Colorado Avalanche: K’Andre Miller a Bruising 2-Way Defenseman

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: K'Andre Miller #19 of Team USA skates in the second period during the game against the Omaha Lancers on Day 3 of the USHL Fall Classic at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on September 30, 2017 in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: K'Andre Miller #19 of Team USA skates in the second period during the game against the Omaha Lancers on Day 3 of the USHL Fall Classic at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on September 30, 2017 in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Unless they make a trade, the Colorado Avalanche will select #16 overall in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft. Perhaps they’ll use that pick on defenseman K’Andre Miller.

The Colorado Avalanche have eight picks in the 2018 NHL Draft, with their first coming at #16 overall. The plan is to choose the best player available at that position.

Of course, beyond the top-10, it’s difficult to say who is the best player available.  All players selected, say, 11 to 31 will have some deficit to their game but with upside that far outweighs it. In other words, you expect these players to require some development time.

Well, the Avalanche may choose the best player available within their need structure. So, while it’s pretty true they’re stocked in the small, puck-moving defenseman area, perhaps they’ll choose a bruising two-way guy with hockey smarts.

K’Andre Miller

2017-18 Team: US National U-18 Team, USDP
Date of Birth: Jan. 21, 2000 (18 years old)
Ht: 6’4″
Wt: 205 lbs.
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Ranked #14 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #23 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)

K’Andre Miller is an up-and-coming Dustin Byfuglien, and that’s kind of exciting. It’s partially the fact that he’s played both forward and defense, but also the fact that he already has the size and strength to rag doll opponents like Big Buck does. (No word on whether he grew up on a diet of Hardees, but his favorite meal is apparently steak, corn and mashed potatoes.)

Now, he’s going to have to work on his idols a little bit — it would be so much better if his role model was Dustin Byfuglien. However, according to USA Hockey, his favorite U.S.-born player is Patrick Kane, and he considers Mikko Koivu a role model. *head shake

Ok, let’s get on with his game. Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst calls Miller a “talented two-way defenseman with top-pairing upside.” Kournianos likes what he sees of K’Andre’s skating:

"” A strong skater with very good speed, Miller generates a lot of power into his stride and is starting to beat both opposing forwards and defenders to the outside. “"

Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey concurs, calling his skating “outstanding.” The site further describes his skating as “effortless,” but with “very good speed in both directions.” Kerr continues:

"“Miller has very good acceleration as he reaches that top speed very quickly. His edgework, pivots, and agility are top notch. Miller changes direction effortlessly. He also can make quick cuts, as well as transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa.”"

While Future Considerations also considers his skating to be decent, the site is more modest in its praise:

"“…solid mobility for his size, and he does not have any issues getting up and down the ice when already moving…can have some heavy boots when starting and stopping, defending against more agile attackers but handles them by being physical and using his length”"

Indeed, the site sees a lot more of the physicality in his game than the other two. Rather than calling him two-way, the site describes his style as “bruising, defensive-minded” as well as “a nasty customer around the net and is physically intimidating.”

Future Considerations does see some finesse in his defensive game:

"“…communicates well with teammates and plays responsibly in his own zone…great awareness of his defensive zone and quick decision-making ability”"

Kournianos also sees some finesse in his defense:

"“Watching Miller smother in one end and skate effortlessly in the other makes me think his learning curve is not steep at all — he plays a clean, composed game in his own zone and looks fantastic when he’s unbridled.”"

That said, the scout does see the physicality in K’Andre Miller’s game, observing, “His strong lower half makes rubbing out forwards of any size look easy.”

Kerr also sees the physicality, calling Miller “aggressive and physical in his own end.” However, Kerr also sees the finer points:

"“His skating allows him to maintain good gap control on the rush, and take his man out in one-on-one situations.”"

Now, as I noted, K’Andre Miller started out as a forward and has played both positions off and on. So, of course, you’re going to see some offense to his game. In fact, Kounianos remarks, “The manner in which he sharply pivots his way into bigger openings might explain how such a big and physical defenseman is only a few years removed from being a forward.”

Future Considerations observes that Miller “does not hesitate to shoot the puck when he has a lane,” and calls his slapshot “his most dangerous offensive weapon.” The site also observes that Miller gets “good velocity on one-timers.”

Kerr admires Miller’s puck-handling skills combined with his skating:

"“He can skate the puck out of danger, and start the transition game by leading the rush. He also makes a good first pass to start the transition game. “"

What’s more, Kerr observes that K’Andre Miller “has the vision and playmaking ability to set up his teammates.”

C’mon, K’Andre, it sounds like a natural for you to be an Erik Johnson acolyte.

K’Andre Miller in action:

K’Andre Miller and the Colorado Avalanche

More from Mile High Sticking

As I observed in a previous post, the Colorado Avalanche are going to need an heir apparent who can take over for Erik Johnson in the next five years. It pains me to say that, but Johnson will be 35 and at the end of his contract while other core players, such as Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, will be in their mid-20s and in their prime.

That’s where K’Andre Miller comes in. He doesn’t have the upside that Johnson has had throughout his career. However, he’s a skilled, smooth-skating two-way defenseman with a nasty streak.

Miller comes from the prestigious US National Devlopment Program, like Johnson. Also, he’s committed to the University of Wisconsin next season — Johnson want to the University of Minnesota for a year. Conceivably, after a couple years, K’Andre Miller could come out ready to start learning the NHL game at Johnson’s level.

I don’t know if the Colorado Avalanche are planning ahead with that much vision.  However, I skipped a couple players higher than Miller on the draft because Avs insider Rick Sadowski wrote that he’s one the Avs are watching.

It could be a very good move for the team to draft K’Andre Miller.


The 2018 NHL Draft takes place in Dallas on June 22-23.