J.T. Miller on contract talks, his future with the Canucks, and Vasily Podkolzin’s “unlimited potential”
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
5 months ago
J.T. Miller has been the most talked about name in Vancouver Canucks circles all offseason long, and on Thursday’s edition of the Dropping the Gloves podcast, he made his highly anticipated first public appearance of the offseason to talk with former NHLer John Scott. The 45-minute interview touched on all sorts of pressing topics including Miller’s contract situation, the rumour mill around his future in Vancouver, and the calibre of the team around him.
The biggest question on everyone’s mind is where Miller sees himself in a year. But until he’s told otherwise, Vancouver is where he plans on being.
“It’s a new fit for our management, it’s new for us. They were there for three months, there’s just a lot going on. They have a lot of decisions to make on a lot of players and so far to this point with negotiations we’re not as close as we’d like to be,” Miller said.
“Everybody has a vision, and as I’ve said from day one, I want to be there. But that being said, if it’s not meant to be I understand that too. Trust me, I’d like to have a deal done in Vancouver and I wanna be there, but at the same time you have to respect everybody’s vision and if that doesn’t line up, it kinda is what it is.”
When it comes to discussions with management, Miller openly admitted contract negotiations haven’t gone to his liking so far. But he was quick to cut Vancouver’s new front office some slack as well, given the short timeline since their hiring.
“We didn’t really find happy ground there. There’s just a lot going on. With Patrik and Jim, they haven’t been here long. They have a lot of hard decisions to make, and then they had the draft right away and then free agency. It’s been kind of a crazy thing,” Miller said.
While the future is a bit muddy for Miller, it’s more clear for some of his younger teammates. When asked about Elias Pettersson’s midseason turnaround, Miller brought up the coaching change and how it felt like a reset button for the entire team, Pettersson included.
“I think the coaching change and the atmosphere change was good for a lot of players,” Miller said. “Travis [Green] was great for our group, but I think that the fresh start really seemed to light a spark for Petey, especially because once Bruce [Boudreau] got there he was so good. He’s such a big part of our team, when he plays with that fire and really competes he’s the best player on the ice every single time, and I think he knows that.”
Miller also spoke about his and Pettersson’s working relationship when they’re sharing a line, given that both are natural centres. Miller credited Pettersson for his ability to adapt on the occasions when one player moves to the wing.
“When we play together, even over the first two years, he was the centre but I took all the faceoffs. Not a whole lot changed, to be honest, and we both have a good understanding of how to play both. He obviously has less experience probably playing wing than I do, but he’s so talented and skilled he can pick it up at any time,” Miller said.
“As we saw last year, the second half of the year he was borderline unstoppable. He’s a really good player and definitely a guy you want on your side with that much skill.”
One teammate who earned a ton of praise from Miller was Vasily Podkolzin. Podkolzin’s rookie season might’ve flown under the radar compared to some of his fellow first years, but Miller and the rest of their Canucks teammates sure took notice.
“He’s got unlimited potential. It’s crazy. He can be the most powerful skater on the ice, have the most powerful shot on the ice, very humble, young kid. He wants to learn, [he’s the] first guy on, last guy off at the age of 21. He’s physically engaged, he’s built like a man already. I mean, the sky’s the limit,” Miller said.
“His biggest thing is the language barrier, but he’s learned a lot and how much he’s learned this last year. I sit next to him in the room, and I’m constantly busting him up. He’s just a great kid, and not one guy doesn’t like being around him. Just a little more opportunity, a little more understanding of the small ice and I think just being around the English language a little bit more, this guy’s gonna be an unbelievable player. I don’t know what the top end is, but I think it’s really high.”
As asked by Scott about the importance of getting around the language barrier, Miller broke down the communication aspects of the sport.
“There’s just so much communicating from play to play, and if you’re not communicating in general, let alone speaking another language, I think it can make you one step behind and make you think a little harder. I think it’s all that, just playing faster and being one step ahead.”
“It’s a lot of things that he’s learned and you can see him pick it up as the year went on. He just got so much more comfortable, and he’s going to be scary. He can score goals any way he wants, and he’s a terrific kid.”
Despite all the noise that’s been surrounding him and the Canucks over the past couple of seasons, Miller has high hopes for the franchise’s future. Miller had no problem hyping up his team to Scott, who’d later refer to them as a Cup contender.
“We have one of the best goalies in the world, one of the best defencemen in the world, and some of the best young forwards. We have all the pieces,” Miller said.
“We expect to be playing in April, May and June. We have a high standard for ourselves, and I think it’s going to click. I think there’s a lot of really good young players that are transferring into their second, third or fourth year and are growing up and maturing, and I think that’s going to be a dangerous thing for other teams.”
You can catch Miller’s entire 45-minute interview with Scott here.
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