Cheers from section 118 filled the Xcel Energy Center after Aaron Boogaard, on behalf of the New York Rangers, announced J.T. Miller’s name as their first round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Ironically, Miller was not a contributor to the noise as he stood in disbelief that the Rangers had selected him 15th overall.
“I was a little shocked,” Miller said. “I only had one meeting with them so I wasn’t really expecting it. There were other teams that showed a little more interest toward me so it was a little bit of a shock. But to get my name called was breathtaking and the best thing in the world.”
Miller, 30th in Future Considerations’ final draft rankings, had a strong World Under-18 tournament in Germany that propelled him up many draft boards. Miller had a huge tournament playing alongside 2011 draft picks Rocco Grimaldi (Florida, 33rd) and Reid Boucher (New Jersey, 99th). En route to the USA’s third straight gold medal, Miller had 13 points in six tournament games including two big third period assists in the gold medal game to draw the game even with Sweden.
Miller has committed to North Dakota for next season, but knows what he needs to work on and believes that he can contribute fairly soon to the New York Rangers club.
“I have to get a little stronger and faster to be able to play with some of the men out there,” Miller said. “I’m going to get stronger, [better] conditioned, and get in better shape so I can…compete at my best and be successful doing it.”
After being drafted, Miller gave the US Development Program as well as the hockey programs in Pittsburgh, the city in which Miller grew up, a lot of credit in his hockey development. Miller joined the US Development Program the same year that the team made the jump from the North American Hockey League, Junior A Tier II, to the United States Hockey League, Junior A Tier I.
“We got used to playing in the first season [in the USHL] and the second season came a little bit easier,” Miller said about program’s move to higher level hockey. “I think it’s great that the program went into the USHL. I think everybody will be stronger and more competitive coming out of the program now which is great.”
Pittsburgh is quickly becoming an American hockey hotbed and had four natives, Brandon Saad (Chicago, 43rd), Vincent Trocheck (Florida, 64th), John Gibson (Anaheim, 39th), and Miller, who all played in the same Pittsburgh Hornets hockey program drafted in this year’s draft. The same Hornets program has produced NHL products Ryan Malone and R.J. Umberger in the recent decade.
“The Hornets organization is great and it’s obvious with how many NHL players they have produced over the years,” Miller said. “Growing up in Pittsburgh is outstanding and I think more and more guys will come out of there like they did this year.”
Though as for Miller, he’s now focused on his dream of one day playing for the New York Rangers and the journey that goes through Grand Forks, ND. next season playing for the Sioux.
“I’d like to be a top guy that can be relied on to produce; I’ll be a guy that works hard just like they do,” Miller said. “I’m excited to play there and it will be a great experience for me.”
Just as excited as he was on draft day.
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!