller. Chris Peters, editor of the fantastic United States of Hockey blog (and former US hockey PR guy) took time out of his busy schedule to give his unique insight (thanks to his extensive US hockey experience) into the Rangers latests first round hope. A big thanks to Chris for offering his opinion, we’ll let him tell you the rest.

 

Greetings, Blue Seat Blogs readers. I’m Chris Peters, editor of The United States of Hockey, and I’m here to tell you more about the young man your beloved Rangers drafted with the 15th overall pick on Friday night.

First off, I’ve seen J.T. Miller play a ton over the last two years as the former PR coordinator at the National Team Development Program and as the play-by-play broadcaster at the 2011 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and have always been a fan of his game.

I know there was some concern out of Blueshirt nation regarding passing over Mark McNeill and the like, so allow me to put your mind at ease some.

As far as I’m concerned, the Rangers didn’t really make a reach, though the pick is not without risk. J.T. Miller is a physically gifted hockey player who plays an exciting brand of hockey. He skates well, hits a bunch and has enough offensive skill to put the puck in the net or set up a teammate.

The biggest concern with Miller is a valid one, and that’s his consistency. I’ve written on more than one occasion that his consistency is probably indicative of his inability to decide what kind of player he is supposed to be. There were too many times in the last two years that Miller has gotten away from what makes him successful, and that’s focusing on his strengths as opposed to forcing a certain style of play on himself.

When he focuses on the offensive side of his game as he did at the World Under-18 Championship, he’s easily a Top-15-caliber player. Usually in those games, he’s also solid in his own end, because he’s playing a more controlled style at that point. When he decides to run around hitting everything that moves, he’s prone to penalties and bad decisions with the puck. That’s not the style of game he needs to be playing. He can’t lose the physicality, but should be more selective in how he uses his size and strength.

The challenge is reining him in, but the good news is he’s going to an excellent school for pro-hockey development. The University of North Dakota is probably one of the best schools you could hope for your prospect to go to due to their track record of developing players. I don’t know, but perhaps you’ve heard of Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise. Additionally, he should have some time to mature off the ice and bring that level of maturity to his game.

Miller looks like he could be a top six guy, but perhaps more realistically will be a third liner with scoring punch. He can play a two-way game well enough and brings energy to every shift. He’s tough to play against and at times overpowers his competition. I really believe Miller is more versatile than he’s shown so far and has more to unlock yet.

The reason I like the pick for the Rangers is because it has home-run potential. It’s not a sure-fire hit, but the way that Miller has progressed over the years leads me to believe he’s still got a ways to go before we see what he becomes at the next level. That’s what should have Rangers fans excited. We haven’t seen J.T. Miller hit his peak and may not for a few more years. He’s good now, but he can and likely will get better, much better.

Miller will require some patience as he has a lot to learn yet, but our very last viewing of him was at the World Under-18 Championship, in which he looked like a future star.

If he builds off of that momentum and continues on this track at North Dakota, it won’t be too terribly long before he’s playing under the bright lights of New York City.

So there you have it. An insight into the Rangers latest first rounder. It appears that Miller’s issues are things many prospects experience – consistency, ability to focus on his own strengths and perhaps decision making (like choosing when to make a hit etc). Given his apparent upside though, and the facts that he brings a combination of skills that the Rangers could do with, Miller sounds like a good solid pick that could add to the Rangers young core in the future.

Once again, thanks to Chris for taking time to contributing to the blog and providing some great insight into someone that hopefully becomes a big part of the Rangers future. Be sure to follow Chris on twitter at @chrismpeters