Photo Credit: Sportsnet

Deep Dive: What Can J.T. Miller Bring to the Canucks?

Now that the dust has settled on the trade, it’s time to talk about J.T. Miller, who looks to be a very positive addition for the Canucks. Miller will likely get a look on the top line with Pettersson and Boeser at 5-on-5 and on the powerplay as well. As mentioned on this site previously, Miller is an above-average offensive driver who has shown great ability as a distributor throughout his career.

Miller has been fortunate to play with some excellent finishers at times in New York with Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad and in Tampa Bay with Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Tyler Johnson. That fortune will likely continue if he is given the opportunity to start on a line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser along with time on the first powerplay unit.

Miller will be an upgrade on Josh Leivo and Nikolay Goldobin, who were the most frequent left-wingers on the first line with Pettersson and Boeser. The strongest part of Miller’s game is his passing ability, which makes the fit of him on that line with two terrific finishers, nearly a perfect one. We should see more efficient puck movement coupled with creativity, leading to more high danger scoring chances at 5 on 5 and on the powerplay.

Data collected by Ryan Stimson (@RK_Stimp) and Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) clearly shows over a 4-year span how good Miller has been at distributing the puck.

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Firstly, we can see in the Shot Creation section that his PSC60 (primary shot contributions per 60) are well above average and that most of those are made up of SA60 (primary shot assists) rather than Shots60 (his own shots). Being in the 84th percentile for SA60 and only the 43rd percentile for Shots60 indicates he is clearly a pass-first player.

Through Stimson’s work, we know that when more pre-shot movement by a goalie occurs, more goals occur. This means that the truly great passers are able to put their teammates in positions to shoot quickly and on a goalie that is moving to try and square up. Creating pre-shot movement is done best by passing from behind the net or across the slot. Making the goalie move and putting teammates in positions where they can one-time the puck is something Miller does quite well as we see in the Pass Qualities section.

The ixA60 (likelihood of an assist counting for preshot movement per 60)  variable is one of Miller’s best, which shows him in the 88th percentile. A very high number of Miller’s assists come off of goals scored on goalies who experienced plenty of pre-shot movement.

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The DZSA60 (shot assists across the slot or behind the net per 60) variable shows Miller in the 79th percentile of players. He is able to recognize and take advantage of those crucial passing lanes that often lead to goals.

The last Pass Quality variable we will look at is 1TSA60 (one-timer shot assists per 60) and it happens to be another area Miller excels in. Being in the 95th percentile means he very often puts his teammates in positions to one-time the puck and for them to take full advantage of any pre-shot movement by a goalie. This is a very important variable for powerplay passing as one-timers are featured more frequently.

Pairing the excellent Shot Creation and Pass Quality metrics with the extraordinary finishing abilities of Pettersson and Boeser will, in theory, make for a great combination.

To provide further context to his passing tendencies, we can see Miller relative to his teammates during last year’s Presidents’ Trophy campaign on the chart below. Miller (circled in red) proved to be a great passer putting up the 2nd best A1/60 (Primary Assists per 60) on the team. Only Kucherov finished with a better A1/60 on last year’s talented Lightning team.


Miller’s shot creation will be an upgrade on Josh Leivo and Sven Baertschi’s on the powerplay as well. In his limited powerplay time last year, Baertschi actually had an xG (expected goals) rate that one would like on the first powerplay unit but was unable to convert those into actual goals.

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miller bae

This second chart highlights Leivo’s powerplay time resulting in a good Corsi, but a worse powerplay xG (expected goals) and GF (goals for) rate comparatively.

miller leivo

Miller was able to put up these good rates by spending time on both units, which could be difficult for some players who rely on the comfort and familiarity with certain personnel on a PP unit. Although he spent more time on the first powerplay unit, he was swapped out at times to make room for Ondrej Palat, when Jon Cooper wanted to give the unit a different look. This shouldn’t be the case in Vancouver where he has a very good chance of staying with a unit made up of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Quinn Hughes.

While the trade for Miller itself was debated, his passing metrics shouldn’t be. He has proven to be one of the league’s better passers during his career and those abilities will be on display if he’s given the opportunity to play with the two best finishers in Vancouver.

  • ClassOf2011

    Hey Guys
    I can’t believe the MORONS complaining about this trade. Dim Jim and his bad dye job paid a premium but got just what the team needed. Those passing STATS don’t lie. Benning has compiled depth, toughness and real snipers. The new defense is awesome. Most improved team in the western conference. All you haters can slink off now tail between your legs. NEXT!

  • NeverWas

    Great article. Price was a bit high bu it Sounds like just what the nucks need and a player in his prime for a couple more years to come.

    Further more, great passers tend to deteriorate slower and keep there production value longer into there career.. ala Henrik, Thorton, etc. Hope he has a long and prosperous career in Vancouver!! Can’t wait to see him setting up EP and Brock !!!

  • bushdog

    can’t ANYONE write an article without adding a pile of huge blow-ups of some dumb anal-ize stuff? i’m getting pretty tired of this nonsense. take out those things and the article is about 500 words. 2 paragraphs at best. notice the colors? ‘look at ME!’. you are programmed, friend…
    i like the article, at least the printed word but this sucker crap is getting to be tooo much

    • Rusty bucket

      I am on the other end of your opinion. I personally love the analysis and in depth look using statistics. If you want the same old cliches, go read sports net or TSN articles. People come to CA to find out what analytics can offer to provide a well rounded picture of a player.

      • Cageyvet

        I was thinking the same thing, a refreshing change from Corsi-only, etc. takes we’ve been subjected to of late. It’s an analytics site, and this was an excellent article that applied stats that are context-based and speak to the individual player’s style of play. I’ll take more of these any day.

        I also appreciated that the author barely referenced the price tag and intentionally provided an article that stands alone in its analysis. This is how to write an objective article, there are always big picture items to consider, but now that he’s on the team, this is a look at who he is, whether you liked the trade or not.

  • J-Canuck

    I think Miller will make EP and Brock that much better 5 on 5 and on the PP. this guy knows how to play with gifted offensive line mates! Brock and EP are snipers and having Miller set them up and probably hit 20-25 goals himself, gives the Canucks a true #1 line for the next 4 yrs.
    Yes a #1 pick is a lot but it is protected next year and if Canucks make the playoffs, how long will it take for that pick to develop? Miller is here for 4 yrs and Vasili will be ready to jump to #1 line by then. Future is bright

    • rediiis

      I agree he should be on PP1, but which line he plays with will be determined by who meshes. I really hope this works out and Ferland /others fight for Horvat’s line. Pearson will definitely help wherever he is posted. I am stoked for a great season.

      • J-Canuck

        Ferland brings a lot to the Canucks, especially since Pearson was only here for a small sample and who knows what Sven will do or be next season. If Pearson continues his chemistry with Bo and Sven is healthy, I could see them on a second line and Ferland playing with Virtanen and Gaudette??? Hopefully GMJB can find a place for Sutter, since I would hate to get Ferland and have him on the Blackhole line. Both Miller and Ferland give the Canucks versatility

    • Rodeobill

      You hope to get a top line player with a first round pick, and this looks like an almost sure bet to be on our first. We wont get his cheap years, but his contract is very reasonable if he adds to our top 6 like he should. This article is just what the doctor ordered for those feeling iffy about the trade.

  • Kanuckhotep

    There is more to work with on this new roster than there has been for a donkey’s age. Can’t predict who will have chemistry with who but Miller far exceeds guys like Leipzic, Etem and countless others who could never really cut it. There should be two pretty good PP units on the point and down low. People should be justifiably into this upcoming edition of the Canucks. Miller will contribute but where can’t be know until probably Canadian Thanksgiving. At least we didn’t get Lucic…

  • Fortitude00

    Interesting insight into Miller. I didn’t originally like the trade because I felt the Canucks needed to be patient for another year. The scoring should be up this year with the forward additions but I worry what the D will look like when injury bug hits. Hopefully JB can move a couple of forwards for another D man before the season starts.

  • Fred-65

    I guess the comparison is do we do better as a franchise with Miller for … what .. 6-7 years or gamble for a 1st round pick for 14 years. The first-round pick could be a Virtanen or a Pettersson that’s the gamble. I suppose we live in a era of instant gratification so fans lean towards the lets have immediate glory. But most of all this is about management. You can throw out the 1st versus the here and now this is about JB job and Aquamans accountants. I was happy we have got this far with the rebuild ( if only we had started sooner ) but being this close I wish we could just finish the job. Tell the accountants to cool it, we’re likely within 18 months of finishing the rebuild. So for me Miller might well be the bee’s knees but I ish we could have kept our nerve for another year.

    As to the stats and graphs. One of the benefits of leaving collage is leaving behind grappling to make meaning of graphs and spherical trigonometry. Now in my dotage, I prefer to read over a relaxed cup of coffee simple pros so I give a pass to mathematical gobbly gook and try and stick to common sense. Now that’s a rare commodity that can’t be proven with a graph LOL
    PS. Credit for JB and staff for drafting Podkolzin who is long term the right call.

  • Tedchinook

    Really interesting post, but all we really need to know is he played on T Bay’s first unit power play. If he’s first unit PP on he best team in the league he’s a huge ungraded for us. Health permitting the Petterson, Boeser, Miller line should score between 80 and 90 goals this coming season.

  • Dirty30

    Thank you for focusing your analysis on Miller with Petey/Brock — I would have enjoyed a bit more insight into how that trio might function together based on their respective SWOTs.

    Of particular benefit with Miller joining Petey will be his ability to step in at times to take face-offs. This helps Petey from getting overly fatigued or injured, but mainly allows a different setup for scoring off FAs in the offensive zone.

    There’s been a lot of other sites promoting the idea of Ferland on the top line, which may get some looks, but Miller brings a skill set plus size that complements the top line much better. A Pearson-Bo-Ferland line could be very exciting itself with that combination of size and speed and feistiness.

    Can’t say I was thrilled with the price to acquire Miller, but the moneys been spent so just move on and enjoy the ride!

    Next article needs to look at the third/fourth line potential. Baertschi, Virtanen, Leivo Gaudette, and Sutter, Eriksson, Beagle, Motte, Schaller and Goldy and eventually Roussel need to be deployed somehow somewhere….

  • Beer Can Boyd

    The price was very high for Miller, and I think most believe JB could have got a slightly better deal from a cap stretched team. However, he is a very good player, certainly top 6, and an big upgrade. Was the price worth it? Guess we find out starting Oct 5th. But the key to the Canucks season is going to be their goaltending. IMO, if Markstromm can repeat last years performance, they stand a good chance of making the playoffs.

  • speering major

    I was disgusted with this trade before I realized there was trade protection. Then I thought about it and it seems totally fine. Then they signed Myers for 5 years and Benn to a nice deal. This made the Miller trade look better and better (if your going to go for it, go for it). Then they signed Ferland and now I really like the Miller trade and I’m excited about the season. I thought the interest this year would be more on the development in Utica + Podkolzin and Hoglander. Now I think this is going to be an exciting team to watch, win or lose.

    With the direction and identity Benning is going towards I really hope he makes a move with EDM for Jesse P. The canucks have a ton of wingers right now, they should be shipping them out in bunches and looking to pick up 1 or 2 projects while freeing up some cap space. Jesse has the size, skating, and shot to play effectively up and down the roster. I think he has a similar path to JV. He has the physical tools but he doesn’t see and think the game at an elite level so his development will be slower. Ship out 2 or 3 wingers and bring him in IMO. Big and fast wingers on the roster (and in russia) combined with high end skill is the recipe for a team that can make good playoff runs

  • Ken Priestlay Fan

    I’ve never really understood why anyone would be critical of the Miller trade. If your mid-to-late 1st round pick turns into JT Miller, you’ve hit a home run; even in a historically good draft class. Obviously you’re not getting him at 18 and having 3 years on an ELC, but you’re swapping that for certainty in the player. I also think there’s plenty to suggest that Miller’s numbers will get better with the increased opportunity; he’s been slightly buried on that Tampa roster.

    However, I’m not as convinced he’s a lock for the first round as the author; Ferland has a history of putting up numbers with elite players, would offer some protection to EP and Miller with Bo and Pearson would give that line a play maker and a little more balance. Given that Green likes to play with his lines, I suspect we’ll see a bit of everything over the season

  • TheRealPB

    As the off-season slowly settles, I’m getting more comfortable with these moves. I still think we’re paying too much for players who aren’t in the top end (Sutter, Eriksson) and adding to some degree to that with Myers but overall I’d much rather be us than most of the rest of the division. Miller, Benn and Ferland are solid adds. I’m still not crazy about the 1st and 3rd for Miller, though in looking back at his trade from NYR to TBL just a year earlier it doesn’t seem way out of line. And I’d much rather be doing this than somehow acquiring Lucic and Talbot and thinking that’s going to make my team better (!). I still think Miller is a better add for the EP-Boeser combo and Ferland for the Horvat-Pearson line. Miller’s not a puck retrieval guy as much as he’s good off the rush and I think will make the PP more dynamic (along with Hughes). Ferland is a better fit for the kind of north-south game that Horvat and Pearson will play.

  • canuckfan

    The Canucks bulked up with adding Miller and Ferland two players who can muck it up and have the talent to be able to burn the other team something that had been missing for a while. Plus I think it will make the players like Brock and Petey better just knowing that they are not going to be pushed around and abused. You won’t see that little skinny Montreal player getting involved with Petey again as he did knew if he took out Petey no one was going to go after him. We need to make sure everyone stays disciplined and we just don’t go out and smash it up again the opposition we need to play a good solid game I think Ferland and Miller are the type of player that will just go out and play but if someone takes advantage of one their team mates they won’t be shy to deal with the opposing player.

  • JDMay101

    This is an interesting article. There are a couple of things I would like to know, though.

    First, what happens if he DOESN’T play with Pettersson and Boeser? I think there’s a more-likely-than-not that he ends up on Horvat’s wing, and that Ferland plays on the top line, simply because you’ll get more out of Ferland in that role and Miller doesn’t necessarily need to be with the team’s most skilled players to produce 50+ points in a season.

    Further, and this is probably far less likely, what if he ends up playing with Horvat AND Ferland? What would that look like? I ask only because it seems like Miller’s best offensive skill involves giving the puck to a player who can quickly get it on net, and Ferland’s best offensive skill involves getting the puck and quickly getting it on net.

    Third, and related to the foregoing, who were Miller’s most common linemates over the past 3 seasons with TBL and NYR, and how many minutes with them? By looking at how much ice time he was getting and with whom, we can probably more accurately predict what he’ll do with the players currently on the Canucks. The article says “Miller has been fortunate to play with some excellent finishers at times in New York with Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad and in Tampa Bay with Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Tyler Johnson”, but I don’t know to what extent that’s actually the case. Wasn’t he used in a fairly limited role on the third line in Tampa last year? Granted, that would see him playing with Johnson some of the time, but not seeing a lot of Kucherov and Stamkos.