When Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning made a splash on day two of the 2019 entry draft acquiring J.T. Miller, it was met with its critics.
People felt the cost of acquisition — Marek Mazanec, a 2019 3rd round pick, and a 2020 first-round pick that could slide a year — may have been too much to give up for a 25-year-old who has only eclipsed the 50 point mark twice.
But there was no denying that Miller had been a strong driver of play with good underlying numbers in Tampa Bay. With four-years left at $5.25-million per year, there was obvious concern the Canucks were picking up another bad contract.
The concern was fair. Benning hadn’t the best track record in the trade market and this was arguably his biggest trade since he dealt Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in 2014 not long after taking over as GM.
In Vancouver, Miller has truly broken out as a major threat in all aspects of his game. He’s scored career highs in goals (27), assists (45) and points (72) in only 69 games this season. The raw numbers are great and the point totals alone are much higher than his previous career-high of 58.
Of his 72 points, 42 have come at 5v5 putting him in the top-10 in the league in that category with teammate Elias Pettersson’s 40 points not far behind.
Put in a top-line role, Miller’s isolated impact charts show an offensive explosion that he hasn’t seen in his past.
His 5v5 points per hour has jumped to 2.54 this year, a number he hasn’t scratched since he was acquired by the Lightning in 2017-18 (2.72 P/60) and played 19 games with them. On the powerplay, Miller has continued to show he’s an offensive threat scoring nine goals and 25 points at a 5.67 P/60 pace.
His underlying numbers, too, are some of the best of his career pacing a 5v5 53.79 CF%, a 61.46 GF% and an xGF% of 52.77. Miller’s had some luck on his side with a PDO of 103 in thanks to a slightly bloated on-ice SH% of 10.44.
Sliding onto a top line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, Miller has had very positive impacts on both of their respective 5v5 numbers significantly boosting their underlying numbers.
J.T. Miller has performed well above what I think the Canucks, or anyone following the team, had expected from him as he’s brought forth a tremendous breakout campaign as a 26-year-old. Seeing four extra minutes per night over what he had in the previous three seasons, Miller has made the absolute most of it becoming a reliable offensive threat and a defensive stalwart.
After this year concludes, he has three seasons left at a cap hit of $5.25-million before reaching unrestriced free agency as a 29-year-old. His cap hit is still managable given his strong performance.
It’s easy to look back at this last year and see wild success and it begs the question of if this is a one-off year, or if he can continue the success into the future.
On Twitter: @zjlaing