K’Andre Miller is a player that has seen his stock rise as we approach the draft and is now someone that we could see selected in the first round.
At the age of 15, Miller switched from forward to defence and has quickly ascended as one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft class despite only a few years experience on the backend.
Originally regarded as a defensive defenceman to start the season, the Minnesota born defender excelled this season in a middle pairing role for the USNDTP showcasing a strong two way game with offensive upside, physicality, and good defensive play.
There is a lot of raw talent to his game and but it won’t be surprising to see Miller taken in the latter parts of the first round in Dallas.
Lets’ take a look at the defender.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.65/ January 21, 2000
- Birthplace: Minnetonka, MN, USA
- Frame:6-foot-4/ 205 lbs
- Position: Defence
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: USNTDP Juniors(USHL)
- U18 WJC Silver Medal
Miller was selected by the Saskatoon Blades with the 177th overall pick in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft but opted to remain in high school hockey in Minnesota before heading to the USNTDP. His rights were eventually traded to the Victoria Royals on January 2nd, 2017 but he has remained with the USA Hockey program.
He has committed to the University of Wisconsin and is expected to begin his collegiate career there this fall.
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Miller stands out in almost all the categories that you would like to see. He was in a middle pairing role for the program and thus his eTOI is lower. While his GFREL% doesn’t show well in terms of percentile but he still posted a 63.6% GF%. There is a high success rate among cohorts, good shot generation and expected value.
The theme for him will be ‘making the most’ of the time afforded to him and it checks out when looking at these graphs.
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
In terms of WOWY GF%, it’s all over the place but the high GF% to close out the year makes it less noteworthy that some of his linemates saw a drop in GF% when with Miller. His 5v5 eP60 is really encouraging as he led almost all of the defenceman in that category and was above quite a few of the forwards as well.
Those numbers and his size provide a 39.6% success rate among comparable players with John Carlson being the closest one in terms of age and production. This isn’t to say that Miller will be Carlson, but that is some good company.
Before we take a look at his game, it’s important to note that I had Miller ranked in the first round but has landed in the 34th spot based on rankings from the other writers here. Needless to say that I am a big fan of his game and think he has the talent to be an impact player in the NHL. But it’s raw.
He is a strong skater with great mobility for his size that he uses to be effective in the defensive zone by quickly closing gaps and then finishing his checks to get the puck separated from the carrier. Miller is able to also use those skating skills to carry the puck in the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. He isn’t the quickest accelerator but has really strong and powerful strides that give him a good top speed.
The 6’4″ defender is strong and heavy on the puck with the ability to protect the puck easily when deciding to join the offensive attack. That strength on his skates is also present in the defensive zone as he battles in the corners or in front. He rarely gets knocked down and is usually the one knocking someone down. Miller is vocal in his own zone and seems to control his teammates to be effective in shutting down the opponent.
There is little concern about his defensive game as he uses his size and strength to protect the high percentage areas and is a good enough skater that he doesn’t get beat with speed. If he does lose the lane, he is good at pivoting and keeping is stick to not allow his opponent to keep that speed with the puck. He’s not perfect in the defensive zone but with a few years development, and keeping in mind that he only has two years there, it’s not something I would be worried about
The offensive side of the game is where the potential lies. The Minnetonka, Minnesota native has a hammer of a shot that when given space to fully wind up is very heavy. He moves the puck fairly well despite it looking like it’s nothing special. His passes are hard and on the tape, hitting his forwards with speed.
He is surprisingly soft with the puck using his long stick to keep it away from his body as he generates speed. He can make that good pass in stride or protect it well. In the video above, his back pass to Jack Hughes is a perfect representation of what I mean.
Given his ability to carry the puck, heavy shot and decent puck moving abilities – there is belief that he can be a power-play guy as well as a good penalty killer.
Looking at the tracking project from Mitch Brown, Miller stands out in almost every category with the exception of a few. He generates shots himself or is putting players in good situations for chances. He is extremely effective at exiting the zone when he choosing to do so. He suppresses offence through the neutral zone and then does well in shot rates.
In the categories that see him lower – it’s controlled entries and the number of controlled exits. The first shows that he isn’t someone to carry the puck in himself but when he does, I’ve found him to be effective and is an area where he can work on. The other part suggests that he isn’t always getting the puck out but is effective when he does.
As we can see below, the latest rankings have Miller climbing his way into the first round and the consensus rankings have him being taken in the last few spots on that first day. He is a raw prospect but there is a lot to like about his game and the idea that there is, even more, to give makes him such an intriguing player and why I was originally impressed by him. Add the fact that he can play that heavy game and it’s no wonder why he has quickly become a player that everyone is high on.
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Miller is a bruising, defensive–minded defenseman…solid mobility for his size, and he does not have any issues getting up and down the ice when already moving…can have some heavy boots when starting and stopping, defending against more agile attackers but handles them by being physical and using his length…communicates well with teammates and plays responsibly in his own zone…great awareness of his defensive zone and quick decision-making ability…does not hesitate to shoot the puck when he has a lane, and his booming shot is his most dangerous offensive weapon…gets good velocity on one-timers…dishes powerful and accurate tape-to-tape passes…a confident puck carrier who does not shy away from doing so…at his best when he keeps it simple…a nasty customer around the net and is physically intimidating…a solid defensive presence while still learning the position after switching to defense from forward a couple season ago…has NHL middle-pairing, physical, defensive defenseman written all over him.
If you’re deep on the blue line and have time to craft him, Miller is likely to give you more offence than his current point totals suggest. As the only player on this list to not crack Marek’s top 31, there’s no question Miller is raw, but there’s big upside if you have faith in your development system.
CanucksArmy’s 2018 NHL Draft Rankings