DALLAS – Nick Fohr isn’t sure why prospect K’Andre Miller switched from forward to defense just two years ago.
But Fohr, the associate coach who worked with the blue line Miller starred on last season as part of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s under-18 squad, says it was exactly the right move for the Hopkins native.
“There’s plenty of teams that like him and, man, I really hope to hear his name on Fright night,” Fohr said.
That’s a realistic possibility.
Despite being a newcomer to the blue line, Miller is being buzzed about as a potential first round pick at the NHL draft in Dallas — recognition merited by the work he’s put in to learn the position and a dynamic skill set that matches the way defense is trending.
At 6-3 and 198 pounds, Miller — who played at Minnetonka High School before joining the U.S. program in 2016 — has the size required to compete in the NHL but his mobility is striking.
“He’s a tremendous skater,” U18 national team coach Seth Appert said. “He could play in an NHL game tonight and look like one of the best skaters on the ice.”
A strength like that helps Miller cut down on the opposition’s time and space and force turnovers. He’s also efficient at joining the rush the other way, but he’s still improving in the defensive zone.
“He’s by no means a finished product and ready to jump into the NHL tomorrow,” Fohr said. “He’s got a lot still to learn just from a positional standpoint. He still gets lost a little bit, and that’s because he’s still learning, but his attributes now and why he’s in the talk for that first-round stuff is because he skates as well as he does and he’s the size that goes with it.”
More reps should help continue Miller’s growth, and he’ll get plenty of that. He has signed with the University of Wisconsin.
“He’s a player that even though they’re taking about him being a first-rounder,” Appert said, “he might be a player 10 years from now that you look back and say, ‘He should have been picked higher,’ because he still has that much upward mobility in his game because of his lack of time playing the position.”
Evason to lead PP
Although he handled the penalty kill when he was previously on coach Bruce Boudreau’s staff with the Capitals, new assistant coach Dean Evason will be overseeing the power play with the Wild — the responsibility former assistant John Anderson had before the team decided not to bring him back.
“We have a tremendously skilled group all around on our hockey club,” Evason said. “So our power play certainly has to be a focus for us ultimately to have success.”
During his previous six years with the Predators’ affiliate in the American Hockey League, Milwaukee’s power play ranked in the top 10 the past three seasons. In 2017-18, the Wild’s power play sat 18th at 20.4 percent.
Aside from guiding that unit, Evason hopes he can be a personable presence for the players.
“Hopefully, I’m somebody the players can relate to just not only because of where I’ve been as a coach but where I’ve been as a player,” said Evason, who logged more than 800 NHL games. “I can relate to a lot of different situations that the players have been through and will go through.”
Aside from Evason, General Manager Paul Fenton also has hired longtime mentor and former North Stars GM Jack Ferreira as a senior adviser. It’s possible Fenton will make other staff changes this summer.
“I’m still open-minded,” he said. “I’m looking at everybody. I’m just trying to figure out exactly what we have here, and I don’t think there’s any timetable on it. But I’ve got some ideas that I’m kind of wrestling with in my head.”