J.T. Miller, the Rangers precocious 19 year-old rookie, played two seasons under current Sabres head coach Ron Rolston for the United States Developmental Team; and following Tuesday's morning skate at the First Niagara Center where the Sabres host the Rangers tonight Miller and Rolston were full of praise when speaking about one another.
Miller specifically spoke of Rolston's guidance in teaching the teenager how to act and prepare himself as a professional both on and off the ice. The Rangers top pick in the 2011 draft admitted that he needed to be reigned in and shown how to become a pro when he was playing in the U.S. program, and Rolston was the person who had the biggest influence on Miller at that time.
"I didn' t really know the ins and outs of hockey and he just taught me how to play everywhere and in every situation," explained Miller. "But it's a lot more than that. He taught me how to be a pro on and off the ice. I had some issues there on and off the ice, and I think without him it would have been tough to get through that. There wasn't a specific area he didn't touch on."
Through 16 games, Miller has two goals and four points in his rookie campaign. He has earned high praise from John Tortorella, especially for his all-around play and commitment to constantly better his game. That Miller is succeeding at the NHL level despite being just 19 years of age, is no surprise to Rolston.
"He has really grown a lot in all areas," Rolston said of Miller. "He's an exceptional talent, and the sky's the limit for him. He's extremely competitive. In terms of the total package, he is a home run."
Rolston, who is the older brother of Brian Rolston, had been coaching the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League when the call came to replace Lindy Ruff in Buffalo for the remainder of this season on February 20th. Miller was not shocked that the NHL call came for Rolston.
"First off he's a really good coach and I always thought it was just a matter of time that he'd be where he is now," Miller said of the 46 year-old Rolston.
"He's a guy I really had a good relationship with," continued Miller. "He disciplined me when I needed to be disciplined, and I don't think I'd be here if not for that. We butted heads a few times, but that's just hockey. We had a really good relationship."