Canucks: NHL Network ranks J.T. Miller as 17th best winger in league

NHL Network released its rankings of the top 20 wingers. J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks placed 17th.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning raised plenty of eyebrows when he gave up a hefty price to acquire Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Miller at the 2019 NHL Draft.

Benning traded what turned out to be the No. 20 selection in this year’s draft (Tampa Bay later traded it to the New Jersey Devils), a 2019 third-round pick and goalie Marek Mazanez for the veteran forward.

Many Canucks fans criticized Benning for giving up a future first-rounder, fearing it could have been an early draft selection. The team was coming off its fourth straight non-playoff season, after all.

But it turned out to be Benning’s greatest trade yet. Miller enjoyed a career year on the top line alongside Elias Pettersson, and he led the Canucks with 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists).

Miller’s contributions helped Vancouver end a five-year playoff drought, and they went on to upset the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in round one. The Canucks would subsequently push the powerhouse Vegas Golden Knights to seven games, falling just one game short of the Western Conference Final.

So yes, the Miller trade was a hundred percent worthwhile, and he’s going to be instrumental in their Stanley Cup push over the long run.

Ahead of the 2020-21 season, NHL Network released their rankings of the top 20 wingers. Miller placed 17th on the list. Here’s what analyst Stu Grimson had to say on Miller:

“His first season as a Vancouver Canuck (was) nothing short of remarkable. Significant upward trajectory in what he’s got going as an NHLer…This has been a great add for the Vancouver Canucks and the future looks awfully bright for a core, a core of forwards that really organically look like they’re only going to get better as time wears on, Miller an important part of that.”

For what it’s worth, Miller was the only Canuck who made the list. If he can stay healthy and find that potential 30-goal form, Brock Boeser could very well find himself in the rankings next year.

Before arriving in Vancouver, Miller’s best season came in 2017-18, when he tallied 23 goals and 58 points in a campaign split with the Lightning and New York Rangers.

An enhanced role and a spot alongside one of the league’s top centres obviously did wonders for Miller. And there’s no reason to believe that the veteran star can’t build off his career year in 2020-21 and beyond.

It’ll be exciting to see what Miller can do for an encore as the Canucks look to reach the next level following one of their best seasons in franchise history.