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Candid J.T. Miller opens up on podcast and weekend World Juniors schedule

August 13, 2022, 2:27 PM ET [151 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
As I'm sure you've heard by now, J.T. Miller did a candid, 40-minute interview with John Scott on the 'Droppin' the Gloves' podcast earlier this week.

My biggest takeaway: Miller is sincere about wanting to stay in Vancouver. He's grateful for the opportunity that he has received in his three seasons with the Canucks โ€” playing first-line minutes, both special teams and taking lots of draws. He cites that opportunity as the main reason why he was able to get into the top 10 in NHL scoring last season, finishing with 99 points.

And as he pointed out, he teased that potential when he was placed in a high-end role with the Lightning when he first got to Tampa Bay after the 2018 playoffs. He put up 10 goals and 18 points in 19 regular-season games to finish out the year.

After John Scott showered him with praise and painted the Canucks as a team that's on the cusp of becoming a true competitor, Miller gave a clear-headed response when asked point blank why he doesn't have a signed contract extension yet.

"It's a new fit for our management," he said. "It's new for us." I presume Miller means his agent team here.

"They were there for three months. They don't know, because it's a lot going on, and they have a lot of decisions to make on a lot of players.

"So far to this point, you know, with negotiations, we're not close, as close as we'd like to be. So I'm not 100% sure.

"Everybody has a vision. And as I said from Day 1, I want to be there. I want to be a part of this, because I recognize everything that you just said about, when you do your predictions, about how this team has everything it needs.

"I recognize that and I want to be there. But that being said, if it's not meant to be, I understand that too. Trust me, I'd like to have a deal done in Vancouver and I want to be there. But at the same time, we have to respect everybody's vision. If that doesn't line up, you know, it kind of is what it is."

Miller believes he has matured a lot over the course of his pro career, but was candid in admitting that he still has more growing to do. His self-awareness is on point โ€” and he ties a stronger commitment to the defensive side of the game to a desire to temper his eruptions during games.

"I'm a very, very fiery guy, and I play on a very, very sharp edge," he said. "So it's always on the brink of getting too frustrated or worked up โ€” but at the same time, that brings the absolute best out to me.

"So just because I'm dropping F-bombs or breaking a stick here and there, it doesn't mean I'm checked out. It means, in a weird way, I'm into it.

"At the same time, I understand I can't be doing that. I can't be showing that. I want to get that out. But it's going to be almost impossible to eliminate it by the way I want to play, because when I'm a churchmouse out there, I feel like I'm not even relevant and that's not how I want to play the game.

"I know that I'm a leader on the team and leading by example is something I really take pride in. So I've got to make sure that I'm keeping my emotions in check a little more often, staying engaged a little bit more often.

"And I would say, just the defensive side. I think that all centres that are off the puck to go the other way the whole game, I need to think about defense a little bit more and just be more engaged, win more battles in the defensive zone.

"I think anybody would tell you that they'd like to do that more, but I mean those two things, I think, I'd like to mature, I'm always learning. I'm on the ice early a lot. Try to challenge myself and have the never-satisfied attitude, I guess."

As mentioned, one of the reasons why Miller wants to stay in Vancouver is because he likes what he sees in terms of the team's personnel. That being said, he was even more complimentary of Vasily Podkolzin than I was anticipating.

"He's got like, unlimited potential โ€” it's crazy," Miller said. "He can be the most powerful skater around the ice, have the most powerful shot on the ice.

"Very humble young kid. His wants to learn. First guy on, last guy off at the age of...whatever, 20, 21. (Podkolzin turned 21 on June 24). He's physically engaged, he's built like a man already. Like, the sky's the limit.

"His biggest thing is the language barrier. And he's learned a lot, how much he's learned this last year. I sit next to him in the room and I'm constantly busting him up. He's just a great kid and not one guy doesn't like being around him. I think everybody feels the same way.

"A little more opportunity, a little more understanding of the small ice, and I think just being around the English language a little more โ€” this guy is going to be an unbelievable player. I don't know what the that top end is, but I think it's really high and I think he's gonna score a lot of goals in the National Hockey League."

Sitting next to a teammate as verbal as Miller probably was a great resource for Podkolzin during last season. The rookie impressed with his quickly improving language skills during his English-language press conference, late in the year.

To close, a quick preview of the Canucks prospects in this weekend's World Juniors games.

With a 2-0-0-0 record and a 12-2 goal differential across those two games, Team USA opens the action on Saturday against Austria. A fixture on the second defense pairing, Jacob Truscott is still looking for his first point of the tournament. But he is plus-three already in the first period against Austria, thanks to two goals from his D partner Wyatt Kaiser and one from forward Matthew Coronato.

Finland has a 10-4 goal differential so far, with a win over Lativa and a shootout win over the Czechs. Canucks defenseman Joni Jurmo played much better in that second game, picking up one assist in 13:34 of ice time, but did not see any action in 3-on-3 overtime. His defense partner, Kasper Puutio, was named Finland's best player of the game.

The Finns face Slovakia next, Sunday morning at 11 a.m. PT.

Sweden is 2-0-0-0 so far, with a 9-2 goal differential and wins over Switzerland and Austria. Jonathan Lekkerimaki picked up an assist in Friday's 6-0 win over Austria, but saw just 11:15 of ice time and was down to a team-low 2:35 in the third period.

Sweden's next game will be its first major test, against the Americans in Sunday's late game at 7 p.m. PT.
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