WILMINGTON, Mass. – Kevan Miller is 26 years old, which means he’s actually one of the older members of the Boston Bruins’ defensive corps.
Miller is older than teammates such as Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, but entering this season, he didn’t have the NHL experience those three did. Injuries on the Boston blue line changed that rather quickly this season, and Miller eventually made his NHL debut.
Fast forward a couple of months, and Miller now has 16 NHL games under his belt. On Wednesday, his stellar play in those 16 games was rewarded with a two-year, one-way contract that could keep him in the Black and Gold through the 2015-16 season.
Despite his age, though, Miller is still relatively new to the NHL world. While he saw other Providence teammates such as Krug and Bartkowski catch on in Boston, Miller paid his dues in the AHL. The University of Vermont alum spent parts of four seasons with the P-Bruins before finally getting the call. His new contract is unlikely to change his perspective on how he approaches his job, though.
“It’s obviously a good feeling,” the soft-spoken Miller said Thursday after Bruins practice. “You never want to get comfortable, you want to be on your toes. But it’s definitely a good confidence booster.
“It’s a good feeling for sure. It’s a great organization. There’s a lot of thanks to my teammates and my coaches and the people who have been there to support me.”
The organization has shown its support for Miller in more ways than just signing him to the new contract. Bruins head coach Claude Julien has put his trust in Miller, as evidenced by playing the rookie late in tight games. That was the case Monday afternoon, when he saw 2:24 of ice time in the final four minutes of Boston’s 3-2 win over Miller’s hometown Los Angeles Kings.
“He’s earned it,” Julien said Thursday. “It’s pretty obvious he’s come in here and played some pretty solid hockey and he’s been rewarded for it. No doubt for a player it gives you the confidence and security you’re always looking for.”
Miller also has fit seamlessly into the Boston dressing room. That’s certainly helped by the fact that he’s so familiar with the host of Providence Bruins alumni currently on the team. He’s also earned plenty of respect among veteran teammates who have watched Miller mature as a player even during his short time in Boston.
“A lot of guys have been through what I’ve been through,” Miller said. “There’s a little bit of camaraderie. It’s a pretty tight group. Lately, everybody’s been happy for me, so that’s good.”
It might have taken Miller a little longer to reach this point than his younger peers, but he’s not about to let the opportunity pass him by. His immediate future is uncertain, with ongoing roster shuffling taking place in Boston, but if he continues to contribute as he has this season, Miller’s next step likely will be locking down a roster spot.
“I’m not the youngest guy, so it’s been a long journey,” Miller said. “I know [Bartkowski] gives me a hard time about being old, but it’s good. It’s been a good journey, but it’s not done yet.”