When Kevan Miller was called up to the Boston Bruins in November 2013, he was thought to be just another free-agent college hockey product seeking to get a shot in the NHL. Like Torey Krug, who shares the same professional hockey story as Miller, the University of Vermont product paid his dues in Providence before getting the call to the big club. But, when duty called, Miller was a physical force who cemented himself as a solid defenseman worthy of regular playing time in 2014-2015.
With the nagging injuries to Adam McQuaid, and the season-ending injury of Dennis Seidenberg that kept him out the second half of the season and all of the playoffs – even though he says he could have played – Miller made the most of his opportunity with the Bruins. His ability to play a physical game endeared him to the Boston fan base. In particular, after a hit on the Montreal Canadiens‘ Dale Weiss, tough guy Travis Moen stepped in and challenged Miller. Moen was promptly pummeled, and even suffered a head injury as a result.
In a solid 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame, the Los Angeles native is by no means an imposing figure on the Bruins’ blueline. But, in that hard-nosed frame, a tough hockey player, who stuck through multiple seasons with Providence before finally signing a one-way contract with Boston this season, emerged who deserves to be in the top-six next season.
But, with a full defense slated to come back headed into training camp, who might be the odd man out? As of now, it looks like it may be one of two people. The aforementioned McQuaid played in only 30 regular season games with Boston this season, and a combined 62 in the past two seasons. McQuaid, like Miller, is unafraid to drop the gloves with any willing combatant and lay a big hit on an unsuspecting forward. But, unlike McQuaid, Miller played consistently this season and suited up for the Bruins in the playoffs while McQuaid was unable to go.
The other possibility of a seventh or eighth defenseman is the often maligned Matt Bartkowski. It is by no means a knock against Bartkowski, who has proven to be another offensive threat for the Bruins on the back end, but “Bart” lacks the elusiveness and playmaking ability of Krug while still being limited in his defensive responsibilities. Bartkowski has scored in the NHL playoffs, but never in the regular season. That simply cannot happen for a top-six defenseman on a team looking to get back into the Stanley Cup Final.
Miller is under contract and ready for his first training camp with the big club without having to worry about being sent down to the AHL. This allows the Bruins the possibility to shop the two defensemen mentioned for another forward, while also still maintaining organizational depth on defense. David Warsofsky remains waiting in the wings in Providence, and could become the next Bruin to make an impact come playoff time in 2015.