In just one year, K’ndre Miller defended the NHLers at the collegium level to defend players of his own age who are playing professional hockey before he could even walk.
Miller simplified the change, ignoring the fact that the rogue defensemen were not even close to taking the Rangers’ roster out of training camp – then dodging the team management.
All while managing the steady diet of Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Brad Marchand.
“Going against these top guys in the league every night, it’s a challenge,” he said after the Rangers’ optional practice on Friday. “But I have embraced it and I love the fight against those top lines. It just gives me more confidence, honestly – having extra targets on my back, defending those people hard and making sure they keep us out of our trap. “
If you analyze what Miller logged with the most ice time, the 21-year-old is consistently deployed against each team’s top guns.
According to Natural static trick, Miller has scored 39:06 against Evgeny Malkin, 36:06 against Kasparni Kappen and 35:01 against Crosby in six matches with the Penguins. He faced Ovechkin for 25:45, TJ Oishi for 24:49 and Zadeno four for 23:16 in five matches against the Capitals. And in six meetings with the Bruins, Miller defended the ‘perfection line’ of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pasternak for more than 20 minutes.
This is a workload that would be expected to fall on the shoulder of an experienced defenseman. While Miller has been paired primarily with Jacob Trouba, the 27-year-old appears to have progressed in his game following a lackluster first season on Broadway because of his new D partner.
Even though Miller’s NHL career is only 31 games old, the Rangers have only shown how much they trust him.
“The team has relied on him a lot throughout the season,” Chris Knobluch said of Miller, when he was still working as head coach. He said, ‘He has a lot of responsibilities on penalty kills, power play, top four minutes, even strength. It is too heavy for a young defenseman in this league. He not only accepts it – he excels at it. “
Noblok, who first participated in his six-game as head coach as Miller while David Quinn was in the COVID-19 protocol, described how much snow the 6-foot-5 Wisconsin product is capable of covering. The Hartford Wolf Pack coach said that in addition to being an exceptional skater, Miller has a knack for coming off the puck from the scrub, because “more often than not, he’s winning those battles, because he’s too strong.”
After scoring his third goal of the season in Thursday’s 8–3 win over the Flyers, Miller now has eight points (with five assists). His plus-11 rating leads all of the NHL’s rogues, while his average time on ice of 20:31 is third among first-year players.
The Rangers have also hired Miller to quarterback another power-play unit.
“Your confidence has to grow quickly and you have to adapt,” Miller said. “My confidence is growing in each game.”