The J.T. Miller acquisition is looking like a good one for the Canucks.
The 26-year-old forward has made a strong early impact in Vancouver, recording six goals and 16 points in the team's first 15 games of the season.
The Canucks acquired the American forward from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for goaltender Marek Mazanec, a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 conditional first-round pick.
Miller is part of a dynamic line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser that has combined for 19 goals and 51 points this season. This trio has been dominating opponents and are a big reason why the Canucks currently have the fourth-highest goal total in the NHL (51).
While all three players have scored at least two power-play goals this season, this trio is heavily outchancing their opponents at 5v5. According to advanced stats websites, Miller, Pettersson and Boeser had a 64 CF% through 14 games together. They are one of the best possession lines in the NHL and are generating significantly more shots towards the net than they are allowing.
The Canucks knew they were getting a proven goal-scorer when they traded for Miller. The Ohio native had surpassed the 20-goal mark in three of four seasons split between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning before the trade to Vancouver.
What makes Miller such a valuable asset to the Canucks is the multitude of ways he can find the back of the net. At 6'1" and 218 lbs, Miller possesses a strong shot and is also very difficult for opposing defenders to handle in front of the net. His six goals this season have been a combination of that lethal shot and his willingness to go to the net.
Miller already has multiple two-goal games this season, including one against the Red Wings where he showcased his lethal release to beat goaltender Jonathan Bernier. The ability to get a shot off quickly and accurately is a huge asset when playing with a talented player like Pettersson.
Video: DET@VAN: Miller snipes his second power-play goal
Millers willingness to drive to the net has also lead to plenty of high-quality scoring opportunities. He's been using his large frame to screen goaltenders and has demonstrated some great hand-eye to score on deflections. He's going to continue getting those opportunities given the chemistry Pettersson and Boeser have and the elusiveness of rookie Quinn Hughes on the blueline.
A great example of Miller being rewarded for going to the net was his second goal against the Panthers on October 28th. Pettersson led a Canucks breakout into the Florida zone and Miller went directly to the front of the net. Pettersson used his skill to slow down the play and feed Alex Edler at the point. Miller was already in perfect position to re-direct the point shot past goaltender Sam Montembeault.
Video: FLA@VAN: Miller nets deflection for second goal
The goal-scoring has been impressive, but Miller is also a strong playmaker. He racked up 34 assists with the Lightning last season and often set up top goal-scorer Steven Stamkos. It's no surprise he's thriving alongside two great finishers in Boeser and Pettersson. It also helps that the 18:40 average ice time he's receiving from coach Travis Green is four more minutes than he was averaging last season.
An example of Miller's effective playmaking ability was a simple yet important play he made against the Sharks on Saturday. After having his initial shot in the slot stopped by goaltender Aaron Dell, Miller quickly found the rebound and shoved it over to a wide-open Pettersson for a goal. That type of urgency and hockey awareness is going to lead to plenty more assists on the Pettersson line.
Video: VAN@SJS: Pettersson nets second goal on power play
While Boeser and Pettersson are two rising stars, Miller's early-season success simply isn't a byproduct of playing with the dynamic duo. Miller's 64.86 CF% is second-best among all NHL players. He's been a dominant possession player throughout his career and has continued that success in Vancouver. He either has control of the puck or wins the battles to get that control.
Miller has been a great fit on a Canucks team that has exceeded expectations in the early going of the NHL season. The Canucks own a 9-3-3 record and are trailing the Pacific Division leading Edmonton Oilers by just a single point.
With how well Miller has fit on the top line, the Canucks have been able to get scoring from all over their lineup. Vancouver already has seven players who have scored at least four goals this season. As long as Miller continues to play to his strengths on the top line, the Canucks should be able to build chemistry on their other lines and present a well-balanced scoring attack to opposing defenses.
It's only been 15 games, but the J.T. Miller acquisition is already paying big dividends for the Canucks.