The Rangers have recalled forward J.T. Miller from the Hartford Wolf Pack. In six games with the Pack this year, Miller has a line of 5-1-6 with 6 PIMs and a +4 rating. Miller has spent most of his time with the Rangers this season, dressing for 15 games and a 1-1-2 line with a -4 rating and 8 PIMs.
With both Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot struggling, it is expected that Miller will be inserted into the lineup for one of them.
In a move that is probably a week late, the Rangers have sent J.T. Miller to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. Miller had been a healthy scratch since the 11/17 game against LA, a 1-0 loss. In his time with New York, Miller was placed on the fourth line, rarely given offensive minutes. The reason the Rangers kept him around was as an extra body in case of injury on the road trip.
With Miller’s demotion it is expected that Taylor Pyatt will be ready to return by Friday’s game in Boston. Pyatt has been out with a concussion, and Friday would be the earliest the club would need him.
As the season has progressed the biggest concern has been the play of some of the veterans, specifically Benoit Pouliot and Taylor Pyatt (when healthy), and why a player like J.T. Miller isn’t in the lineup instead. None of the three have been consistent enough to warrant a full time spot on the roster, and it can be argued that some have been bad enough to get Prucha’d full time.
Starting with the vets, Pyatt brings a physical game and some good board work to the lineup when healthy, but he has cement in his skates. Pouliot is a fluid skater and creative offensively, but does nothing without the puck and has taken bad offensive zone penalties. Miller is a bit of a mix, bringing good board work and good skating to the lineup, but he is lost without the puck and in the defensive zone. This seems like a “pick your poison” type of decision, but let’s look into the stats a bit.
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Like Chris Kreider did, J.T. Miller needs more time in Hartford
With apologies to Taylor Pyatt, the forward roster last night finally resembled the one Ranger fans were so excited about over the summer.
The lineup didn’t include J.T. Miller, but coach Alain Vigneault insisted yesterday that Miller would be back on the ice with the Blueshirts soon. But barring further injuries, the team’s top-six is clearly set, and Miller will likely be stuck with fourth-line minutes even when he does play.
In fact, Miller hasn’t played more than 9:14 in any of his last six games dating back to November 2, just after Carl Hagelin’s return. In the nine games before that, Miller had averaged 13:17, a pretty big number for a young player. But as Hagelin, Ryan Callahan, Dominic Moore and finally Rick Nash were reinserted into the lineup, Miller’s ice-time dipped lower and lower until he was finally sent to the press box. Read more »
Quietly having a strong season: Brian Boyle
A strong, prolonged period of results was slightly tarnished with the sloppy, unnecessary loss to the Devils earlier this week. Sloppy goals, defensive lapses and a lack of finish had many reminding us of the early season edition of the Rangers. With games against the Canadiens and Kings on the weekend it’s a big couple of days for the Rangers. On to the musings
Generally speaking, the Rangers have played well in recent games and this has highlighted the contributions from the youth on the roster such as Chris Kreider. With the Wolf Packing doing pretty well too, it makes the Rangers prospect ranking of 27th on Hockey’s Future (if you buy into that kind of thing) pretty farcical.
Danny Kristo, JT Miller, Jesper Fast, Kreider (still not classed as ‘graduated’), Dylan McIlrath, Oscar Lindberg and ‘Boo’ Nieves highlight a pretty talented pool if you ask me. There’s a ton of NHL upside in the Rangers system and the best part is none of it needs to be rushed. The only area of real concern (in my humble opinion) is in goal.
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Per Steve Zipay, J.T. Miller will be back in the lineup tonight against the Penguins. Brandon Mashinter will sit to make room for Miller in the lineup. Mashinter played very little in the loss to Anaheim.
Per Larry Brooks, captain Ryan Callahan appears to be returning tonight against Anaheim. Cally suffered a broken thumb a few weeks ago in Washington, and was scheduled to be out for 3-4 weeks. A return tonight would put him right on the three week return date.
To make room for Cally in the lineup J.T. Miller will be a healthy scratch. Coach Alain Vigneault noted that Miller had a tough game in Carolina, which is the reason for his removal from the lineup. Taylor Pyatt still remains in the lineup.
Kreider is earning his ice time.
With all the additional ice time, Chris Kreider is getting better with every game. But he isn’t scoring. JT Miller is beginning to impact games in a multitude of ways. But he isn’t scoring. Generally, the Rangers aren’t scoring. However, despite this team being in a depressing state offensively, the coaching staff needs to stick with the younger players.
While sending Jesper Fast back to the WolfPack was the right thing to do, Miller and Kreider are getting good minutes and they are now showing clear progression. The Rangers won’t derail their season by playing these two promising youngsters – now they are showing some NHL readiness – but they may damage their own long term potential beyond this season if they revert to leaning on the veterans with limited upside.
Despite some indifferent starts, the Rangers can still be excited at the long term potential of their top nine forwards. With Carl Hagelin’s return and with Kreider, Miller, Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan’s presence, the Rangers have an excellent young core to build around Rick Nash. It may not be the most overly skilled top nine but there is still a nice balance of skill, speed and work ethic. You live with the growing pains.
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Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Although they were likely in the lineup due to injuries to Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, and Carl Hagelin, the three kids who have been inserted into the lineup have shown that they belong. Both Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller –since their recent call ups– have played significantly better away from the puck, and while there is always room for improvement, they haven’t been liabilities on the ice. Jesper Fast has proven to be a reliable defensive player in limited time as well.
Looking at their #fancystats (via ExtraSkater), all three are above 50% in raw CF%, so they are driving puck possession while they are on the ice. Fast is actually third on the team in CF% at a whopping 58%. Considering his splits in zone starts (OZ – 21.1%, NZ – 43.9%, DZ – 35.1%), this is very impressive. He’s not getting the offensive opportunities that Kreider (OZ – 43.3%) or Miller (OZ – 39.1%) are getting, but he is light years ahead of that duo in maintaining puck possession.
Fast’s +6.5% CF% rel (same concept as CF%, just using Relative Corsi, read up on the Metrics We Use page if you need a refresher) is also third on the team, and shows that comparatively to the rest of his teammates, Fast is a puck possession machine. While that is not the case for Miller and Kreider (yet), they are showing improvements so far.
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(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
When the Rangers opened camp in September, the assumption was that Brad Richards would play either second or third line center and Chris Kreider would be playing first or second line left-wing. It’s amazing how quickly things change. Six games into the season, Richards has solidified himself as the top LW, while Kreider is working on his game in the AHL.
With Richards no longer playing center, the Rangers vaunted depth heading into the season is no more. Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard are still the top two guys down the middle, but Brian Boyle –who we believe is best suited as a 4C– is now lining up as the 3c, and Dominic Moore is lining up as the 4C. The best case scenario for the Rangers has Boyle and Moore on the same line, providing excellent defense while chipping in offensively here and there.
Naturally, this creates a hole at 3C. Boyle is a great asset to this club, but he is best served as a shutdown guy taking defensive zone draws.
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