There are a lot of big-name players for the Vancouver Canucks that always garner significant attention. Whether it’s Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, youngsters like Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander, or some of the new additions such as Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, there is no shortage of talent within the organization. But in his third season with the Canucks, J.T. Miller continues to quietly lead the way offensively.
Since he first arrived with the team in 2019, Miller has been a focal point for this offence and has proved that over the last few seasons. From the cost it took to acquire him to his consistency in both the regular season and the playoffs, he has shown time and time again his importance to the Canucks. And after a 7-1 thumping at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, Miller has been one of the few bright spots on the season for Vancouver.
Cost to Get Miller
There was a lot of scrutiny towards the Canucks organization when they paid up to get Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning. In what seemed like a salary cap dump for the Lightning, they were still able to garner a first-round pick from Vancouver. Miller was traded to the Canucks for goalie Marek Mazanec, a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. As time has gone on, the cost to get him has certainly paid off.
During the offseason in 2019, the Lightning had major cap complications. Miller had an average annual value (AAV) of $5.25 million, and the likes of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Tyler Johnson and more were all signed to significant contracts. Not to mention others who were due for new contract extensions in the near future, such as Mikhail Sergachev, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Anthony Cirelli, and Brayden Point.
Some of the other notable names who were at risk to be dealt to free up cap space were Alex Killorn ($4.45 million) and Ryan Callahan ($4.7 million). It was down (at the time) to choosing between Killorn, Callahan and Miller, and Miller ended up being the player dealt first. Callahan was then sent to the Ottawa Senators along with a fifth-round pick in exchange for goaltending Mike Condon along with a sixth-round selection in the 2019 draft about a week later. Callahan dealt with injuries in the latter stages of his career and ultimately retired in December of 2020. While Killorn has been a solid fixture with the Lightning, winning two Stanley Cups in the process, point and consistency-wise, Miller has been the superior player.
Consistency Since Joining Vancouver
Miller has been a model of consistency throughout his time in the NHL, even through the first eight seasons of his career. A first-round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (15th overall) by the New York Rangers, he’s always had solid numbers, posting seasons with 43, 56 and 40 points with New York, along with a 47 point season with the Lightning in 2018-19. However, when he came to Vancouver, not only did his consistency remain on point, but his production shot up in the process.
In 135 games as a member of the Canucks, Miller has 133 points, which is just a hair under a point-per-game (P/G) at .98 P/G. This includes a career-high 72 points in his first season with the organization in 2019-20. In 2021-22 so far, he’s showing flashes of that career year, as he has 15 points through the first 13 games, including six goals, which leads the team.
Miller has either led the team in scoring or been number two, and it’s not just in the regular season.
Playoff hockey is a whole other animal compared to the regular season. It’s when the best players elevate their game and step it up when their teams need them most. It’s not just his regular-season numbers that are impressive, but in May and June, Miller hasn’t shrunk under the pressure of the postseason. He has a career of 44 points in 78 games, and while those numbers don’t jump off the page, it was his latest run that shows his evolution as an impact player.
During Vancouver’s playoff run in the bubble in 2020, Miller had 18 points in 17 games, including six goals. The most impressive run came in the first round against the, at the time, defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, where Miller had four goals and seven points in six games. But the most important part? A series win. He followed that up with eight points in seven games against the Vegas Golden Knights, a series in which Vegas seemingly controlled and were the heavy favourites going in. Along with the stellar play of goaltender Thatcher Demko, Miller was the offensive catalyst during that run.
While the playoffs are a ways away and the Canucks certainly have their work cut out for them to get back into the postseason race. It’s safe to say Miller will be a major factor for Vancouver getting back in the hunt.
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.