J.T. Miller will have opportunity with Canucks to surpass career-high 22 goals
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New Canucks forward J.T. Miller expected to bring experience, strength, presence to top-six roleJ.T. Miller played for John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault in New York and in front of those leather-lunged fanatics in Madison Square Garden.So, whether from behind the bench or the stands, the newest member of the Vancouver Canucks got an earful when the versatile forward wasn’t meeting expectations. It didn’t happen often because consistency of effort has become his NHL calling card.Miller doesn’t expect to succumb to the scrutiny that comes with playing in a Canadian market, even though he’s pencilled in as a linemate for Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser and as a down-low power play presence.So, whether in New York or Tampa, where the talent-rich Lightning won the President’s Trophy this past season with 128 points but were swept in first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the 26-year-old Miller has seen it all. Yelling from the coach? Scrutiny from the media or fans? Bring it on.“For sure,” Miller said Monday. “Those coaches were demanding and I’m looking forward to this opportunity in an awesome city like Vancouver and the first time out of the country is going to be exciting.”
J.T. Miller #10 of the Tampa Bay Lightning warms up during Opening Night against the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on October 6, 2018 in Tampa, Florida.
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Especially flanking Pettersson and Boeser and figuring into the power play that has potential to rocket from 22nd (17.2 per cent) to at least top half of the league. Miller saw first-unit time in Tampa with an alignment that finished first overall at 28.2 per cent efficiency. So, should we expect at least 25 goals?“I never want to be satisfied with where I’m at and I thought last year was one of my most consistent with playing a complete game,” added Miller, who averaged 14:40 of playing time. “As far a ceiling, I have a good enough shot to get more than the low 20s in goals, but I don’t want to put a number on it.”What he can put into perspective is a game that should suit Pettersson and Boeser, and get the Canucks away from rotating wingers for the dynamic duo.“I can bring physicality and a forecheck presence and obviously I’m trying to get the puck in their hands,” stressed Miller. “They’re super talented and guys I definitely watch and am in awe of what they can do at such a young age. I’ve learned a lot with awesome leadership groups and want to be the guy that young guys can look up to.“If I get that opportunity, it’s getting pucks back to them with my size and get to the net and create as much room as possible. I’ve had experience in playing on lines one through four with the Rangers and Tampa and one of the strong suits of my game is that I can play with anybody. And with Tampa on the power play, I moved down to the goal and net-front spot and jelled with the first unit right away. “The last couple of years I’ve really been comfortable on the goal-line and learned a lot of things.”Miller, who was acquired Saturday from the cash-strapped Lightning, had a pair of 22-goal seasons with the Rangers on a line with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. They selected the 6-foot-1, 218 pound East Palestine, Ohio native 11th overall in the 2011 draft and moved him to Tampa in a multiplayer swap in February of 2018. He’s coming off a 47-point season in which he moved up and down a deep lineup and was often a third-line, right-wing staple with Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn. Although he had just 13 goals in 75 games, he set a career-high for power play points (20), while his assists (34) matched a career high and his points (47) were the second-highest of his career.However, with 93-point restricted free-agent centre Brayden Point expected to pocket a rich extension, there wasn’t room for Miller’s contract that has four more seasons at a US$5.25 million annual cap hit. For the Bolts, it was about dollars and sense because they finished the season just US$1.7 million under the cap ceiling. For Miller, it was about incentive.“I knew there was a (trade) possibility and I had to look at it pretty realistically,” said Miller. “I wasn’t surprised but when you sign long term, you get the assumption that you’re going to be there a long time. But when a deal came along that made sense for both teams, I knew I could be the guy.”The move brings with it a lot of changes, on and off the ice.Miller will have to move away from the No. 10 jersey he wore in both New York and Tampa — he admired Ron Francis and John LeClair while growing up — as the Canucks’ have Pavel Bure’s No. 10 raised in the rafters of Rogers Arena.And of course there are those gruelling six-game road trips — as opposed to those one-hour flights in the Eastern Conference.When he is home Miller will have his hands full on the home front.Miller and his wife, Natalie, are parents of two girls in Scottlyn, 14 months, and Scarlett, six weeks.“It’s been a pretty wild ride the last couple of years,” he understated. “But there’s a lot of positivity and a lot of support to make this move as easy as possible. And if you have a group that buys in, you’re going to have chance to make the playoffs.”email@example.com/@benkuzma