EDMONTON – Rink rat might be the best description for Andrew Miller.
Not to be confused with the Red Wings’ Drew Miller, the Edmonton Oilers’ forward – who was called up from AHL Bakersfield this week – grew up on the campus of Cranbrook-Kingswood High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he spent countless hours skating at Wallace Ice Arena.
Miller will play in his 10th career game in the NHL tonight when the Oilers host the Red Wings for the final time at Rexall Place.
“I lived like 300 yards from the rink and skated there all the time,” said Miller, whose dad is director of admissions at Cranbrook. “Even in school when I had a break in my class schedule I would head to the rink to skate.”
Not the biggest player, or the fastest, the 27-year-old Miller brings a never-say-die determination and solid all-around game to the Oilers.
It’s an attribute that he sharpened during his playing days at Cranbrook, helping the Cranes win back-to-back state championships in 2006-07.
“Andrew Miller is a tremendously skilled player, he works diligently to improve his game and is very focused,” Cranbrook coach Andy Weidenbach said. “He has been a proven leader at every level. Most importantly, he didn't listen to all the people that said he was too small or not strong enough to make it beyond high school, he just became more determined.”
Despite his lack of size – the Oilers’ list him at 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds – Miller has been a winner wherever he’s played.
He played an integral role in the Cranes’ 2007 Division 3 state championship. He assisted on both goals scored by Chris Chelios’s son Dean in a 2-1 victory over Grand Rapids Catholic Central. It was Cranbrook’s second straight title win over Grand Rapids CC.
In college, Miller, a political science major, captained Yale to the NCAA championship, where he was named the most outstanding player in the Frozen Four after the Bulldogs knocked off Quinnipiac in the 2013 final.
However, tonight brings a different challenge to Miller, who will go up against his hometown team for the first time in his NHL career.
“It’s a little bit of excitement, nerves, the whole process of getting called up and then having it happen to be against the Wings, so I’m excited,” Miller said. “A few of friends thought the game was actually in Detroit so they started buying tickets. I’m sure they and my parents will be able to watch it at home.”
Scoring a goal would be icing, obviously, for Miller, who has produced a goal and five assists in nine career games with Edmonton.
He also joked Wednesday morning that it would be nice if he scored a goal with other players on the ice. His one career goal came on a penalty shot last season against Dallas.
But keeping his nerves in check will be paramount for any success tonight.
“It will be hard,” Miller said. “That’s going to be my focused, just try to relax and get back to neutral. That’s when I play my best, when I’m comfortable. … That’s the plan.”