This is our second year ranking the top 25 Kings players and prospects under 25 years old, and in just our second selection on the list, we've already got our first repeat appearance. Not really a good thing at all for someone who was already on our radar last year to be ranked no higher than 24th; you would hope to see kids fresh out of the draft or just beginning to make their mark this low on the list, rather than repeats. So let's dive in to Colin Miller and figure out why he had literally zero upward trajectory from last year's list.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Nationality||Draft||Vote Total||Last Year|
|24||Colin Miller||10/29/1992||CAN||151 (5th)||51||24 (-)|
(Regarding the vote total: please remember that there were 14 voters, ranking from 25 to 1. Thus, the maximum possible vote total was 350.)
So Colin was ranked 24th last year, even following his impressive point total in his overage year with the OHL's Greyhounds. Why so low for a guy who scored at a PPG pace as a defenseman? As Langluy wrote in her post on Miller last year, one needs to approach overage season production in Canadian major junior with a massive grain of salt. This should make intuitive sense when you think about it, since a 20-year-old man would have a huge advantage playing against, for the most part, 16-to-18-year-old kids. As a result, there's been quite a few CHL prospects over the years who have struggled to replicate their point production in their overage season of major junior at higher levels of professional hockey. And in his first season in the American Hockey League, Miller was no different.
Miller scored just 0.26 points-per-game in the AHL this season, which is much closer to his OHL rookie numbers (0.33 PPG) than the 1.01 PPG he scored in his overage season. Of course, there is an often an adjustment period for young players coming from major junior to the AHL, which should also be taken into account when looking at his point totals this past season. His upcoming season in the AHL will be an important one to perhaps get a clearer view of what his offensive production might look like going forward.
Speaking of Miller's struggles, he clearly did have some problems playing in his own zone at the AHL level this past season. Hear's some excerpts from Manchester's head coach in November via a Gann Matsuda article, discussing some of Miller's problems:
"He's still learning his way in the American league," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "He sat out last game, and in all likelihood, won't play [on November 13, a 3-1 win over Norfolk]. He's got to clean up his own zone, and be more defensively aware."
"With Colin, he acknowledges where he falls short," Morris noted. "When he's fresh, he's extremely good, but when he gets tired, his game dissipates-needless icings, shooting pucks into shin pads, not making good choices, guys being able to make a head fake and lose him in the defensive end-those are all [issues]."
"We're working on his stick position, trying to get him to realize that he's got to play with his stick on the ice more," Morris added. "It's hard to defend when you're carrying your stick across your waist. When you're in an athletic position, you're able to be a better defender, and you're also ready to make better offensive plays, too."
It's not uncommon to hear of a defenseman struggling with consistency and defensive zone play when moving up from major junior to the AHL level. Clearly Miller at least somewhat addressed these concerns from earlier in the season, considering he ended up getting into 65 games with Manchester (along with 3 playoff games). It remains to be seen if Miller can improve his consistency at the AHL level and perhaps earn a bigger role with the team next year. As Langluy noted last time around, his status as a right-hand shot defenseman does make him a bit of a rarity within the Kings' prospect system. His continued development and having a solid sophomore season in the AHL would be a very welcome development for the Kings, who have seen a number of their high-profile defensive prospects stall of late. Miller is definitely a player worth keeping your eyes on in Manchester this coming season.