After climbing the ranks through a four-year college career at Vermont, signing with the Black and Gold as a free agent and biding his time working hard in Providence for two seasons, he first got his shot in 2013-14 when Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg faced injury trouble.
He earned a new two-year deal and played 47 games with Boston that season. After seeing his first NHL postseason action in 2014, the hard-nosed defenseman was primed for a full 82-game season at the NHL level.
But as so often happens, circumstances didn't pan out as Miller - and the team - would have liked.
Less than two weeks into the season, Miller dislocated his right shoulder at the end of a fight (Oct. 18 in Buffalo) and was sidelined for a month.
That frustration at the start spread to the ending for Miller, too, when he re-injured his shoulder towards the end of February and had to undergo season-ending surgery.
“I mean, as unfortunate as it was that it happened, it happened at a good time rather than at the end of the season,” Miller said of the surgery. He was speaking with reporters after his first informal practice back with the team at Ristuccia Arena on Friday, having returned to Boston from his offseason home in Valencia, Calif.
“I got about six months — a little bit more than six months — of recovery now, so I think it’s ahead of schedule, if you want to say that.”
Miller wound up with just 41 games in 2014-15, recording two goals and five assists of seven points and a plus-20 rating, which still served as tops on the team. He would have provided a steady, physical presence for a Bruins' team that lacked their identity for much of the season.
Miller admitted to having to be more cognizant of his shoulder when he initially returned from his early-season injury. With the surgery and six months of rehab, he feels ready to go at full speed for training camp.
“I feel really good, really good. Shoulder feels good, body feels good,” said Miller. “Just really happy to be back.”
“About a month ago. I really started to really make some strides, so had plenty of time now and I’m real excited to test it against some good competition here.”
In 2015-16, the hard-nosed defenseman will enter his second year of a two-year deal (with an annual cap hit of $800,000). He’s focused on bouncing back from his injury-marred season.
His strength has always been an attribute, and he’s confident that won’t be impacted.
“How I trained this summer was to get it back to where it seemed before or better,” he said. “I feel pretty confident in it and like I said, we’ll kind of wait and see. I’m just excited to get things going.”
Miller tested his shoulder a bit back home and will do his best to test it out during practices, and let his teammates know they can go full throttle with contact.
While fighting isn’t as prevalent in the NHL, he’s still not afraid to drop the gloves if need be.
“I haven’t really put too much thought to it. You know that’s not like…that’s not my bread and butter — it happens when it happens,” he said. “I anticipate some of the same that it’s gonna happen when it happens and I expect to do a little grappling with the guys before I get into something, but we’ll kind of let that play out, see where it goes.”
He is much more focused on his play, and gearing up for the competition on defense that will play out during camp.
“It’s only gonna make us better; it’s only gonna make the team better — the more competition, the better,” said Miller, noticeably excited at the thought. “I think that last summer and the summer before that it really only makes a team better going into the season.”
“I put in a really good summer, a really good off-season, and I’m just excited to get things going.”