On any given fall Friday night in Ohio, you’ll find countless high school football teams battling each other on the field. During the winter, you’ll find basketball teams on the court, cheered on by parents, students and proud alumni.
J.T. Miller and I grew up in this environment. We don’t come from the same town – mine is a 20-minute drive from his hometown of East Palestine – but the emphasis on those sports is virtually ingrained in a person from birth. In fact, Miller was a quarterback in football as a young man, but hockey was his passion.
Miller lived within walking distance of East Palestine’s schools until his sophomore year of high school, when he moved near Pittsburgh to play in midget leagues. It was then that he was chosen for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Michigan, where he was a standout with 27 points in 50 games over two years. At the 2011 NHL Draft, he was the 15th overall pick, chosen by the New York Rangers.
After the draft, Miller joined the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers and logged 25 goals and 62 points in 61 games before being sent to the Connecticut Whale for their playoff run. After scoring a point in 8 playoff games, he was given his big chance with the Rangers and their own playoff run, although he didn’t officially suit up for any games. Miller also represented the United States at the 2012 World Junior Championships with 2 goals in 6 games.
Although he’s made it through the first round of cuts for the U.S. national junior team and will no doubt be at Rangers training camp, fans might not see him in a Rangers jersey this season. With the roster so forward-heavy, the only way he’d skate in an NHL game is for a bottom-six forward to be injured.
Still, it’s wonderful to see a young man like J.T. Miller realize his dream of playing in the big leagues. It’s even more wonderful when he’s a semi-hometown hero.
ETA: 2013-2014 season