The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is lauded as a defence-rich draft. Solid options are available for the Philadelphia Flyers who have two first-round picks (#14 and #19). Adding another defenseman to the Flyers prodigious prospect pipeline would be ideal. For the Flyers, K’Andre Miller would be a risk worth taking at pick #19. This young man is a worthy first-round pick.
K’Andre Miller: A Worthy Gamble
The 6’3″, 198 lb left-handed defenseman is quite new to the position. Miller has only played as a defenseman for three seasons now. Up until then, he played exclusively as a forward. His previous experience as a forward comes in handy in the transition game as well as in the offensive zone. Moreover, Miller’s passing ability is among the best in this draft among defenseman. This video highlights some of Miller’s best offensive skills.
At the :29 mark, Miller recognizes the soft spot in the defensive coverage and drives to the net. Even more impressive was Miller’s vision on his shot from the point. He identified that his teammate was driving towards the high slot and had his stick out for a deflection. His shot found Joel Farabee right on the tape.
Miller’s goal (1:05 mark) starts with him gaining the offensive zone with speed. He’s able to leave the defenseman in the dust. The move he makes on the goalie is reminiscent of his days as a forward. Possessing that type of vision will assist him in his development moving forward.
Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) of The Athletic manually tracked Miller and 164 North American-based defensive prospects during the 2017-2018 season. For an explanation, of his methods, check this out (A subscription is required). These results are frankly stunning. The small sample size is important to note. However, results are results. Miller’s neutral zone defence, shot and scoring chance rates, and shot contributions are quite striking. The players compared in the forthcoming graphs are the most likely defenseman to be taken in the first round of the 2018 Draft.
Defensive Catalyst %
This refers to the percentage increase in even-strength scoring against while on ice. This stat is formulated and calculated by Will Scouch. Only Miller’s teammate, Bode Wilde, bests him here. This stat is just an approximation of a player’s ability to suppress goals against.
Break Up %
These two graphs highlight one of Miller’s most prominent attributes: Neutral Zone defence. His active stick and tight gaps give him the opportunity to break up rushers before they even make it to the blue line. His defensive aggressiveness comes to the fore in these situations.
Miller’s shot differential relative to his teammates is one of the best in Mitch’s sample. Driving play has been shown to be more predictive of future goal scoring than goal-based results. The fact that Miller has already shown he can drive play at a high level is promising.
Dangerous Primary Shot Assists Per Game
Primary shot assists are passes that immediately precede a shot. Dangerous primary shot assists are shot assists that occur in the slot. Miller ranks higher than some of the more highly-touted prospects in this draft class. He is a worthy driver of offensive creativity and origination.
Like most young defenseman, their flaws are more prominent and noticeable. There are still times throughout a game where his reads and anticipation in the defensive zone are a bit off. This will improve with time and practice. He’s a bit too conservative in some areas of his game: carrying the puck out of the defensive zone on his own and unleashing his full offensive arsenal more often. Still, there is a lot to like about Miller’s game currently.
What’s Next for Miller
Miller will be playing for the University of Wisconsin next season. Playing against men in a structured environment like the NCAA is a positive for his continued development. Ultimately, all of Miller’s prodigious tools (skating, shooting, passing, aggressiveness, etc.) point to a successful (and worthy) top-four defenseman at the NHL level.
Video courtesy of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
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