When the 2013 American Hockey League All Stars convened in Providence, RI yesterday for the start of the two-day mid-season festivities saluting the best in the league, the youngest player among the group was one of the Rangers top prospects, 19 year-old JT Miller. But don't expect JT to be intimidated, or too impressed, by that fact. As with most things that have taken place during his first pro campaign, he is very appreciative, while also taking it all in stride.
"For sure it's been a special year, being a first-year pro and learning from a great group of guys here (with the Connecticut Whale)," Miller said in a phone conversation from Providence. "And making the All Star Game, being surrounded by a great group of players---to be amongst them, it's a really great honor. I feel very priviledged."
Miller, who has seven goals, 10 assists and 17 points in 35 games with the Whale this year, was a late addition to the Eastern Conference roster for the AHL All Star Game. In fact he did not find out until this past week that he was being chosen to play.
"It caught me off guard," confessed the Rangers top pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. "But it's a great honor to be a part of this whole weekend."
Sunday night featured the Skills Competition in Providence. Miller took part in two events---the Breakaway Relay and the Pass and Score competition. Ironically he was teamed with former Whale players Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Tim Erixon in the Pass and Score event.
The actual AHL All Star Game will take place this evening at the home of the Providence Bruins.
Of course the All Star selection is just another recent highlight in JT MIller's young career. Earlier this month he helped lead the United States to a gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia, an achievement he still calls "surreal".
"I guess it was kind of surreal, it's like I blacked out those first minutes when the buzzer sounded (and the US team had defeated Sweden in the gold medal game)," explained Miller, who tied for the team lead in points with nine, and led Team USA with seven assists. "When I assisted on the empty-net goal, it kind of sunk in. That game went by so fast for me. But to get that gold medal around our necks, it meant so much to me. We were the best team in the world."
A gold medal. An All Star Game selection. Respect from his teammates and opponents for how he approaches his job and plays the game.
Could the Rangers have asked for much more from 19 year-old JT Miller's first year as a professional?
"I'm not too worried about these other things, like the All Star Game," said Miller. "I just want to stick to my game and keep learning. It's really great, but I have plenty of work to do."
Share your thoughts below on what JT MIller had to say and about his many successes so far this season.