J.T. Miller admitted choosing to play with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League was a tough decision, but one he felt was in the best interest of his hockey career.
Miller, taken by the New York Rangers with the 15th pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, decided July 14 he would forgo a scholarship to play at the University of North Dakota, and after signing his entry-level deal with the Rangers on Thursday, he signed to play with the Whalers on Friday.
Because Miller was drafted from the U.S. National Team Development Program, he is eligible to play in the American Hockey League this season, but that would waste a season on his contract.
"I'm very excited to finally get to Plymouth," Miller told Plymouth's website. "I've had to make a couple of tough decisions over the last few weeks, but I'm happy to get up there and am ready to play. … Plymouth looks like a strong team with one of the best coaches in the league (Mike Vellucci) -- if not the best, in my opinion. I've seen Plymouth play a few times, especially when Tyler Seguin was there, and it was great to watch."
A 6-foot-1, 189-pound center, Miller had 15 goals and 36 points in 50 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program. He also had team-highs of 8 assists and 12 points to help the U.S. win the gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship in April in Germany.
"J.T. is a skilled power forward," said Vellucci, who also serves as the team's general manager. "He already plays what we call Whaler hockey. Given a little time, he should fit in well in Plymouth."
Plymouth finished sixth in the OHL Western Conference last season, and after upsetting the Kitchener Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, they were swept in four games by the eventual OHL champion Owen Sound Attack.
Besides Miller, Plymouth will feature two other players taken in the first round of last month's draft -- right wing Stefan Noesen, taken No. 21 by the Ottawa Senators, and right wing Rickard Rakell, taken at No. 30 by the Anaheim Ducks.