The Rangers have a hidden gem in their defensive unit

New York Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller (79) looks to pass during the first period against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have one of most solid defensive groups in the NHL, led by captain Jacob Trouba. While the star of the Rangers’ defense may be Adam Fox, who tallied an astounding 72 points last season, every defensive player on the team is able to contribute on the ice one way or another.

There are many big names on the Blueshirts, but one player doesn’t receive as much recognition as he should. K’Andre Miller is a young, talented defenseman who is ready to take the NHL by storm next season at the start of his new contract.

Miller brings an offensive presence to the Rangers’ defense

Any good NHL defenseman knows how to keep the puck out of his own net, but the league’s elite players must also have the ability to help their team on the opposite end of the ice as well. This past season, K’Andre Miller was able to score 43 points in 79 games. It doesn’t compare to the likes of superstar Erik Karlsson, who scored over 100 points for San Jose, but it’s still a decent contribution for someone Miller’s age.

Miller is only 23 years old at the time of signing this new two-year bridge deal. By the time his contract expires and he receives his long-awaited pay raise, Miller will still just be entering his prime. The Rangers certainly lucked out with Miller’s successful development, as he is already producing a large number of points at such a young age. If he continues on this trajectory, Miller should be close to Adam Fox’s current numbers in just a few years.

Miller isn’t a huge name across the NHL, so he is able to move the puck while garnering less attention from the opposition. As a previous Norris Trophy recipient, anytime Fox touches the puck, he is immediately swarmed by opposing players. The fact that Miller is only well known by Rangers fans provides an unusual advantage to his game. He’s rarely a target on the ice and this allows him higher maneuverability when entering the offensive zone.

Size matters for the Rangers

One of the main reasons the Rangers have had difficulty advancing deep into the playoffs is their lack of size and grit. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a completely different environment than the regular season, and teams must possess an intense level of physicality to compete. Most of the Rangers’ players are young, speedy skaters who don’t have the ability to lay a solid hit.

Miller, on the other hand, stands in at a whopping 6’5″, 215 pounds. His height alone comes close to the tallest in the league, and this gives him a strong physical advantage.

His dynamic playing style was eye-opening to former Ranger and current NHL Network Analyst Mike Rupp.

“He’s got that skating ability and reach,” Rupp told Forever Blueshirts. “He shouldn’t forget the advantages he has with his size and K’Andre can start flexing that a little bit more.””

via Forever Blueshirts

Miller needs to start playing with more physicality

While Miller may not check as much as his partner Trouba, he certainly has the capability to knock an opposing player to the ice when he needs to. Miller has the opportunity to be a game-changer for the Rangers if he were to take full advantage of his size and become a much more physical player.

Outside of grittiness, Miller’s size provides a defensive advantage as well- and it comes in the form of something as simple as his stick. For a player like Fox to sweep the puck away from an opposing player, he’d have to get as close to it as possible before being able to reach the rubber. With Miller’s height comes a longer, heavier stick, allowing him to reach the puck much quicker than anyone else standing a similar distance away.

Miller’s stick length may be one factor that most hockey fans overlook, but it is certainly a game-changer during close matchups. Puck possession is the key to scoring, and Miller is capable of collecting pucks better than most.

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