Heading into the 2015-16 season there were a lot of question marks surrounding J.T. Miller and where he fit in the Rangers short and long term plans. Now after his career year, the only questions surrounding the young forward are what comes next?
Statline: 22 goals (+12), 21 assists (+8), 43 points (+20) in 82 games played (+24) 49.5% CF at even strength
(change from 2014-15 in parentheses. All numbers at even strength and courtesy of War-On-Ice)
The Story: After spending his first few professional seasons either shuttled between the AHL and the NHL or healthy scratched and getting nominal ice time, J.T. Miller looked to cement his spot in the Rangers lineup during the 2015-16 season. The 22 year old forward put together his best season to date, the obvious notes are the career totals in goals, assists and points, but Miller also had a relatively solid season in terms of possession. The Rangers were an awful possession team last season and while the raw 49% possession and -18 shot differential may not seem like something to boast about, Miller's 3.0% relative possession (a career best and continued an upward trend) showed that when he was on the ice, the puck was heading in the right direction.
Miller was rewarded for his good play by riding a bit of a shooting percentage (he shot 14.8% at evens this year, up from his 9.6% the year before) bump through January and February leading to his career point totals. Some players ride unsustainable shooting percentage rides without the underlying numbers to back up their play, while others get the luck that comes from putting in the time and energy to create that luck. Miller definitely put in the work this year to get that lucky ride.
I often refer to J.T. Miller as a Jack of All Trades player. He doesn't have that one standout, elite skill, but rather he has a set of very good skills that make up a very solid all around hockey player that the coaching staff can move around the lineup and still find success. The Youngstown, Ohio native is one of the three big restricted free agents that the Rangers need to re-sign this year and his play this season made a very strong case for him to stick around long term.
Final Grade: B+
This year was nothing but positives for young mr. Miller and a strong process led to some big reward for J.T. in the form a career year in boxcar numbers as well as earning a roster spot on the U25 North American Resistance Team for the World Cup of Hockey in September. Miller will need to work on rounding out his game, as any 22 year old player will have to do, but in a year with very few bright spots, J.T. Miller made sure he was one of those spots and looks to improve upon it in 2016-17.