Hartnett: K’Andre Miller Has What It Takes To Make Big Splash With Rangers

Former 1st-Round Pick Signed Entry-Level Deal Monday

Sean Hartnett
March 17, 2020 - 12:11 pm

Rangers fans have followed the progress of K’Andre Miller closely since the 6-foot-5 defenseman was selected 22nd overall in the 2018 NHL draft.

The 20-year-old left-hander has made impressive strides in recent seasons, appearing for the United States at world junior tournaments and flourishing under the watch of former Blueshirt Tony Granato at the University of Wisconsin.

On Monday, the Rangers announced the signing of Miller to a three-year entry level contract. According to the Rangers, the contract will begin at the start of the 2020-21 season.

The original plan was for Miller to immediately be assigned to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack for minor-league development. AHL games have been suspended until at least May amid the coronavirus outbreak.

K'Andre Miller of United States skates against Slovakia during the IIHF World Junior Championships at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Dec. 26, 2018, in Victoria, British Columbia.
Kevin Light/Getty Images

Miller appeared in 36 games for the Badgers this season, recording seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points. After being converted from a forward to a defenseman at Minnetonka High School, Miller transitioned to the blue line with ease. When he reached the collegiate level, he led NCAA freshman defensemen with 0.65 assists per game and 0.85 points per game during the 2018-19 season. A successful freshman campaign saw him named to the Big Ten All-Rookie Team, and he was a finalist for Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

When Miller finally gets the opportunity to play professionally, it won’t be surprising if he adapts quickly to the demands of playing in the AHL. His impressive package of skills should translate well to the step up in competition. Miller possesses a long reach and knows how to use his powerful frame and stick effectively in the defensive zone. His smooth skating and ability to transition quickly to the offensive zone hints at offensive potential that can be unearthed.

Once Miller receives appropriate seasoning in Hartford, there’s belief that he has what it takes to become a core member of the Rangers’ blue line. I don’t think it’s unrealistic given his size, reach and skating ability to compare him to a young Marc Staal. Prior to a serious eye injury and several concussions, Staal was beginning to showcase his offensive potential in his early-to-mid 20s. Though Staal has been a dependable fixture for the majority of his 13 seasons with the Blueshirts, injuries robbed him of becoming an elite two-way defenseman.

As for Miller, he’s just getting started on his journey. The Rangers have spent recent seasons successfully elevating and developing young, talented defensemen. Adam Fox, Tony DeAngelo, Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek are all 24 years old or younger. Nils Lundkvist, Yegor Rykov and others are on their way.

Miller has what it takes to make a big splash at the NHL level and combine with Fox to form an enticing top-pairing. That won’t happen immediately, but that kind of future is giving the Garden Faithful high hopes.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey.