Colin Miller's journey with the LA Kings actually began before he was drafted by the team. After joining the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds as a free agent, and completing his OHL rookie season with modest scoring totals, he was invited to Kings development camp. The team didn't choose to offer him a contract then, instead waiting to see how he performed during the 2011-12 season as a 19-year-old. Apparently the Kings saw enough improvement to satisfy them, because they drafted him in the fifth round (#151 overall) that summer. The Greyhounds then brought Miller back to captain the team during his over-age season, which was by far the most successful of his major junior career. A quick look at his stats:
|24||Colin Miller||29/10/1992||CAN||151 (5th round)||42|
(Regarding the vote total: please remember that there were 10 voters, ranking from 25 to 1. Thus, the maximum possible vote total was 250.)
|2010-11||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||66||3||19||22||44||--||--||--||--||--|
|2011-12||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||54||8||20||28||79||--||--||--||--||--|
|2012-13||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||54||20||35||55||78||6||1||6
The Greyhounds are an interesting franchise. (I use the word "interesting" because I'm tired of writing about that shitshow and this is a family-friendly blog, damn it.) In addition to a host of off-ice shortcomings, the on-ice product has generally been pretty terrible in recent history. This past season, however, the team improved significantly, and won its first playoff series since 2008, with Miller's break-through performance being cited frequently as a critical component of that improvement. He was a ppg player in both the regular season and the playoffs, ranking fourth on the team in scoring while playing major minutes - approximately 25 minutes a night, on the Greyhounds' top pairing with top 2013 draftee Darnell Nurse. For his troubles, and for his "community event participation", he was awarded the OHL's Mickey Renaud's Captain Trophy, and voted Most Underrated Player by OHL Western Conference coaches.
As with Nick Ebert, I asked Brandon Sudeyko of In the O Radio to comment on Colin Miller's performance at mid-season, and he had this to say:
...as far as in the OHL, he is a well-deserved captain. The room is still…different than what some are used to but it works for them. When something needs to be said, Miller is not shy about it. He is a pretty good leader and a good choice according to his peers in the room. On ice, Colin has become a bit of a scoring threat, something I didn’t think he could continue improve at. This could be because of the motivation of being drafted or the fact he doesn’t have to spend all his time on defence because there is some ‘backup’ for him on the ice and on the bench. Miller plays around 25 minutes a night, and defensively has become a player that some opposition will avoid. Not the swiftest of foot but cuts down skaters with his reach, angles, and physical ability. Can clear space around the net, and very strong and punishing on the boards.
Now, there are some statistical indicators that dominant over-age seasons don't necessarily correlate with future success. Casual observers tend, I think, to under-estimate the impact that an extra year of growth can have, as between teenagers. A 20-year-old playing in a league of 16- to 18-year-olds is literally a man amongst children. As such, it would be foolhardy to assume that Miller's big step forward in production was indicative that a future scoring superstar has been born, and will descend to lead the Kings to glory, causing Drew Doughty to sulk in the back of the room and be angry and jealous and stuff.
On the other hand, it seems clear that Miller has made some genuine progress. As Brandon mentioned, finally having some defensive support likely freed Miller up to take more chances offensively, while still performing well defensively. Also of note is the fact that Miller scored eight of his 20 goals on the power play, which is a healthy proportion, and demonstrates that he wasn't out of his league on the Greyhounds' first powerplay unit. Finally, reports out of this summer's recent development camp were quite positive, with multiple observations that he skated well (which has never been noted as a particular strength of his before), and showed off a hard, accurate shot.
Having aged out of the OHL, Miller will be trying for a spot with the Monarchs next season. Given the logjam of Kings defensive prospects, a place in the AHL isn't guaranteed, but a)Miller shoots right, which is a scarcity amidst that logjam, and b)while I don't think he suddenly uncovered an inner elite talent this past season, I do think it's promising that he improved noticeably in some of the weaker areas of his game (skating, puck-carrying ability, etc.). It's certainly too early to pronounce whether Miller was a good value pick or not, but I think Kings fans can be satisfied with his progress so far.
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