Ever since the New York Rangers made J.T. Miller the 15th overall selection of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, he has been making strides. He started with a remarkable rookie campaign in the OHL, a season which saw him score over a point per game and doing all the little things that drew the Rangers to him in the first place.
His play was good enough to earn him a spot on the Connecticut Whale this year, and he hasn't disappointed there either.
Before we go any farther, I want to say something. You can't judge prospects from their numbers in the AHL. Remember that it's a development league. I've already seen some panic about Chris Krieder's 10-game pointless streak and the fact that Miller hasn't produced at the same level he did in the OHL. It's OK. They're there to work on other parts of their games, oftentimes playing in all types of different situations. If you're panicing over the numbers of Kreider and Miller right now I don't know what to tell you other than: relax.
So, back to Miller. He's already shown some serious leadership for the Whale, and as the year has gone on he has continued to showcase his all-around skills. He's scored a few big goals, laid out some big hits, takes care of the puck and has made some really heady plays.
What's next? A World Juniors appearance. Well, another World Juniors appearance.
I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that Miller should be one of the better players on the ice for the United States. But understand that I say that in terms of his overall game. If you think he's going to be the top scorer in the tournament, well, you're probably going to be mistaken. Miller's truest skill has always been his polished game. It's always been his ability to do a little bit of everything.
So while you're watching the World Juniors remember that Miller isn't supposed to be the top scorer of the team or the tournament. Remember that he's supposed to be a game-changer in many different ways other than putting the puck into the back of the net.
But you can expect him to do a little bit of that, too.