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Blueline Acquisition Colin Miller Ready to Impress B's

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins — When Colin Miller got the news on Friday that he had been traded to Boston as a part of the deal that sent Milan Lucic to the Kings, he was surprised, to say the least.

“I had just talked with [a] development coach there in Los Angeles, actually, earlier on in the day,” Miller told with a laugh. “He was just talking about the future, and then the [trade] call came in there at about 3 o’clock.

“I was pretty surprised.”

Surprised, yes — but excited, too.

“I was just hanging out at home during the draft,” he said. “I wasn’t paying too much attention to it because not much had gone on there yet on Friday, and then actually the person who drafted me [to L.A.] — Mike Futa — gave me a call and just kind of explained that the trade had happened, and that I was going to the Bruins.

“So it was a bit shocking, but obviously very exciting. I’m really excited about this opportunity.”

Miller comes to Boston as part of the package that also included a 2015 first-round draft pick and goaltender Martin Jones, who was flipped to San Jose on Tuesday in exchange for a 2016 first-round draft pick and prospect Sean Kuraly.

“I think Colin is ready to push for a spot,” said Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney. “I put him in the same category as some of these other players like Joe [Morrow] and Zach [Trotman], who had a good taste [of the NHL].

“He did have a breakout year. His game was really loose, he had offensive instincts, he’s got a good shot from the offensive blueline. There’s some structure in Colin’s game now that goes along with those offensive instincts. [He] is willing to transition pucks, and he is a guy that we identified as a group that has sort of emerged — and hopefully will come in and challenge — because he’s got a lot of upside.”

During his first season with the Manchester Monarchs in 2013-14, Miller tallied 17 points in 65 games. One year later, he was one of the team’s key contributors, tallying 19 goals and 33 assists for 52 points in 70 games.

Miller couldn’t point to anything in particular to explain the statistical surge. He said he was simply put in a good position to succeed with the Monarchs, and it paid off.

“That was great, for them to give me that chance, and I had great players around me all year,” he said. “I think that team in Manchester has a lot of players that are hopefully right there and close to making the jump [to the NHL], so they made it easy for me to kind of get in there and do my thing.”

It was clear that this year’s Monarchs were stocked with talent. Anyone who had the chance to see them take on the Providence Bruins this season could see that, and they proved it further when they triumphed over the Utica Comets to win the Calder Cup earlier this month.

“It was a great year,” Miller said. “We had a great group of guys there in Manchester, and it just kind of all came together there in the playoffs. We had a lot of really tough series against the teams there in our conference, and then moving all the way to the other conference.

“We weren’t really too sure what to expect playing Utica because we don’t see them too much throughout the year — we don’t see them at all, actually — so it was kind of going in blind, but they were a great team. They were very skilled; I thought they were very similarly matched to our team in Manchester, and it went in our favor.

“We had a good run there, so it was a lot of fun, and it’s kind of nice now looking back that that was the way it was able to kind of end there for me in Manchester, and with the Kings.”

Miller hasn’t yet gotten the chance to show what he can do at the NHL level, but the fact that Sweeney puts him in the same category as P-Bruins standouts like Trotman and Morrow — players who combined for a total of 42 NHL games lats season — should provide some confidence that he is close.

So should the fact that he was able to contribute 10 points in 19 AHL playoffs games en route to a championship this spring.

“I think obviously it’s very important for players to kind of have that experience in the playoffs,” he said. “Everything is so much more heightened in the playoffs, and there’s a lot of great players that were in the playoffs, and all year. I think the American Hockey League is a very competitive league — obviously, I can’t really compare it to anything in the NHL — but it’s a very competitive league, and yeah, it’s been great for me so far.

“So hopefully, I’ll be able to kind of make the step, or gradually get there.”

Miller would not speculate on when he thinks he might make the jump to a full-time NHL role. He does, however, plan to come into training camp this fall ready to show the Bruins brass what he can do.

Then again, most scouts — and most of his top competition, too — are well aware of what he can do. All they needed to see was his performance during this year’s skills competition at the AHL All-Star Game.

Anyone who was unfamiliar with Miller’s skill set back then is plenty familiar with it now. His 105.5-mph shot shattered the AHL record. He clocked in as the competition’s fastest skater.

Miller deflected any praise stemming from those feats — “It was cool,” he said, laughing. “It was fun” — but modesty aside, he knows his skill set is special, and it certainly serves him well on the ice.

“I think obviously the game now is so quick everywhere — not just forwards now are the quick players,” he said. “There’s a lot of really great skating defensemen nowadays in the game, so I think it helps, obviously, with my game, and hopefully I can use it to my advantage in the future.”

When asked whether he might engage in a hardest shot competition with new teammate Zdeno Chara, he laughed.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see. I think he’s got a couple of miles per hour on me.”

Miller is well aware the Bruins could have some roster spots available on the blueline when training camp opens. He is well aware that Boston’s staff likes what it has seen him do with Manchester. He knows he can move the puck, jump up into the play, create offense without being a liability in his own end, use his shot to his advantage without forcing it, be physical without sacrificing speed. He has plenty in his arsenal, and by all means, he knows how to use it. All of it.

He also knows that the Bruins play a heavy, physical game that is very similar to the style the Kings organization preaches. That, he said, should make his transition smooth.

“Obviously, we played Providence in Manchester I don’t know how many times — a lot this year,” he said. “All the games that we had with them seemed to be a very similar two teams matching up — quick forwards and solid defensemen and good goaltending. So I think, yeah, there’s a lot of similarities between the organizations, and there’s a lot of things that hopefully will kind of transfer over for me.”

When camp begins, Miller is not expecting anything. He is, however, prepared to show exactly what he can do.

“I think it’s a great opportunity that I’m being given here,” he said. “I think the Bruins obviously like my play and like my style, so hopefully that’s something that appeals to them.

“I don’t think you can go in expecting too much because there’s a lot of great players in their organization, and a lot of great players that are on the roster and around down there in Providence. So I think I’m just happy for the opportunity, and looking forward to getting things started.”

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