NEWARK, N.J. -- The minute rookie J.T. Miller was selected by the New York Rangers in the 2011 NHL Draft, center Derek Stepan took a vested interest.
The common thread, of course, is that both Stepan and Miller have celebrated gold medal-winning triumphs at the World Junior Championship.
"I knew he would be a guy who would have a chance to win a gold medal for the United States at the World Junior Championship," Stepan told NHL.com. "It was pretty cool to watch and definitely something you reflect back on if you had an opportunity to participate in one."
Miller led the U.S. National Junior Team with seven assists and finished tied for the team-lead with nine points as the Americans won gold at the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia, last month. Stepan was captain of the American team that garnered the same color medal at the 2010 WJC in Saskatchewan, leading the United States with four goals and 10 assists in seven games.
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What many might not realize is that Miller decided to make a very special tribute in the memory of his great-grandfather after winning that gold medal.
"I actually put the medal in the coffin with my great grandfather," Miller said. "Not many can say they had a special relationship with a great grandparent, but that was something very special to me."
Following the death of his 94-year-old great grandfather, Miller placed the medal in the casket and never retrieved it. His great grandfather, Ed Miller, passed away two weeks ago. It will certainly go down as an amazing display of love and affection for a man who meant the world to Miller.
There's no doubt Miller's great granddad would have been very proud of J.T. on Tuesday. The youngster made his NHL debut for the Blueshirts against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Despite a 3-1 loss, Miller logged 14:25 of ice time, generated two shots, delivered one hit and finished with a plus-1 rating.
"J.T. and [Chris] Kreider will probably take some people's jobs," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I thought Miller was hard on the puck, and did some really good things. I'm not waiting to make [lineup] decisions because we have some guys who are tentative and careful, and we don't play careful hockey."
The 19-year-old Miller also set a screen on Devils goalie Martin Brodeur on a good shot from the right boards by Carl Hagelin with 57.3 seconds left in second period, but the veteran goalie made the stop.
Miller, who notched eight goals and 20 points in 37 games with the Connecticut Whale in the American Hockey League this season, was recalled by the Rangers on Monday.
Following Tuesday's effort, he may have found a new home with the big club. Miller felt linemates Kreider and newly-acquired Darroll Powe showcased plenty of energy and established good chemistry. He said the entire game was a fantastic experience.
Center - NYR
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 2 | +/-: 1
"It was pretty special, just sitting there on the bench and to be there with [all those players] … it was awesome," Miller said. "I just tried to watch them and learn as much as I could. Those guys have been around for a while, so I just wanted to stick within the system and do my part."
Miller said he felt more comfortable following a few shifts.
"It was nice to get some touches on the power play and try and build my confidence with the puck a little bit and try to show some patience throughout the game," Miller said.