Who Is The Most Underrated On The Tampa Bay Lightning?

It’s time to evaluate another Tampa Bay Lightning player. This time around, I take an in-depth look at J.T. Miller.

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Miller has played in multiple roles at even strength. He’s played with Steven Stamkos on the first line, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point on the second line, and with Anthony Cirelli on the third line.

In my opinion, Miller is the most underrated player on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Cedric Paquette is a close second.

The Basics

Miller played in 75 games last season, recording 13 goals (0.17 goals per game) and 34 assists (0.45 assists per game) for a total of 47 points (0.63 points per game) last season. Miller averaged 14:40 time on ice and he started 48.6% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Despite the high defensive deployment, Miller put up a very good 53.8 corsi-for percentage. He also proved his reliability with a takeaway to giveaway ratio of 42 to 38, which is a +5 differential. He also played physical and recorded 115 hits. Miller recorded a 100.5 PDO, which means he was not lucky or unlucky last season. With Miller on the ice, the Tampa Bay Lightning had an expected goals for of 40.1 and an expected goals against of 32.9, which is a +7.3 differential.

Advanced Analytics

Miller is smart with the puck (positive takeaway to giveaway ratio), and has great possession numbers despite being mainly a defensive forward. Yet, he’s not a top-of-the-line scorer and he plays limited minutes, but he’s still a crucial component of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In addition, Miller plays a physical, defense-first, safe and smart kind of hockey. But, will that reflect on the spider graphs?

visual created by Kyle Pereira, data from CJ Turtoro

Miller (red) was a major contributor with his shooting (ShotContr60, ShotAssists60), but takes a very low amount of shots (Shots60). I believe, upon seeing this, he could potentially be a 50+ point producer consistently if he shot the puck a little bit more. He is fantastic in transition, both entering the zone (PossEntry60, PossEntry%) and exiting the defensive zone (PossExits60, PossExit%).

But, is this graph truly accurate? Let’s lock down on what appears to be a fantastic transitional game, and look a bit deeper using CJ Turtoro’s Exit per 60 minute visual.

visual created by CJ Turtoro, data from Corey Sznajder

Miller is the second ranked player on the Lightning roster, behind only Kucherov, when it comes to exiting the defensive zone. He does a great job passing the puck up to a teammate and out, as well as carrying the puck out himself. He dumps and clears the puck just as much as he skates it out himself, seemingly wanting to make sure the puck does, in fact, get out, rather than try and clear and fail. Miller does ice the puck a bit, which needs to be adjusted a little bit, but isn’t a problem. He does fail getting the puck out quite a bit, but his straight forward mentality when exiting the zone is fine, and he has plenty of success with it.

But, how about entering the offensive zone? Using CJ Turtoro’s Entries per 60 minutes visual, we can find out just how good he is.

visual created by CJ Turtoro, data from Corey Sznajder

Miller was the 4th best player on the Tampa Bay Lightning when it came to entering the offensive zone successfully, and that top 4 separated itself from the rest of the team. He relied more on himself skating the puck into the zone, but ultimately preferred dumping the puck in deep, and chasing for it. As stated above, Miller is a no nonsense, keep-it-safe player, and the fact that he dumps it in more than anything else is unsurprising. He also failed a few times, but again, it isn’t that bad at all. You can’t expect perfection from a player. He plays it smart, and never forces plays, and it works at both ends of the ice.

In Conclusion

Miller is hands down the most underrated player on the Tampa Bay Lightning. He plays very smart hockey, with limited mistakes.

Miller plays physical when he needs to, and he can put up points. He is versatile as well. Miller can be featured at center. He’ll win face-offs and get the puck into the hands of his teammates. Miller has also proven to be really effective on the wing as well. He has the offensive skill set to play on the power play, and is a reliable penalty kill asset.

Miller is vital to the Lightning’s success, and I expect more of the same from him next season.

All Stats via hockey-reference

The Spider Charts used Data from CJ Turtoro, created by Kyle Pereira

Entry/Exit Charts via CJ Turtoro

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

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