The New York Rangers feature a lot of high-priced stars who are under the microscope.
The team does, however, have players who fly a bit under the radar, but are nonetheless dangerous and need to be accounted for when they are on the ice.
Which Rangers are under the radar? And when will they break out and be exposed to everyone?
Read on to find out.
J.T. Miller may only be 20, but he's getting lavish praise from John Tortorella and coaches around the league.
Tortorella had this to say about the Rangers rookie [via NY Daily News]
Quite honestly, the way Miller has played—and he keeps growing, and I’m not sure, I keep on waiting for something to go wrong there because he’s a young kid, well not so much "wrong" but I’m watching him very closely because I don’t want to screw up his development. He keeps growing as a player. It’s almost where I’m looking for someone that can play with him, that can create offense with him, because he has created offense for us.
That's high praise from Tortorella, who is notorious for being critical of his own players.
“I know there’s been a lot of great people along that path that have helped (Miller) in that way,” Rolston continued, “Just the professionalism of things and how he conducts himself off the ice with his teammates, on the ice. But he’s an exceptional talent. The sky’s the limit for him in what he can do and his ability. He skates, he’s extremely competitive. He can finish. He can make plays. He’ll sacrifice for his teammates. So I think in terms of a total package, that’s a home run, for me.”
Miller's maturity for a 20 year old is off the charts, and it's part of the reason he's been so successful. Many players make the jump from the minors at a young age and the process is too much to handle for them. Their play suffers and they find their way back in the minors. This is what happened with Chris Kreider.
But Miller keeps plugging along. He's not fazed by pressure situations, even scoring a shootout game-winning goal against Carolina. That play itself was indicative of his maturity.
Miller lost the handle on the puck, but was able to compose himself, gather the puck and then adjust to the goalie's positioning by going out wide and shooting a perfect shot. That's not easy to do and Miller handled it with aplomb. It speaks well for his future.
Miller projects as a 20-plus goal scorer with a knack for setting up his teammates. If anything, his ceiling is a No. 1 center, but most likely, he'll be a great second-line center.
Miller has great size and speed, and uses those skills to get to pucks. He can use his body to shield himself from defenders and has a dangerous wrist shot.
He only has two goals and two assists. The offense is not quite there yet. That's to be expected. He's still adjusting to the NHL game.
That said, he creates a lot of chances. They aren't going in yet, but that doesn't mean he isn't around the net.
In fact, Miller spends a lot of the time around the net. He's an active player, by which I mean that when he's in the offensive zone, good things happen.
The puck will go into the net for Miller eventually. He'll get stronger and his shot will improve. He'll become more assertive as he gets more comfortable in the league.
Keep in mind, he's only played in 23 games. But it's there. You can see flashes of his offensive potential. He has a rifle of a shot, he's a deft passer and a strong skater. That combination is a recipe for success.
It's hard to think that Miller is dangerous when the puck isn't going in the back of the net. But that's not what hockey is all about. It's about puck possession and creating chances. That's what Miller has shown a real talent for. The goals will come with time.
In the meantime, Miller is a player that needs to be accounted for by opposing defenses. He creates chances and brings a unique energy to the team. That's invaluable.
Miller is a young player who will struggle in the defensive zone. As John Tortorella said [via SNY], "He is still a dummy sometimes."
He is 20, and not used to playing against opponents with the size and speed he faces in the NHL. In junior hockey and the AHL, Miller could get away with defensive lapses and indifference.
That won't cut it in the NHL, as Miller is surely learning. Despite the miscues, Miller still shows a lot of defensive potential.
He's a big body, so he can handle opponents on the boards, and get the puck out safely.
Miller has great speed, so he can turn and skate with anybody. He has the size and skating ability to be an effective forechecker.
The rookie really needs to learn when and how to gamble. Gambling to steal a puck or to take the body is great, but it cannot be done at random. It needs to be done at the right moment. This is something Miller will learn.
Miller does show the ability to poke pucks out and spring people loose for breakaways. He shows promise as a penalty killer and will prove to be a shorthanded threat.
Yes, he's a work in progress, which makes sense given his age. But he's shown a lot of potential to be a disruptor on defense, someone who can play in all situations, and turn defense into offense rapidly.