Wednesday, November 16, 2011

J.T. Miller Proving Rangers Right For Selecting Him At 15

When the New York Rangers selected J.T. Miller 15th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, many, including myself, were unsure of the quality of that selection.  Players with bigger name recognition and reportedly higher upside were still on the board when the Rangers took Miller.  Thus far Miller is doing everything he can to quell the doubters and reward the Rangers for their faith in his abilities.  Miller got better and better as training camp wore on and that has continued since reporting to the Plymouth Whalers (OHL).

In 21 games for Whalers Miller has 11 goals and 14 assists while playing to a plus-four rating.   Miller has more multi-point games (6) then scoreless efforts thus far (5).  That is the kind of impact and consistency that you want to see from a prospect at the Junior level.  Lots of players can have a huge night occasionally, but don’t back those performances up with production game in and game out.

Jess Rubenstein at The Prospect Park has some early thoughts on Miller through his first 21 games in Juniors…
And what can we say we have learned about Miller after 21 games? He is much stronger physically than he looks as we have watched him go up against players his size and bigger (he is 6'1 200 according to NYR).

Miller has an extremely fast shot release that if he is set up ready to shoot is almost impossible to stop if he is on target. Miller keeps his game simple, no trick shots, no trying for the highlight reel stuff as he has his fundamentals down pat.

Miller is also very much a team player which we like because he adapts to those he is playing with not waiting on them adapting to him. Miller is also a much harder worker than anyone has given him credit for.
The combination of toughness, hard work and playing a simple game makes J.T. Miller a perfect fit for the system that John Tortorella wants the Rangers to play.  The fact that is the fit for the system is one of the understated aspects of the Rangers rebuilding process because the Rangers will take the player with less hype and name recognition to get the type of player they want.  Miller brings consistency, and flexibility to a lineup and combining that with his skills could make him a threat to be on Broadway in short order.

Voros Called Rangers For PTO Opportunity With Whale

Yesterday it was reported that Aaron Voros would be signing a Professional Try-Out (PTO) with the Connecticut Whale (AHL).  That officially happened this morning.  Paul Doyle of the Hartford Courant is reporting that it was Voros who called Rangers GM Glen Sather to ask for the chance and not the Rangers reaching out to the 30-year-old forward.  Classy move by Sather and the Rangers organization to oblige Voros request and give him the opportunity to continue his career.

Rumor: Toronto Turned Down 2nd Round Pick For Cody Franson

According to TSN's Darren Dreger an unnamed team offered the Toronto Maple Leafs a second-round draft pick in a deal for defenseman Cody Franson only to be turned down by GM Brian Burke.  The fact that Burke reportedly turned down a second-round pick for a player that has seen the ice four times this year is lunacy.

If the Rangers were the ones that made the offer, given Pierre Lebrun's reporting that the Rangers and Leafs had discussions two weeks ago, then Rangers' fans should send Burke gifts.  Dreger does not stipulate when the offer was made so there is no way to tell if it was the Rangers, though with the signing of Anton Stralman recently it would presume the Rangers are certainly out now.  It is likely that Burke would rather move higher salaried defenders and see if Franson can get out Ron Wilson's doghouse, but turning down a second-rounder seems like a very foolish move right now.

Richards Providing Rangers With Clutch Plays That Bring Teams To Next Level

Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images
The New York Rangers have spent the past few seasons cultivating a group of young players as the core of their team to build a sustainable contending team in the NHL.  Players like Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal went through their early development and are now key pieces to the puzzle.  Others like Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Artem Anisimov, Michael Sauer and Michael Del Zotto are still young in their development, but having their roles advanced daily.  What they were missing was another difference maker to go with Henrik Lundqvist and a hopefully rebounding Marian Gaborik.  That is where Brad Richards came in.

The Rangers signed the star center to a nine-year, $60 million deal this summer in hopes that he was that piece to push the team away from fighting for a final playoff birth down the stretch to contending for Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference and even Stanley Cup titles.  Not all has gone to plan for Richards personally on the ice, but the team is doing exactly that with their seven game winning streak pushing them to an impressive 10-3-3, only two points out of the top spot in the league.

The most recent win was one where Richards showed his worth on the ice as he was a dominant player with the puck on his stick all night and used a slap shot from the left circle to cash in a Brandon Dubinsky pass with 4:55 left to win the game.  That is the type of goal that makes the difference not just in one point or two on that particular night, but the confidence in the locker room that the team will find a way to win that game. 

It was the kind of clutch play that the Rangers have been missing to take that next step.  Too often the Rangers have battled and scrapped their way through a game, generating chances only to come up one goal short. 

Speaking after the game last night Henrik Lundqvist told reporters that his late goal is exactly why you sign Richards to the contract the Rangers did.

"A guy like that has the tendency to step up at the right time. It's not a coincidence," Lundqvist said. "I think his focus is good when it comes down to the final minutes and you need that extra play. That's great to see."

It wasn’t the first clutch goal Richards has scored on the season either.  While it wasn’t in the final five minutes Richards late second period goal against Montreal was critical to the Rangers winning that game.  Against Anaheim Richards scored a huge late goal to salvage a point against Anaheim in the second game of the season.  

That is the type of difference the Rangers were looking for when they made the deal this summer to bring Richards to New York.  He is paying those dividends repeatedly with important goals. Only time will tell if Richards addition and the Rangers hot start makes the difference down the stretch in what they are fighting for, but three clutch goals from a player in their first 16 games with the team is certainly not a bad way to start off a nine-year contract on Broadway.