Jonathan Miller, center, prepares to put on his jersey after he was drafted in the first round by the New York Rangers in the National Hockey League entry draft, Friday, June 24, 2011, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
NEW YORK, N.Y. - The New York Rangers went with J.T. Miller, a forward from the U.S. National Development program with the No. 15 pick in the NHL draft on Friday night.
Miller, an 18-year-old left wing from East Palestine, Ohio, was the 23rd-ranked skater among North American players in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's final rankings. He had 11 goals and 26 assists in 48 games with the U.S. under-18 team, and led the American squad with four goals and nine assists in six games at this year's World Under-18 Championship.
"I'm a pretty competitive kid," Miller said. "I always want to compete and I'm pretty hard to play against, so I think that's my best attribute."
His dream of reaching the NHL will be put on hold for at least a little while as Miller has committed to play at the University of North Dakota next season.
"I was a little shocked. I only had one meeting with them," Miller said about the Rangers. "I wasn't really expecting it, but getting my name called was the best thing in the world, and I couldn't thank them enough.
"It's an unbelievable honour, an Original Six team, a great state to play in. It will be great to hopefully play there soon."
The Rangers had Aaron Boogaard, the brother of the late Derek Boogaard, announce the pick of Miller at the draft in St. Paul, Minn.
Aaron Boogaard took a step back from the podium as fans, family members, team officials and scouts gave him a standing ovation. His brother died last month in Minneapolis after a mix of alcohol and the powerful pain killer oxycodone.
Derek Boogaard played one season with the Rangers after he spent five with the Minnesota Wild.
The six-foot-one, 200-pound Miller played in 95 games over two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team, scoring 26 goals and 68 points with 159 penalty minutes.
"I have to get a little stronger and faster and be able to play with some men out there," Miller said. "I have to work out in the off-season and play this next year in North Dakota and see what happens there."
It might be a bit of culture shock for Miller once he gets to New York. He has only been there once.
Miller grew up in Pittsburgh and has become familiar with the Rangers because they play in the same division with his favourite team, the hometown Penguins.
"I'd like to be a top guy that can be relied on to produce," he said. "I'll be a guy that works hard just like they do. I'm excited to play there. It will be a great experience for me.
"It's going to be hopefully great playing there. I've got a lot of family coming in hopefully one day."