June 21st, 2024

A WHL rookie season to remember: Medicine Hat’s Ryan Miller gets WHL finals experience in first season

By JAMES TUBB on June 6, 2024.

PHOTO COURTESY Keith Dwiggins Portland Winterhawks Medicine Hat product Ryan Miller debuted in the WHL this season with the Portland Winterhawks, going all the way to the WHL finals against the Moose Jaw Warriors.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

A delayed start to Ryan Miller’s rookie season in the WHL was made up for with a more-than extended playoff run.

The Medicine Hat product played his first full season in the Western Hockey League this year, suiting up in 44 regular season games with the Portland Winterhawks, adding 17 more games of experience come playoff time with the Hawks’ run to the league finals.

The 17-year-old was out of the lineup until November with a shoulder injury, which limited him to the 44 games where he still put up six goals and 15 points. Miller says he was welcomed from the start of the season and enjoyed the veteran’s presence.

“Throughout the whole year we had a great group of guys, our team was a lot older so we had that veteran room,” Miller said. “It was awesome to show up there and everyone was wanting to work their hardest and get better every single day. That was incredible to go that far my rookie season, and hopefully we can do it again next year.”

Miller played in all but one game of the Winterhawks’ playoff run, which ended with a four-game sweep to the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL finals. He had two assists in the playoffs and he described his lengthy postseason experience in his first season as surreal.

“Talking to talk all these other guys who don’t even get a sniff of the playoffs, and let alone make it all the way in your first year, I look around the room and there’s some guys – I’m pretty sure everyone in that room had never made as far as we did.,” Miller said. “We handled it pretty well, obviously not the result we were looking for, but we worked our ass off all year and we have to be proud of that.”

Miller returned to the Hat with a focus on getting faster and stronger and work on skill development ahead of his sophomore season. He learned a lot about having confidence in himself and his game and he is looking forward to working his way into getting more ice time next season.

“You have to believe in yourself, have the confidence in yourself, that confidence to just go play your game out there,” Miller said. “You’re going to make mistakes but it’s all about how you learn from them. It’s all a learning process and the coaches are there to help you.

“I didn’t play as many minutes as I would like to but that’s to be expected with a good team, and a lot of players go through that their first year. I thought I played pretty well, just looking for next year to play a lot better and just come into camp and be a top player.”

On top of looking to get back to the WHL finals next season and have a different result than this year, Miller also heads into what is his first year of NHL Draft eligibility. He says it’s in the back of his mind as it is for all players his age, but he is going to focus on what he can control and let the rest fall as they may.

“The biggest part is just go out there next year and just kind of play your game and not really worry about it,” Miller said. “Because the more you worry about it, the worse it gets and kind of fogs the way you play. But I’m just going to play my style and hopefully (scouts) like what they see.”

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