Actions speak louder than words. So when J.T. Miller told reporters Monday after the team's informal workout at the MSG Training Center that he is "more mature" and better prepared to land a full-time role with the Rangers in 2014-15, that certainly was a statement. But what is more impressive than what Miller said is the fact that he arrived in New York all the way back in mid-August to work out with teammates at the team's practice facility, a stark contrast to a year ago when he arrived the day before training camp was due to begin.
"Yeah, absolutely," Miller responded when asked if viewed his early arrival as a must this summer. "This is the right spot to be. It is the best way to train and prepare for training camp."
FORWARD - NYR
Goals: 3 | Assists: 3 | Pts: 6
Shots: 46 | +/-: -6
The 21-year-old bounced between the Rangers and the team's AHL affiliate in Hartford throughout the 2013-14 season, never fully capable of landing a full-time spot on the NHL roster despite his success in the minor leagues. Miller scored 15 goals and totaled 43 points in just 41 games with the Wolf Pack a year ago, but netted just three goals to go along with three assists in 30 games with the Blueshirts. He also notched two assists in four playoff games before injuring his shoulder during the Eastern Conference Final.
Along with shuttling back and forth between Hartford and New York, the Rangers' 2011 first-round pick was the recipient of tough love from within the organization for his approach and how he carried himself. Clearly the team was sending Miller a message, and by how he responded this off-season it seems safe to say the message was heard loud and clear by J.T.
Miller termed his approach as "unprofessional" and states that he has matured from a year ago.
"I'm coming into camp in better shape than I was in last year and I'm more ready to play and take on the pro aspect of the game," Miller said. "I am more mature than last year. In camp I just have to play my game. It's all about playing hockey."
As for which position he may end playing in the NHL, Miller said that while center is his preference, he believes he is capable — and prepared — to play on the wing if asked to by the coaching staff.
"I used to always say (center) wasn't my preference before I turned pro, but the last couple of years I think it started to fit me better," Miller explained. "Last year I made strides, but there's still a lot I have to learn, especially in the D zone. I will work at both of therm and try to be available for whatever options are made available to me."
Jesper Fast was a little sheepish when told that he, Steven Stamkos, and John Tavares all wear the No. 91 now in the National Hockey League.
"Please don't compare me to those guys," laughed the 22-year-old Swede.
"The Rangers called me this summer and offered a bunch of different numbers because Lee Stempniak took (number) 12 (which Fast wore last season)," Fast explained on Monday. "They were all high numbers, 40's and higher, so I chose No. 91 because I was born in 1991 and it's the only one that had any connection to me."
Fast's first season of playing pro in North America last year saw him make the Rangers out of training camp and then finish the campaign in New York, as well. In between was a stretch in Hartford with the team's minor league affiliate, along with an injury that sidelined him for a while.
In all Fast was scoreless in 11 NHL games, though he did pick up an assist while appearing in three playoff games with the Rangers. In Hartford Fast scored 17 goals and totaled 34 points in 48 games.
"I learned a lot last year and am excited for training camp to start," Fast said. "There's going to be a lot of competition for spots, and I can't wait for it to begin."