By Brad VanFossan
In just his second NHL game, and first at Madison Square Garden, East Palestine, Ohio native J.T. Miller scored two goals in the New York Rangers 4-1 win over their in-state rival New York Islanders Thursday night. The 19 year old Miller, who was drafted 15th overall in 2011 scored his fist NHL goal on his first shift of his second ever NHL game to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. "It was nice to get the first one out of the way, but there was a long way to go, so I just kept plugging along," Miller said. Miller would score again in the 2nd Period giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was impressed with Miller's play stating, "It's a spark to see a guy come up in his first two games and play the way he has, he has pretty good size, can hold onto pucks, and has a tremendous shot." Miller was awarded the Broadway Hat, the black fedora awarded by teammates in a Rangers victory. With head coach John Tortorella praising Miller's "puck poise", it looks as if Miller could stick around with the big club for awhile.
Miller previously had helped Team USA win the World Junior Championship in Russia in January, scoring seven points in that tournament. J.T. Miller grew up just blocks away from East Palestine elementary, middle, and high school, which he attended through his sophomore year before moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan to participate in the two year program with Team USA's National Team Development program. After being drafted in the first round in 2011 by the Rangers, Miller went on to play with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL in Plymouth, Michigan.
It doesn't appear as though J.T. Miller will have to worry about going back to life in the minor leagues anytime soon, but if he does encounter early struggles at the NHL level, it's looking like any return to the minors will be short lived. While I don't plan on giving up my allegiances to the Penguins and Islanders, I do wish J.T. Miller great success and will be following his career closely, as will hockey fans in the Youngstown, Ohio area. An area rich in football tradition just might now have it's own hockey star in the making.