K’Andre Miller made the team out of training camp during his rookie season, and showed flashes of the player he ultimately became during his second season. He ended his first season as a member of the NHL’s All-Rookie team, and while there was an appreciation of his limited sample of work, many wondered what could happen in a full 82-game season.
Miller averaged 20:36 per game of the New York Rangers’ second pair along with Jacob Trouba, and together they were the NHL’s top defense pairing by minutes spent together. He skated in all 82 regular season games and posted a line of 7-13-20, and followed that up with a line of 2-5-7 in 20 playoff games while skating 24:47 a night.
Miller was much better analytically this season than he was the year before, and was worth 6.4 goals above replacement, an improvement from the -1.4 he was worth the season prior. Defensively he was much stronger, as he finished with a rating of 2.9, whereas he was below replacement level in 2020-21 when he finished with a rating of -3.6. Some of these improvements can be attributed to being more comfortable at the NHL level, and him being a more confident and aggressive on both sides on the puck. Here are some examples of that.
K'Andre Miller catches up to Seth Jarvis, knocks him off the puck to take away a scoring chance. pic.twitter.com/uXq9yKW8kx— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 19, 2022
When it comes to his player card, Miller certainly made quite the leap, and was quietly one of the league’s better defenders
For context, here’s his card from the year prior.
This turnaround in a year’s time is quite impressive, and with that said, it is possible he might have another level to get to.
Miller finished 7th among roster regulars with a Goals For Percentage of 55.9 at 5v5, 1st in Corsi For Percentage (50.56), and 6th in Expected Goals For Percentage (49.22). If you just include defenders, Miller was 2nd in GF%, 1st in CF%, and 3rd in xGF%.
The playoffs were a continuation of this, and Miller was very noticeable. The below charts are a few examples of where he excelled in each round, and if you aren’t already doing so, give Corey Sznajder a follow on Twitter.
Got all the Round 1 data tracked/uploaded and man, K'Andre Miller thrived in an area where most of the Rangers struggled against Pittsburgh. pic.twitter.com/VFgrKy1RPk— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) May 19, 2022
This is the sub-category where the Hurricanes players get some shine. Also where K'Andre Miller has shown well. He's been great in this series but Game Score doesn't always capture it because offense/chance creation is more heavily weighted. pic.twitter.com/wQragm7W5Y— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) May 28, 2022
I will miss watching K'Andre Miller stoically clean up someone else's mess. pic.twitter.com/E9y1MiPL6J— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) June 13, 2022
Grade: A- | Banter Consensus: B+
Miller had a sensational sophomore season, and he is quite possibly has another level to go to as an NHL player. Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lighting was very impressed with his play, and said as much in the handshake line during the Eastern Conference Final.
There’s a good chance he’s the Rangers top left-handed defenseman of the future, and this this season, the Rangers may want to give Miller more run, and see how he handles it. Miller is an RFA after this season, and another strong year would put him in position to earn a nice extension.
This happens to sync up with when current top-pair LHD Ryan Lindgren is in the final year of his current deal, and it could create a decision point for Chris Drury. Bridging Miller could be even more costly in the long run, but ultimately that will depend on how this season turns out. The Rangers are in a great spot with a talent young player, and one who can continue to turn heads for them for the next decade.
Stats via Evolving-Hockey unless otherwise noted.