The four centers the New York Rangers used for most of the 2013-14 season were Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore. With Richards gone due to a buyout and Boyle and Moore entering free agency, New York should avoid giving out another huge contract for a center when they can build from within with J.T. Miller.
Miller and Chris Kreider have had similar starts to their NHL careers. Last year, former head coach John Tortorella would constantly call up Kreider from the Hartford Wolf Pack, only to send him down days after using him in a game. Now with Alain Vigneault taking responsibility of the coaching duties, Miller was assigned and re-assigned a lot this season. Kreider enjoyed a breakout season this year with 37 points, and proved his worth. Whether Miller follows Kreider’s path remains to be seen, but the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft seems to be on his way.
What makes Miller NHL-ready right now is his versatility. While he’s most likely to play center this season, Miller played most of his 30 games with the Blueshirts in 2013-14 as a winger. He might only be 6-foot-1, but he plays similar to a power forward and can perform well with the puck.
One of his downfalls is his physique. For a man who’s versatile at multiple positions including power forward, you need to bulk up. Keep in mind Miller just turned 21, so he’s got time to work out more. He also needs to work on his playmaking abilities. Miller’s already good with the puck, but he could learn a thing or two from Mats Zuccarello about quarterbacking a rush.
Miller should start next season on the fourth line. Instead of giving another ridiculous contract to an end-of-his-prime center (Brad Richards, Chris Drury and Eric Lindros are some Glen Sather “gems”) like Paul Stastny or trade for an over-the-hill Joe Thornton, the Rangers need to re-sign Boyle and Moore. Some of their best players were built through the farm. Plus, it’s cheaper and you get to save some cap room. If Kreider’s career is a hint, then J.T. Miller will make some noise next season.