Reliance on Miller’s skills was not always a guarantee for Cornell. He remained uncommitted to a collegiate program late into the commitment cycle. The academic year and close of the commitment cycle grew near while he played for the St. Michael’s Buzzers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Miller’s campaigns with the Buzzers were successful. He wore the captain’s “C” his last season with the Buzzers. Miller remained elusive to a collegiate commitment despite accumulating 249 points during his two campaigns with the Buzzers including 111 goals. The commitment cycle was coming to a close.
It was on May 1, 2009, the last possible day, that Greg Miller committed to joining the ranks of the historic players who comprise the legacy of Cornell hockey. Miller would take the ice at Lynah Rink in Cornell’s iconic home whites just five months later. He has not looked back since then and has done great things for Cornell during the first three years of his career.
Miller emerged during the rebuilding year of 2010-11 as a reliable and consistent point producer for the Big Red. He accumulated 29 points over that campaign while accumulating those points at pivotal junctures. He earned three points against RPI in what became a crucial contest against a nationally competitive and ultimately NCAA Tournament-bound 2010-11 Engineer squad. It was the victories over RPI that ensured that Cornell maintained its long-standing streak of earning first-round byes in the ECAC Tournament and resulted ultimately in Cornell’s appearance in the 2011 ECAC Championship Final.
The end of the 2010-11 season for Miller was not unlike the end of the 2011-12 season. Miller concluded the 2010-11 season as the top point scorer for Cornell by besting then-senior Joe Devin. While most of Joe Devin’s point total was amassed with goals, Miller accumulated the majority of his total with assists and generating opportunities that ensured his team’s ultimate successes that season.
The 2011-12 season showed even greater improvement for Miller. He demonstrated his commitment to team offense in 2010-11. In 2011-12, Miller began to put his tremendous offensive capabilities on display. Miller scored nearly four times as many goals during his junior season as he did during his sophomore season. Miller led Cornell in points earned in both his sophomore and junior seasons. While Miller’s point total between his sophomore and junior campaigns differ by only two points with the latter being the higher, the percent contribution of goals toward that total shifted dramatically. Only 14% of the points that Miller contributed during his sophomore campaign were tallied with goals. That figure leapt to 45% for his junior campaign. He tallied multiple points in six games including one game in which he scored two goals during his junior season. However, it is his participation in the 2012 NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinal rush that led to Rodger Craig’s game-winning goal against Michigan that will be remembered longest.
It is apparent that Greg Miller began to feel comfortable as a skilled and poised goal-scorer during the 2011-12 season. Miller’s leadership and contributions to the team’s success are apparent in his impressive +21 from his junior season. This was an improvement over his already enviable +15 rating from his sophomore season. Miller makes those around him better when he is on the ice. It is this leadership and skill that will be needed as much as his talented goal-scoring when his senior class and he help several players who are playing for Cornell for the first time navigate Cornell’s difficult 2012-13 out-of-conference schedule and reach heights in the college hockey world that Cornell has not seen recently.
The senior forward was invited to the Washington Capitals Development Camp. Miller’s speed and his hockey sense that enabled him to be involved seemingly in every scoring opportunity impressed Caps organizational observers and spectators. The bookends of the scrimmages that the Caps Development Camp conducted unsurprisingly involved Cornell’s top pointer earner. Miller opened the scoring of the Caps’ scrimmages with a goal. Then, he concluded the camp with scoring the game-winning goal for his team in overtime of the final scrimmage of the camp. That goal can be seen in the video below at the 32:05 mark.
Most commentators who champion that argument analogize Miller’s development to another ECAC forward who made it as far as the Hobey Baker Hat Trick last season. The development of Colgate’s Austin Smith is the model invoked most often. The analogy at first gloss is strikingly similar.
Smith accumulated 31 points his junior season before his breakout senior season. Miller earned 31 points his junior season. Interestingly, Miller accumulated 4 more goals his junior season than did Smith during Smith’s junior season while Colgate plays a schedule that is typically longer than that of Cornell which makes the feat even more impressive. Smith experienced a 360% increase in the number of goals he scored in his senior season over those scored in his junior season while enjoying a 184% increase in the total number of points that he scored. Smith ended his final Colgate season with 57 points and 36 goals. If Miller enjoys the same level of improvement between seasons, which is what several learned commentators have hypothesized, Miller would total 67 points with 50 goals during the 2012-13 season. This would lead his career total of points at Cornell to become 132.
The analogy is not perfect. The first major difference is the systems that are in place at Colgate and Cornell. Colgate plays a more offensively open style that is conducive to goal scoring at the expense of surrendering offensive opportunities. Cornell plays stifling defense that sometimes sacrifices open-ice offensive opportunities in exchange for control and predictability. The former is more conducive to a player tallying a higher number of points generally. However, this is not to say that Miller will not have a breakout season. WAFT thinks that he will. It is to point out that expecting 50 goals from even Cornell’s top point-earner within a system that Schafer has stated publicly will rededicate itself to sound defense is a grand task.
Miller will improve. He will become one of the best forwards in the nation. It is possible that even if he has even a fraction of the improvement that the above Smith-Miller analogy model predicted he will be a worthy and likely Hobey Baker candidate. Miller characteristically redirects praise regarding the Hobey Baker Award from him to his sophomore teammate, Brian Ferlin. His skills may prove him to be too modest. We think that he will become even more offensively potent and will serve a vital role in leading Cornell to its ultimate goals during the 2012-13 season.
One trend remains if Miller hopes to claim the Hobey Baker Award. Few recipients have been member of a team that has not made the Frozen Four during their tenure on their team. Cornell has not made the Frozen Four in Miller’s first three years at Cornell. If he wishes to win the Award, he knows what he needs to do. However, if the roster can stay healthy, he will not need to do it alone. Offensively opportunistic and fast players like Bardreau, Esposito, and Ferlin can be expected to augment Miller’s skills and speed. It is possible that the greatest competition for national offensive prominence may be between Miller and his teammates. I am sure that he would not want it any other way. Miller will prove to be more than up to the challenge.