Canucks: What to expect from J.T. Miller in the playoffs

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 16: J.T. Miller #9 of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck during NHL action against the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Arena on November 16, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 16: J.T. Miller #9 of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck during NHL action against the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Arena on November 16, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

J.T. Miller’s steady play led the Vancouver Canucks into a best-of-five play-in series vs. the Minnesota Wild. Here’s what to expect from him in the playoffs.

J.T. Miller was a force to be reckoned with in his first season with the Vancouver Canucks, but general manager Jim Benning knows that the player he was once criticized for giving up a conditional first-round pick for this past summer in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, can actually use his best attributes to be an even bigger impact player in the playoffs this year.

The 2019-20 regular-season has officially come to a close and with that, a best-of-five play-in series will ensue between the fast-paced Canucks and the tightly defensive Minnesota Wild to determine who’ll advance to the final 16. It may not exactly be “traditional playoff hockey” so to speak, but you best know the playoff mentality will be fully present between players, and what Miller brings to the table is exactly what the Canucks need as they embark on this next step.

Playoff experience

Miller comes with plenty of playoff experience, and with Vancouver not having a sniff of playoff hockey since 2015, that’s extremely valuable to this young core of players. Tracing back to 2014, Miller has appeared in the playoffs every single season since then and has enjoyed deep runs to the Eastern Conference Finals on two different occasions.

First, Miller saw 19 playoff games in 2015 playing for the New York Rangers. As a pesty and hard-skating right-winger on the fourth line, Miller managed to impress the team and help the Rangers all the way to game seven. Miller put up eight points total (1 goal, 7 assists), but he was a difference-maker against the better team that was the Tampa Bay Lightning. He put up five points that series, his team missed the finals by a hair, but Miller gained a ton of experience.

Coincidentally, Miller was a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning the next time he saw the Eastern Finals. Again, he was on the losing side of a hard-fought seven-game series, but the positive was again the experience gained, and this time he scored another eight points in 17 games (2 goals, 6 assists). He’s managed a total of 26 points (3 goals, 23 assists) in 61 playoff games. The Canucks need that.

What to expect

Miller is a different player now. He’s more complete. What Miller can bring to this team in the playoffs this season will be huge. On other teams, he hasn’t been leaned on as the “go-to guy” in the past, but with Vancouver, he’s going to be under a lot of pressure to produce.

Alain Vigneault, a former coach of the Vancouver Canucks from 2006-2013, and a coach of J.T. Miller in New York had some high praise for his former player the last time he was in town for a visit as a coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. In a report by TSN, Vigneault tracked down reporters and had them deliver Miller a message about his overall game.

"“Just tell him ‘AV’ says ‘You get it now’ and he’ll have a little smirk for you and he’ll say ‘I understand now,’ I had some tough love with J.T. and it took him a little bit of time to figure it out, but I know he’s figured it out now.”"

Vigneault’s kind words came when Miller was leading the Canucks with 25 points in his first 24 games. Clearly, he was impressed with what he was seeing from his former player. Everything he was doing on the ice that Vigneault was complementing didn’t stop there and Miller continued to dominate and lead the Canucks in points throughout the season.

His toolbox was fully loaded all year long, and his skills only sharpened down the stretch leading the Canucks with 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists) in 69 games. He’s being used as a 200-ft player for the first time in his career, and with Vancouver, finally, his best assets will relish in a playoff atmosphere.

Next. Canucks roundtable: Predicting series vs. Wild. dark

It’s going to be very exciting to see Miller perform in the playoffs. Expect his six straight years of playoff experience to be the driving force for him to help the Canucks be an offensive threat.