When the New York Rangers selected K’Andre Miller with the 22nd pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, they were aware that they were taking on a raw prospect who was widely viewed as a project. He had only been playing as a defenseman for the two years prior to his draft year, after being converted from forward.
It is safe to assume that no one expected Miller to arrive on the scene in the NHL as quickly as he did, or succeed to the level he has. Right off the bat, the 20-year-old was thrown into the fire and has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in is first 112 career games.
While he has had stretches of inconsistent play in his young career, Miller may be finding his footing. He has had the opportunity to repeatedly gain experience against top competition by playing big minutes with his defense partner Jacob Trouba. Over the past ten weeks, he has established himself in the top four with consistently strong performances.
Coming up in the big moment
In a home game versus the Kraken back on January 30, the Rangers allowed an equalizer late in the game and appeared demoralized on the late Sunday afternoon. However, off a face-off draw in the offensive zone, Miller scored from the point to take the lead. This was the most accomplishing goal so far in his career.
This huge goal may have spark plugged his recent play. Only two games later, Miller scored the game winner in a shootout win versus the Bruins. In the next game he scored a beautiful wrap around goal against Detroit.
Since this stretch of games, you can see confidence radiating off of him. He is skating with more confidence, creating dangerous plays when there appears to be nothing, and has used his body more.
Since his huge massive goal on January 30, Miller has been arguably the Rangers best defenseman, along with Trouba. In this time span, he has recorded and expected goals percentage (xGF%) of 51.9. Prior to January 30, his xGF% was just 45.1 percent. His improved play his displayed through our eye test watching the games, and within the underlying numbers.
More recently, in the last two games he has looked outstanding. In the demoralizing loss in St. Louis, he was one of the only Rangers that showed up. He drove to the net aggressively on the power play and recorded his first career power play goal.
On Saturday in Dallas, he lost an edge and turned the puck over, leading to a goal the other way. However, he came right back and assisted a goal by Greg McKegg. He also posted another assist to come away with a two point night. This is the kind of resilience fans like to see.
Only scratching the surface
Friendly reminder: K’Andre Miller just turned 22 years old. As stated before, he is still quite new to the defenseman position. There is a chance that we haven’t seen anywhere near the best of Miller just yet.
It isn’t often that at 20 years of age a defenseman can step in and perform at a top-four level immediately. It is extremely promising that he has also progressed quite rapidly. As he gets more comfortable, and gets used to utilizing his size to his favor more frequently, he could be a dominant force. It isn’t far fetched to believe he could one day be elite.
After next season, Miller will be due for a contract extension when his ELC expires. It is tough to say what that will look like, since we don’t know how he will perform next year. Depending on that he may be bridged, or Drury may hope to lock him up long term.
When this comes around the Rangers will be in a sticky situation considering the salary cap. On day in the near future, the may have to choose between keeping K’Andre Miller or Ryan Lindgren. If Miller continues his progression, it may very well be him sticking around.
At this point, the Rangers should be reluctant to include Miller in any trade talks. In the event that they are acquiring a bona fide elite player, he could be the asking price. However, the Rangers should see the development of Miller all the way through and keep him in New York.