After a debut season in which he earned all-rookie honors, Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller is looking for more than an encore.
“I guess the biggest thing for me will just be my confidence, probably, going from Year 1 to Year 2,” the 21-year-old said Tuesday before the Rangers’ 3-2 victory over the Bruins at the Garden. “Obviously I made some good steps in my first year from my perspective, and I had some things I wanted to work on over the offseason, obviously, skating, shooting, confidence with the puck.”
Miller, who shared the all-rookie defense honor with the Devils’ Ty Smith, recorded 12 points (5-7) in 53 games while partnered primarily with Jacob Trouba. Averaging 21 minutes 7 seconds of ice time per game, Miller was on for 43 goals for at five-on-five, tied for the most on the club with Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox. Miller was on for 35 against.
“Obviously it was a huge accomplishment,” Miller, who was drafted 22nd overall in 2018 after the Rangers traded up, said of the honor. “[There was] a lot of hard work and dedication behind the scenes not only from myself but from my teammates pushing me day in and day out, preparing me to be better and pushing me to be the best I can be.”
Miller said his offseason work on his shot was focused on his release and one-timers as to be more proficient getting the puck through, while his work on his skating was about making quick turns.
“I’m a big person, big feet, so I think just moving my feet a little bit quicker in those small areas,” said the 6-foot-5, 210-pounder. “Moving quick to spaces and stuff like that, those were the biggest things.”
It is one thing to do it once. It is another to do it again, let alone improve on that kind of first year. More will be expected of Miller as the left-side half of the tandem with Trouba. But the jump following the rookie season can be tricky.
“Sometimes you ask them to do more and it’s too much. It’s a fine line,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “But those guys want to do more, they’re good young players and they want to go to the next level, they want to do more, they want to continue to grow their game.
“That’s what you expect from those guys. I think Troubs is a great player for him, a veteran guy that can help him out back there, not try to do too much. We want him to get better, he’s a great young player and I think he’ll take another step for us this year.”
Anthony Bitetto became the only player to play in each of the first two exhibition games. The defenseman got the call when Matthew Robertson was deemed not ready to go after missing a few days of camp last week with a groin issue.
First-round selection Brennan Othmann also played, as did Braden Schneider and Zac Jones, who were paired together and could form the AHL Wolf Pack’s top tandem.
The Blueshirts will play next at New Jersey on Friday before a match in Boston on Saturday. The club will remain in New England to practice for a couple of days in Rhode Island at the beginning of the week.
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