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Rangers, first-round pick Miller a perfect marriage

Tuesday, 07.05.2011 / 2:30 PM / Prospects

By Emily Kaplan - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Rangers, first-round pick Miller a perfect marriage
From his all-out, hard-working persona on the ice to his up-front honesty off it, the Rangers saw a lot to like in J.T. Miller and that's why they drafted him higher than most expected him to go.
Gordie Clark knows all too well that at the NHL Scouting Combine, agents tell their prospects how to act, what to say and how to say it in order to impress NHL personnel.

J.T. Miller isn't like most players.

At this year's Combine, the New York Rangers were interested in the 18-year-old center from Pittsburgh. So Clark, New York's Director of Player Personnel, had Ranger legends Mark Messier and Adam Graves interview Miller.

"In the interview, he told them, 'The Penguins were my team growing up,'" Clark said, recalling it with a laugh. "It's so interesting that he would just say it right off the bat. It's not him being smart. He gave as honest an answer you were going to get. It's just the type of guy J.T. is."

That straight-forward, no-nonsense attitude is one of the reasons the Rangers chose Miller with the No. 15 pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The other reason? He's the total package.

Clark compares Miller to current Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky or new Kings center Mike Richards. He's tough and intelligent. Though he may lack size -- Miller is just 6-foot-1 -- he has goal-scoring and playmaking ability. Clark said in one game he scouted, he saw Miller tie the game with a tip-in, then score the game-winner with a wrist-shot from the top of the circle.

Miller is also defensive-minded, finishes his checks, and isn't afraid to get in a scrap once in a while. 

Clark said that Miller is "dead after every shift" -- whether it's 45 seconds or a minute and 30 seconds. That's because the forward from the U.S. National Development program plays every shift exactly the same way, with full intensity.

"Certain guys were faster, certain guys would score more goals," Clark said. "But in terms of overall game, he got all the check marks in every category."

For Miller, hearing his name called with the 15th pick was surprising. Actually, shocking might be the better word.

"Really, I was shocked. I don't know how to describe it," Miller told NHL.com. "It was a little earlier than I expected, so that was outstanding.  Just to hear it get called out early -- and get called at all -- was a really great feeling, really great for my family."

But don't assume Miller will play with a chip on his shoulder -- at least right away. After participating in the Rangers prospect development camp last week, Miller said he knows he has critics out there who think he was picked too high. For many, Miller was a surprise selection for the Rangers as he was only the 23rd-ranked skater among North American players in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's final rankings.

"I'm a competitive kid, that's my best attribute," Miller said. "I'm just going to continue working hard and take it step by step."

As for his Pittsburgh alliance? Well, that doesn't seem to be a problem anymore. Miller said he's received tons of Facebook posts from friends back home saying the same exact thing: Congrats on getting drafted. Guess I'm going to be a Rangers fan now.

"Right now, New York is my favorite team," Miller said with a grin. "I hope I get to play as soon as I can, and it's going to be awesome."
Quote of the Day

I came into a team that had 65 points, that was at the bottom of the basement, a team that everybody wrote off as never going to be good. My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top.

— Forward Brandon Dubinsky on signing a six-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets