Sunday, January 6, 2013

Silencing critics

J.T. Miller (Blueshirts United)
Pretty sure that Team USA didn't need an airplane to fly home after capturing the gold medal in the World Under-20 Championship. For New York Ranger prospect J.T. Miller it was also a chance to silence those who doubted his potential as an NHL player.

Miller was moved to center for Team USA and centered the first line for the American squad. It wasn't a perfect line but when US coach Phil Housley inserted Jim Vesey to the line then it took off.

Miller finished with a 2-7-9 which was good for 3rd on Team USA and 9th in the tournament. In case you missed it, it was Miller who made the play on the dagger goal breaking up the offensive attack and feeding Vince Trocheck perfectly for the empty net goal that sealed the win and Gold Medal for the US.

First I will eat some crow as I did not think it was a wise move by the Rangers to allow Miller to play in this tournament. It was a risky move as seen by the players who were hurt but in the end Miller comes away with a gold medal and was a key player in the medal round for Team USA.

For those of you who still feel that Miller is not NHL material please remember it was an outstanding performance by Derek Stepan in 2010 that was the spring board for his making the Rangers. Miller is just 19 and way too much criticism have been leveled against Miller by those who really aren't aware that the CT Whale as a whole are struggling.

Unlike many other NHL teams, the Rangers have most of their younger talent playing in the NHL and aren't eligible for the AHL. Miller who again is just 19 and in his 1st professional season is 5-9-14 in 26 games for the Whale. Forgive me but those aren't bad numbers for a teenager in the AHL. Miller is on his way to becoming an effective right winger for the Rangers. Just give him some time to grow up please.

Also doing some silencing of his critics was Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks. I do need to thank Mr. Jones because by the end of the World Under-20's I wasn't getting nasty emails talking about Nathan MacKinnon being the far superior prospect.

Yes Jones had a bad game in the preliminary round but when the smoke cleared there was Jones as the 2nd leading scorer among defensemen with his 1-6-7. I will say it now that nothing against MacKinnon (or Aleksander Barkov) but if I have the first pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft then I am taking Jones. Jones is a franchise changer, a player who you can build your team around much like the Rangers once did with Brian Leetch.

Defense wins championships and that starts with Seth Jones who now has 2 gold medals for Team USA in under 12 months.

Brenden Kichton (Spokane Chiefs)
Tonight's First Star Brenden Kichton Spokane Chiefs

Friday night Brenden Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) had a quiet night in playing in his 300th WHL game as a member of the Spokane Chiefs. Saturday was a different story as the Chiefs were in Seattle to take on the Thunderbirds.

Kichton earned the 1st star of the game with a 1-1-2 +3 performance leading the Chiefs to a 5-2 win. With the Chiefs holding on to a 3-2 lead halfway into the 3rd period; it was Kichton who ended the Seattle threat by setting up one goal and scoring another one to put this one away. Kichton is now 11-36-47 on the season which leads all WHL defensemen.

The Rest of the Prospects

Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) was scoreless but that did not stop his Baie-Comeau Drakkar from winning their 5th straight game 3-2 over the Shawinigan Cataractes. Noreau was credited for 1 shot and 2 hits as the streaking Drakkar moved into 2nd place overall in the QMJHL.

Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) and his Edmonton Oil Kings are also streaking as they shutout the visiting Vancouver Giants 5-0 for their 4th straight win. St. Croix had a secondary assist on the Oil Kings 3rd goal for his 28th assist and 49th overall point.

Edmonton is leading the WHL's Eastern Conference by 3 points and trail Western Conference leading Portland by 8 points for the best record overall. Speaking of Edmonton, the IIHF held a news conference trying to justify handing Oil King Captain Griffin Reinhart a 4 game suspension. Here is the link but I suggest that you put on hip-waders because their "justification" gets really deep. In this case the less they said the better off they would be.

Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd) and his Guelph Storm were paying the London Knights a visit and came away with a point after losing 3-2 in overtime. The Storm had a 2-0 lead but could not hold it.

Pedan took a cross-checking minor for his 86th PIM this season and London used it to scoring the game tying goal. Pedan keeps play with fire and this time he burnt his own team.

Adam Pelech (NYI 2012 3rd) and his Erie Otters can claim a 2 game unbeaten streak despite falling to the Sarnia Sting 5-4 via the shootout. Pelech did not score but was a +1 on the game.

Scott Mayfield (NYI 2011 2nd) and his 11th ranked Denver Pioneers hosted 12th ranked Cornell in the 2nd game of their weekend series. The Pioneers earned a 2-1 win to sweep the weekend series.

The Cornell Red made sure that they expressed their unhappiness with some ugly behavior at the final buzzer.

Cody Rosen (NYI 2010 7th) was DNP as his Clarkson Golden Knights were beaten 6-2 by UMass-Lowell. Not much one can say when a season with high expectations is falling apart.

Loic Leduc (NYI 2012 4th) missed his 3rd straight game with a lower body injury as his Cape Breton Screaming Eagles fell to the Moncton Knights 4-0. The loss dropped the Screaming Eagles into 17th in the QMJHL or out of the last playoff spot in the QMJHL.

No update on Leduc's injury has been given.


Kmp said...

Jones, miller and the entire team played a lot better after the 1st game vs Canada. I'm not sold on Jones, yeah he can skate, has a big shot that takes forever for him to get off, and has way too many turnovers. Time will tell. I didn't see enough of Mackinnon or Barkov to give an opinion based on their play.

Miller was horrible in games 2 and 3 but impressive the rest of the tournament.

Jess Rubenstein said...

I blame Miller's struggles on Housley who used Miller wrong at the beginning of the tournament.

Playing Miller with 2 smurfs took away a lot of Miller's own creativity. When they swapped out Vesey for Rocco, it was then that Miller's game improved.

Jones was used with McCabe which IMO took away some of his strengths. This is where not having Skjei hurt Jones as Jones had to play more of the defender than creator.