J.T. Miller had his own cheering section at Consol Energy Center on Saturday, when a good portion of his hometown of East Palestine came to watch his New York Rangers play the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The game was the 20-year-old Miller’s 19th with the Rangers since his call-up from the American Hockey League.
“I’m not a teen anymore,” Miller told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after a workout in Pittsburgh on Friday. “It goes fast.”
The East Palestine native helped the United States win a gold medal in the world junior championship and played in the AHL All-Star Game on Jan. 28. Miller had two goals and four points in 18 games entering Saturday’s action.
The Rangers selected Miller 15th overall in the 2011 draft.
Miller told the Post-Gazette that Manhattan is a far cry from East Palestine.
“It’s pretty crazy for me,” he said. “I’m not sure if I’m used to it yet. I’m from a pretty small town. My town’s, like, half the size of Central Park, let alone the city.”
Miller was assessed a penalty for cross-checking against Penguins star Sidney Crosby and was also credited with legal hits against Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Simon Despres in Pittsburgh’s 3-0 victory Saturday.
Rangers coach John Tortorella told the Post-Gazette that Miller has contributed, primarily on New York’s third line.
“He’s a young man who has done some really good things for us,” Tortorella said. “He still has a lot to learn, as a 20-year-old should. We’re going to watch very closely because we still think he needs to develop, and we want to make sure we’re not putting him in spots that are going to hurt his development.
“He’s a real interesting one as we try to influx our team with young kids.”
The Rangers are 13-12-2 (28 points).
“I’m sure I’ll be able to look back over the summer and say it was a pretty decent year,” Miller told the Post-Gazette. “Right now, I feel I need to live in the present, especially when we need a couple of wins.”