K’Andre Miller brought the team out of training camp during his rookie season and showed flashes of the player he eventually became during his sophomore season. He completed his first season as a member of the NHL All-Rookie Team, and while there was appreciation for his limited sample of work, many wondered what might happen in a full season of 82 games.
Miller averaged 20:36 per game for the New York Rangers second pair with Jacob Trouba, and together they were the best defensive pair in the NHL by minutes spent together. He skated in all 82 regular season games and posted a 7-13-20 line, and followed that up with a 2-5-7 line in 20 playoff games while skating 24:47 a night.
Miller was much better analytically this season than he was the year before and was worth 6.4 goals above substitution, an improvement from the -1.4 he was worth the season before. Defensively, he was much stronger, as he finished with a 2.9 rating, while he was below replacement level in 2020-21 when he finished with a -3.6 rating. Some of those improvements can be attributed to him being more comfortable at the NHL level and being more confident and aggressive on both sides of the puck. Here are some examples.
As far as his player card goes, Miller certainly took the plunge and was quietly one of the best defensemen in the league.
For context, here’s his card from the previous year.
This one-year turnaround is pretty impressive, and that said, it’s possible he has another level to go.
Miller finished 7th among roster regulars in 55.9 5-for-5 goals for percentage, 1st in Corsi for percentage (50.56) and 6th in expected goals for percentage (49.22) . If you include defenders only, Miller was 2nd in GF%, 1st in CF% and 3rd in xGF%.
The playoffs were a continuation of that, and Miller was very visible. The tables below are just a few examples of where he excelled at every turn, and if you aren’t already, follow Corey Sznajder on Twitter.
All Round 1 data was tracked/uploaded and man, K’Andre Miller thrived in an area where most of the Rangers struggled against Pittsburgh. pic.twitter.com/VFgrKy1RPk
— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) May 19, 2022
This is the subcategory where Hurricanes players shine. There also where K’Andre Miller is well illustrated. He’s been great in this series, but Game Score doesn’t always capture him because the offense/chance creation is heavier. pic.twitter.com/wQragm7W5Y
— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) May 28, 2022
To note: A- | Joke Consensus: B+
Miller has had a sensational second season, and he most likely has another level to rise to as an NHL player. Tampa Bay Lighting’s Jon Cooper was very impressed with his play and said so in the handshake line in the Eastern Conference Finals.
There’s a good chance he’ll be the best left-handed defender of the future for Rangers, and this season Rangers may want to give Miller more run and see how he handles the situation. Miller is an RFA after this season, and another strong year would put him in position to earn a nice overtime.
This syncs with when current top pair LHD Ryan Lindgren is in the final year of his current contract, and it could create a decision point for Chris Drury. Bridging Miller could be even costlier in the long run, but that will ultimately depend on how this season plays out. Rangers are in an ideal situation with a talented young player who can continue to turn heads for them over the next decade.
Statistics via Evolution-Hockey unless otherwise stated.