How far will the Rangers get this season?

J.T. Miller Will Play For The Plymouth Whalers Next Year + Brian Boyle Re-Signs

J.T. Miller

J.T. Miller

First-round pick J.T. Miller, 18, has decided to play for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League next season rather than attend the University of North Dakota.

After Miller was first drafted it was reported that he’d decided on UND, but Miller also made his plans of turning pro in a year clear.  The University of North Dakota has produced superstars Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise in recent years, but attending college wouldn’t have put Miller on the fast-track to the NHL that he desired.

Playing in the OHL means Miller will play a similar schedule to that of the NHL and should give him a better chance to develop his offensive game, which right now is his greatest weakness.  Miller’s body, solid two-way play, physicality and intangibles all seem to be there, but his consistency on offense is an issue.  Miller will be joining a Plymouth squad that will feature fellow first-round picks Stefan Noesen and Rickard Rakell and fell to the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL Western Conference Semi-Finals in 2010-2011.

Miller’s decision has drawn mixed reviews.  On the one hand, he is set on making it to the NHL as soon as possible and has chosen a path that could lead him there earlier than expected.  On the other, Miller may have reneged on his word to go to North Dakota and as Jess Rubenstein believes, he may be misguided in the notion that he can turn pro next year.

If all goes perfectly for Miller, he could have an outside shot at joining the Blueshirts next season.  Like Christian Thomas this season, Miller would be ineligible for the AHL, so his plan of turning pro means he’ll be in New York or he’ll be forced to play a second season in the OHL.

Time will tell how Miller develops, but this is a stark contrast to the slower development of fellow left wing prospect Chris Kreider who is about to begin his third season of collegiate hockey.  Kreider should have a strong chance to join the Rangers next year, but Miller’s decision to pursue his NHL dream on fast forward could create an interesting competition between the two down the road.

- New York signed Andreas Thuresson to a one-year, two-way deal today.  The 23-year-old right wing was acquired from Nashville for Brodie Dupont on July 2.  Thuresson has played 25 games in the NHL and will almost certainly begin the season with the CT Whale, but he could be in the mix for an early call up if the Rangers face injury woes again.

- The Rangers also locked up one of their three remaining restricted free agents this afternoon, signing Brian Boyle to a three-year, $5.1 million deal.  Boyle was expected to get somewhere between $1.5 million and $3 million, though most estimates had him between $1.5 million and $2 million.  An agent told The Boston Globe last week that he expected Boyle to get $1.75 million and Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan to get $4.25 million apiece. 

Though Boyle has really only had one decent season in the NHL, centers with his size and ability are extremely rare.  It will be interesting to see how he handles the added pressure and expectations next year, but his role might be very different with the addition of Brad Richards.  Boyle figures to be fourth on the center depth chart (unless Derek Stepan is moved to left wing) which might reduce his ice-time and opportunities.  If Boyle becomes the team’s fourth-line center, he will probably be the league’s best and it will be important that Coach John Tortorella finds a way to roll all four lines because Boyle is certainly deserving of significant minutes.  The Rangers now have somewhere between $8 million and $11 million remaining to sign Dubinsky, Callahan and a depth defenseman.

- Jess Rubenstein notes that Miller and Rangers' fifth-round pick Shane McColgan were invited to attend the 2011 USA Hockey Under-20 National Junior Evaluation Camp.

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Posted by Kevin Baumer | July 14, 2011 at 07:09 pm

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