With the 180th overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs have selected 5’9, 146-pound American forward Joe Miller out of Blake School (US high school hockey).

A 2018 30th overall draft pick of the Chicago Steel in the USHL (season currently on pause) and a 2021-22 commit to the University of Minnesota, the Leafs would’ve consulted with current Marlies head coach Greg Moore in making this pick. Moore would’ve been involved in the scouting process as head coach of the Chicago Steel and also coached Miller in his one USHL appearance in 2018-19.

A September 15, 2002 birthdate, Miller is the youngest draft-eligible in the 2020 class and, like all seventh-round draft choices, is a major project, but he boasts gaudy high school numbers (25 goals and 59 points in 25 games) underscoring his offensive upside. He’s played center at the high school level, but he projects more safely on the wing if he graduates to the pro level. Still a senior in high school and standing 5’9, 146 pounds, Miller is a long-term project and will likely complete a full college career at the University of Minnesota.

Miller’s pre-draft rankings:

  • Ranked #183 by McKeen’s Hockey
  • Ranked #180 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

Miller mentioned in his post-draft interview that he “idolizes” Mitch Marner’s game as an undersized player who is able to create space for himself with his elusiveness.

Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley on Joe Miller

He is a really under-developed young man. He is a high school kid with blazing speed. He can score. He just has a lot of upside and growth in this game. We just value the speed and the skill.

Joe Miller Scouting Report

courtesy of the 2020 Blackbook (buy now)

Miller was a key offensive piece in the Blake Bears run to the Class AA State Semi-Finals and is part of a highly-skilled age group that has developed through the Blake youth hockey ranks together. In addition to having a successful fall campaign for Team Southwest in the Midwest Elite League, Joe had a highly productive season with Blake School. Miller registered 31 goals and 46 assists in just 31 games for the Bears.

Miller currently lacks NHL size and strength and is a long-term project. Miller can overcome some of his physical attributes with his willingness to go to and navigate in the high traffic areas. Miller has good hands and quick stickhandling ability, and he thinks the game quickly offensively. He can expose gaps in coverages and thread passes through tight spaces to find teammates in the offensive zone and can beat defenders one on one with his skill. Miller gives the sense that he has a plan with the puck when it comes to his offensive zone possessions and makes players around him better.

Miller’s quick hands make him a good finisher around the net, but he will need to continue to develop his shot in order to become more of a dual-threat scorer. Miller has a decent release, but his shot currently lacks the velocity to beat a lot of goalies at the next level. Miller isn’t a fast skater, but he has agile feet and plays fast with the puck, can make plays quickly off the stick handle, and he makes quick decisions with the puck on his tape.

For an undersized forward, Miller is difficult to separate from pucks — not only does he use his agility to be elusive, he showed a strong base and ability to fend off defenders on his back and turn away from bigger defenders. Miller’s lack of size and strength can result in turnovers, but he avoids these situations in a lot of instances as he typically makes quick decisions with the puck before he can get pinned down.

Miller plays center at the high school level, but we feel he likely projects better as a winger at the next level, should he get there. Miller’s two-way game is fine, but he will likely lack the power game and awareness that is required down the middle of the ice at the next level. Miller is at his best working in tight spaces on the wing. As it stands right now, it’s a narrow path to the NHL for Miller, but there is a path.

The path for players of this ilk as widened in recent years and the good news is Miller is determined to go the college route so the long development path will be perfect for him to get to where he needs to be. It’s possible Miller returns to Blake School for his senior season next season, but he will likely see some games for Chicago at some point. Miller is a University of Minnesota commit.

Joe Miller Video

Joe Miller Statistics

2016-17MN Blackhawks 14U AAAMNBEL 14U12347-|-
2017-18MN Bruins 14U AAAMNBEL 14U123710-|-
Minnesota Blades 15U AAANAPHL 15U43470|-
Blake SchoolUSHS-MN251225376|Playoffs12020
2018-19Minnesota Blades 16U AAA16U AAA-----|-
Blake SchoolUSHS-MN2516334920|Playoffs22460
Chicago SteelUSHL100000|-
2019-20Team TDS TransportationUMHSEHL1776130|-
Blake SchoolUSHS-MN252534594|Playoffs6813210
2020-21Chicago SteelUSHL-----|-
2021-22Univ. of MinnesotaNCAA-----|-