Last night in the game against the New Jersey Devils, 19 year old J.T Miller made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers. Miller was called up on Monday after the trade that sent forward Michael Rupp to the Minnesota Wild for forwards Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri. Miller, the Rangers 2011 1st round draft pick was playing with the teams AHL affiliate down in Hartford where he tallied 20 points in 37 games played. Before joining the Whale of the AHL J.T Miller played for Team USA in the World Juniors Classic, where he helped the USA by providing 9 points in 7 games in route to USA’s march for the Gold medal.
Miller was put into the lineup Tuesday afternoon during practice and was set to play on a line with Darroll Powe and Chris Kreider. Miller’s first NHL shift came on a Rangers power play where he skated in for a shot, fanned on it and went crashing down into the boards.
What a welcome to the NHL for the 19 year old kid, huh?
From there on our Miller went on to play a total of 14 minutes and 25 seconds in the game. Miller also had two shots on goal – and if Brodeur had not stopped a Marc Staal shot on the power play, Miller would have recorded his first career NHL point, an assist. Miller also totaled four minutes and 35 seconds on the power play.
It did not take long for Miller to be recognized by coach Tortorella, after seeing how strong Miller was on the puck and how aggressive he was on the ice, and in the corners, he was promoted to the top six along with Rangers rookie Chris Kreider to skate with Brad Richards.
It was no secret that Tortorella was impressed by the rookie and what he brings to the table. Tortorella had a few comments after the game about his two rookie skaters:
“They are probably going to take some peoples jobs. I’ll tell you, with our hockey club right now, we have some guys that are really playing hard and we got some guys who are playing scared and tentative. I’m very happy with Kreider. I thought Miller was hard on the puck, did some nice things. We have some guys who are playing careful and we don’t play careful hockey.”
After the game the Rangers beat writers caught up with Miller and spoke to him about how he felt after his first career game:
“I was a little jumpy after I went head first into the boards at full speed, other than that I was all right,” Miller said. “I kind of feed off some of the things I do by having the puck on my stick and making plays. I was just trying to play my role, finishing checks, being the first to pucks. Just trying to do little things that add up to a good game, I guess.”
Now the question remains, what to do with Miller? Once Miller plays six games in the NHL at his young age, one year is burned off of his entry level contract. Otherwise, if Miller plays only five games in the NHL this year, he will have to be sent back down to the Connecticut Whale to avoid burning the first year of the contract.
It was obvious that even at 19 that he was one of the best Ranger forwards on the ice last night. Totaling close to 15 minutes of ice time, it certainly looks like Tortorella trusts him out there, even giving him considerable time on the power play as mentioned above.
Judging from his play last night, Miller belongs on the Rangers roster long-term. Expect Miller to be paired with Kreider so long as they maintain good line chemistry.
The Rangers are undergoing a youth movement alongside their veteran stars, and Miller is just a small taste of what is to come. Rangers fans are hoping that Miller’s spot on the roster lasts deep into the season this year.