Canucks: Why J.T. Miller will repeat his success next season


J.T. Miller set career bests with the Vancouver Canucks in 2019-20. There’s good reason to believe that he’ll continue this production.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning received plenty of criticism when he sacrificed a future first-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the J.T. Miller trade last year.

It was risky to give up a first-rounder at the time, considering that the Canucks hadn’t made the playoffs in four consecutive years. But Benning wasn’t worried about giving up a potential lottery pick. He simply wanted a veteran top-six forward to complement his young core up front.

Miller didn’t need long to win over the support of Canuck nation. Prior to the 2019-20 season suspension, he was Vancouver’s leader in points (72). Miller’s 27 goals were also tied with linemate Elias Pettersson for the team lead.

The 27 goals, 45 assists and 72 points all stand as personal bests for Miller. And when a player enjoys a career year in his age 26-27 season, it’s natural to believe that he won’t repeat that success.

But when you take a closer look at certain number, you can also argue that this is more of a breakout year for Miller, rather than a fluky one.

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The first thing to look at his 2019-20 shooting percentage, which stands at 16.4. That’s considerably higher than his career shooting percentage of 14.1, but it’s important to note that before 2019-20, Miller had shot over 16 percent in three different seasons.

So it’s not fair to just assume that Miller will experience a legitimate regression as far as shooting percentage is concerned — especially with Pettersson and Brock Boeser keep feeding him the puck. Those two will ensure that he gets the necessary scoring chances to produce top line numbers.

Miller’s 2019-20 Corsi For percentage of 54.8 also stands as a career high, considerably above the 50.2 percent for his career. But he had a CF% of 53.8 for Tampa Bay last season. The 54.8 percentage is only a slight improvement from last year, where he was playing a smaller role for the Bolts.

And finally, the 27-year-old was averaging 20:06 of ice time per game — far and away the highest of his career. The explanation is simple: This consistent 20-goal and 40-point man is simply producing in Vancouver because they’re giving him an expanded role — alongside one of the game’s top centres.

Think of Chris Kunitz, for instance. He was a capable top-six forward with the Anaheim Ducks, but he became an All-Star and Olympic gold medalist after playing alongside Sidney Crosby with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Take a reliable 20-goal and 40-point winger, place him alongside an elite centre, and he can become a 30-goal and 60-plus player. That’s what Miller is experiencing now with Pettersson.

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This isn’t to say that Miller will have even greater production in 2019-20. But Canuck fans shouldn’t worry too much about possible regression on his end. Just take a closer look at the numbers above, and it’s safe to say that Miller can put up similar stats in 2020-21.