When a team has as many as five players going in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, players may have a hard time standing out.
That’s not the case for J.T. Miller.
Miller, a forward with the NTDP, has stood out for all the right reasons this season on a team loaded with talent, particularly at the forward position. While Miller finished his USHL season with a modest 15 points in 21 games, it was what he did without the puck that set Miller apart from the likes of his linemates Rocco Grimaldi and Reid Boucher who were put together at the beginning of the USHL season.
When watching Miller this season, it is apparent that he is one of the strongest players in the USA’s Development Program. Miller shows his strength through one-on-one battles and his work in front of the net. Mix in his ability to score and find the open teammate and Miller can spell havoc on any night.
The East Palestine, OH. native was able to wreak havoc on the international stage this April as he broke out for four goals and nine assists in the U18 World Championships in Germany. Though it was what Miller did in the gold medal game against Sweden that really impressed scouts. With his team down two goals heading into the third, Miller set up two tallies to send game to overtime, where the US would eventually net the game winner.
While it seems like his natural progression would be to jump into the college game, reports
the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers will work hard on Miller this offseason in an attempt to get their fifth round pick in the 2009 Priority Selection to change his mind on his decision to attend the University of North Dakota. Despite this, Miller said he was pretty set on going the US college route.
“I don’t think so; right now I’m going to North Dakota and it would take a pretty big draft request if they think it will get me to the NHL that much faster, but I don’t think North Dakota will get me there that much later.” Miller said of his chances of donning the navy blue and green.
Assuming Miller does not have a change of heart, he will find himself in a similar situation as the beginning of this season when he joins a North Dakota team that, despite losing Hobey Baker finalist Matt Frattin among others, has a very impressive team up front.
Miller talked to Future Considerations about standing out next year in North Dakota, his busy summer, and his U18 experience in Germany that brought home gold.
Just by looking at North Dakota’s roster, almost all of their players are slated to return. On top of that, they have a pretty impressive recruiting class with fellow USA NTDP teammate Rocco Grimaldi as well as defenseman Jordan Schmaltz. First, what made you want to commit to North Dakota and second, do you feel any pressure or nerves being an 18-year-old freshman on the team heading into next year?
North Dakota has a great reputation for putting guys in the NHL which is what I really want to do. There’s not a whole lot of pressure or nerves heading into next year. Some players would have the nerves about that, but that’s just not me. I’m just going to go up there and try to play my game and be as successful as possible and make sure the team’s successful as well.
In Future Considerations’ Draft Guide, we stated that you had were “physically already NHL ready and is strong as an Ox and dominant against guys your own age.” On top of that you had a really impressive combine. Is it safe to say you’re a bit of a gym rat or is strength something that has come fairly naturally?
I think I’ve been more hockey strong than anything; I’m a decently strong kid, yeah, but I know how to use my body well on the ice.
Was there anything that you really took you by surprise at the combine?
Yeah, people were telling me how miserable the Windgate test was heading into the combine and since it’s only thirty seconds really didn’t believe them. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my entire life. …Yeah, I threw up afterwards.
You had a great U18 tournament and seemed to really carry the US offensively. Did something kick for you or was it maybe a familiarity of linemates or both?
Yeah, I think I really played my game and everything just came together production wise over there. It was great that I could [have such a big tournament] for the team. I played with Grimaldi and Reid Boucher. We played together quite a bit during the regular season and I think our coaches were trying to do that purposely for the World Championships. We had a lot of good chemistry as a line and lots of production so it really worked out.
You had the combine earlier this month in Toronto, the draft next week in St. Paul, and received an invitation to the USA Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. in August. Has there been any time for you to enjoy being home and spend time with friends that you haven’t seen all year or even celebrate your high school graduation?
It’s been really nice being home so far and I wish I had more time to be honest, but all of this stuff has been fun so far and it’s going to be great experience when all said and done. Next summer I have a feeling I’ll have a lot more off time, but right now it’s all business for me and it’s great to be home for a little bit.
Andrew Weiss is a draft correspondent at Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!