Is J.T. Miller here to stay this time?

Anthony Duclair is playing in the WJC because of J.T. Miller

Stop me if this sounds familiar: a heralded first-round pick impressed immediately in his first professional season, but struggled as a sophomore and spent much of that season in the American Hockey League. In his third year, the prospect looked like a lock for a full-time job out of training camp, but was sent back to Hartford after just a few games. But about a month later, the player was back in New York and the light bulb had finally clicked on – he was a major contributor from then on.

Indeed, Chris Kreider amazed us with five playoff goals in his first NHL action out of college, then spent much of 2012-2013 with the Wolf Pack. He spent six more games in Hartford at the start of last season before reaching Broadway for good.

J.T. Miller’s path has been very similar. The 2011 first-round pick began his pro career at a much younger age than Kreider, but he, too, impressed in 26 games with the Blueshirts in 2012-2013, then left fans a bit disappointed last year by failing to break out and split the season between the Rangers and Wolf Pack. Miller looked like the best forward at training camp in September, but was quickly demoted to Hartford after just three games in October. Miller returned to the Rangers on November 29th, and he’s posted three points in four games since then while playing primarily with Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast before a stint in the top-six alongside Derek Stepan and Marty St. Louis on Monday.

Is Miller a Ranger for good now? It’s very difficult to say, especially with Tanner Glass again healthy and Alain Vigneault still refusing to take him out of the lineup. But Miller has been at least good enough to make it an easy decision for New York to send Anthony Duclair to play in the World Junior Championships for Team Canada from December 26th to January 5th.

That suggests that Miller will get a long look, and even with Glass back, there may finally be an opening. Lee Stempniak has slowed down after a tremendous start and Vigneault seems willing to send him to the press box in favor of a young body. If Miller continues to produce, it might make sense to slot him alongside Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes on the third line.

Just like Kreider, Miller has displayed physical gifts beyond his years early in his career, but his defensive deficiencies and general inconsistency have kept him from becoming a regular. Miller has been consistently dominant in Hartford and is clearly much too good for the minors, but those problems have held many talented players back. However, over the last few games, Miller has been all over the puck and playing with more bite.

Frustration with Miller has been high just as it was over Kreider, but Vigneault’s pointed comments about Miller’s commitment last year probably hurt perception more than anything else. Then again, John Tortorella once said similar things about Kreider.

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  • Look, Kevin I think this year it’s finally time to find out if Miller is an NHL player. Personally, I thought he should have played more last season, but it’s hard to argue with AV’s decisions based on the final result of the season.

    OK so put Miller on a line with Hags and Hayes and let him play. If he doesn’t forecheck, show him the film and teach him how to do it. Unless your name is Wayne Gretzky, everyone in the NHL has to forecheck at least a little. The kid has great offensive skills and instincts from what I’ve seen, and correct me if I’m wrong but it seems to me that this team struggles to score goals.

    I’m starting a movement right now. LET MILLER PLAY!!! LET MILLER PLAY!!! LET MILLER PLAY!! Who’s with me?

    Regards- orange

    • AV was touting Glass the other day saying he’s exactly what they expected, he finshes his checks, and with some more familiarity with the team will score more. Didn’t sound like a coach ready to bench him anytime soon.

    • Again, I don’t understand this fixation on blaming all our ills on Glass. Hes not Wayne Gretzky, big surprise! The coach likes him, end of story. The fourth line is not the problem with this team. A lack of consistency, very mediocre goaltending, and a total Stanley Cup Finals malaise, IMO, is what is ailing this team. Picking on Glass, just because you didn’t approve of the signing in the first place, serves no purpose.

      • As I’ve stated about 800 times, Glass in the lineup is one of, not the only, issue right now. The reason why it is a big focal point is because it is an issue that is not only easily fixed, but there are better and cheaper options within the organization ready to play.

        • Again, the coach likes him! And they already committed the money to him, no matter how many cheaper options there are in the organization. For better or worse he will be in the lineup. Learn to live with him. He shouldn’t be the focal point every time someone has to come out of the lineup. Stepniak, Zuccarello, Kreider J. Moore, Staal are not exactly setting the world on fire, but they rarely get mentioned for benchings. As I said, Glass is here, get over it and move on already!

          • Maybe, but you always seem to come back to Glass. Has he been so much worse then everybody else? You don’t like him, we get it! He’s not going anywhere. Was he worth the contract, of course not! But the coach wanted him, the GM got him; end of story!

          • Yes, he has been so much worse than everyone else actually. We’ve covered that.

            And it’s not just me, although I’m the most vocal. Even Kevin isn’t a fan of him, and Kevin is easily the most level headed of us all.

  • Sometimes AV can be very frustrating. If the Rangers are ever going to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup then they need to break in some young players and Miller is one of those. I’m not enamoured with Glass or Stempniak truthfully because I see them as desparation signings after losing some players. The Duke will get his chance but it doesn’t have to be this year. Playing the young guns now may cost us a shot at the Cup this year granted, but for the next several years we will be a force with the speed these young recruits bring IMO.

  • Why is his demotion at the beginning of the season looked at in such a negative light? He was practically handed the 3c position during training camp. Then after a couple of regular season games he was clearly beat out of the position by another rookie in Hayes. This is called competition and Hayes was better at playing center. Duclair was impressing on the wing so this left no room for Miller.

    So a couple months go by, Dave poisoned Glass’s drink with the mumps, and Duclair gets sent to the WJC. So he’s back with the club as a winger. He’s being given every opportunity to succeed (2nd line pp time) so let’s see what he does with it.

  • I have no problem with how the Rangers handled either Kreider or Miller. They both earned their trips to Hartford. Kreider earned his time with the Rangers. Hopefully Miller will do the same. AV sees Miller every practice. He doesn’t need to wait until games to see what Miller can and cannot do to help the Rangers. Like it or not, Glass plays a role in AV’s system that AV wants played and Miller can’t play it. So Miller better show he can earn a spot over a Fast, Stempniak, etc. And he will have earned that trip to Hartford, yet again.

  • I for one am glad that Miller is getting a real shot, and proving he belongs here. When he first came on the scene JT thought he was owed a position, and almost got it. He was sent down, brought back, and looked good until he got hurt late in the season last year. He still had an issue that the team talked to him about, and he came in this season ready to go, only to be sent down again. Bottom line, JT had to learn the game as the team wanted him to play, and also learned to eat some humble pie. He will be a good one for us long term.

    As for Glass, many don’t care for him, but he is about the only one who completes his checks. As a team we are soft, and maybe that is the reason he was put in the line up game in, and game out. If that is the case, we should have bought back Car Bomb, and saved some money in the process!!

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