J.T. Miller, the Rangers first round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, had so many incredible things happen during his first season as a professional hockey player in 2012-13. Yet his focus is placed squarely on what lies ahead of him, not all that he accomplished last season.
"All of those things that happened were really awesome in the moment, but I just don't look in the past too often, I keep the past in the past," explained Miller in between sessions at the Rangers Summer Youth Hockey Camp on Monday. "I am looking forward. I still haven't made it yet, so I have decided to focus on the future. I still have a lot on my plate, and I have things to worry about that are more important than what I have already accomplished."
Miller turned pro at the age of 19 last fall instead of playing junior hockey with Plymouth. He appeared in the American Hockey League All Star Game, and totaled eight goals and 23 points in 42 games with the Connecticut Whale. Miller also took a two-week hiatus from the Whale and helped lead the United States to the gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships, scoring a pair of goals and finishing with nine points in seven games.
The precocious Miller was called up by the Rangers and made a solid NHL debut in New Jersey on February 5th. And then two nights later Miller scored the first two goals of his NHL career in a win over the Islanders in his Madison Square Garden debut.
Not too bad, kid.
"It was great to share those moments with some amazing people, but it was just as great to watch these world class players on the Rangers and how they prepare themselves, how they play the game," said Miller, who recorded four points in 26 games with the Rangers a year ago. "But again that's in the past. I just want to get bigger, stronger, and faster, and make sure I make the team out of training camp. I learned many lessons from last year, and don't want to be overconfident in any way."
One downer from Miller's rookie season was a wrist injury he suffered late in the regular season--one he first tried to play through before the team decided his play had dropped off considerably, and he finished the season in Hartford. Though he was candidate based on merit to take part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Rangers decided the wrist needed to heal and so Miller went home to rest while the Blueshirts took part in the post-season.
The injury left Miller both hungry and frustrated.
"I was finally getting comfortable (in the NHL) and getting used to the style of play, but it just got to the point I was making more mistakes than normal (because of the wrist)," Miller said. "It's something I tried to play through, and thought I could play through. I just wanted to make my stand here, and I didn't want to let anything get in the way of that. I don't really regret anything. I just tried to play, and it was an unfortunate, frustrating kind of injury."
Miller reports that his wrist feels better now, and that he is able to lift weights and do his normal off-season program. He does admit that the wrist is not 100 percent healed just yet, but he would able to play should the season be underway right now, too. And he is still able to play five rounds or so of golf each week this summer.
"I'm addicted (to golf), it's crazy," laughed Miller. "We've got some great courses in Ohio, and sometimes I cross over into (Western) Pennsylvania, too. You can't get me off the course during the summer! But trust me, I am still getting in all of my training, too!"
Miller says that with a new coaching staff in place, he has "no idea what to expect" when September's training camp rolls around. But he does know that he will be ready to battle for a roster spot once camp does begin.
And one can expect that is 2013-14 is filled with even more special moments, J.T. Miller will be quickly chalking them up and moving on. Always looking ahead.