- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- From everything coach Alain Vigneault has heard about prospect J.T. Miller from those within the Rangers' organization, the 20-year-old forward will flourish into a "high-end skill offensive player" who can play in the Rangers’ top-six forward group.
At this point, however, Miller hasn’t nailed down that spot.
"He, like a lot of other players right now, hasn’t done it on a consistent basis," Vigneault said after the team’s practice Tuesday.
New York Rangers
Miller, who was taken by the Rangers 15th overall in the 2011 draft, cracked the team's roster out of training camp, but was quickly shipped back to the minors after only one game up with the big club last month. With a slew of debilitating injuries to the Blueshirts, however, Miller was summoned from the AHL for another shot, but he again has found trouble carving out a firm place in the lineup.
Most recently, he was scratched for the team’s 2-1 loss to Anaheim after having what Vigneault described as a "rough" night against Carolina in the previous game.
"You can’t afford to have games like that at this level," Miller told ESPNNewYork.com "I think I have more to show; I think I can produce more than I’ve shown. Obviously, I just want to get better from here."
Miller, who has one assist in nine games, said he needs to simplify his game and focus on not getting discouraged. He felt as though he had been playing better before Saturday’s match against the Hurricanes, and he doesn't want one bad game to dampen his confidence moving forward.
"I could’ve played better in [the game against Carolina]," Miller said. "It’s hockey. It happens. I can’t dwell on it. I’ve just got to look forward and look for my next opportunity."
Not unlike the situation with Chris Kreider, who has shuttled back and forth plenty from AHL to NHL over the past year, the Rangers are trying to weigh what is best for Miller's development: Should they allow him to play top minutes in a premier offensive role with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, or hope he can redefine his game with limited minutes in the NHL?
"Is it better to play eight minutes in the NHL or 20 minutes in the AHL?" Vigneault asked rhetorically. "I would say the right answer is that each player is different and we just have to figure out what’s best for each situation."
Here’s where Miller and Kreider’s paths seem to be a bit divergent: While the Rangers seemed to have come to the conclusion that Kreider is served best by playing in a role with top-six minutes, it appears the organization is more inclined to let Miller find his way in the bottom half of the lineup.
Whether Miller can embrace a more defensive aspect to his game in a third- or fourth-line role remains to be seen, but it at least seems up for consideration.
The organization’s assessment on Kreider has paid dividends -- he’s been one of their most productive forwards while playing on a line with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello -- so they have to hope the process in deciding what will be best for Miller will turn out in a similar fashion.
"Kreids stepped in and filled in real nicely where needed," Vigneault said. "I’m hoping J.T. will be able to do the same thing."