Canucks’ J.T. Miller leading most productive players on new teams

David Amber spoke with members of the Vancouver Canucks about J.T Miller. Bo Horvat and Jordie Benn were full of praise for their new teammate.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning took a big risk when he acquired forward J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning in June.

Sending a first-round pick to Tampa Bay seemed like a high price to pay for a club takings its first strides out of a rebuild — especially one that still had some questions on the blue line at the time. Dealing that first-round pick effectively started the clock on the Canucks’ playoff hopes, circling the 2020-21 season as its deadline for contention.

It’s still too soon to say decisively whether that was a first-round pick well-spent, but so far the deal is looking like a great one for the Canucks. Not only did Benning acquire a reasonably-priced, versatile forward — and not to mention, plenty of incentive for contention — he also landed the perfect linemate for second-year sensation Elias Pettersson.

Five weeks into the 2019-20 season, Miller leads the Canucks in goals and is on pace for his most productive season yet. He’s collecting points at better than a point-per-game pace as a crucial part of one of the league’s most exciting lines and is sitting atop the list of most productive players suiting up for new teams this season.

The following six players are paying particularly great dividends for their respective new teams so far — and making the GMs that acquired them (whether via trade or free agency) look like geniuses.

1. J.T. Miller, C, Vancouver Canucks | 8G, 10A, 18Pts (17GP)
Previous team: Tampa Bay Lightning (via trade)

The trio of Miller, Pettersson, and Brock Boeser has quickly jumped into the conversation of the game’s most productive lines, and Miller’s chemistry with Pettersson has been particularly strong.

Four of his seven goals have come off assists from the young Swede, while Miller has registered a helper on three of Pettersson’s goals. He’s clearly carried that hot October production into November — he’s got a nice little four-game point streak going heading into Sunday’s date with the Devils.

2. Artemi Panarin, C, New York Rangers | 8G, 8A, 16Pts (14GP)
Previous team: Columbus Blue Jackets (via free agency)

In Panarin, the Rangers thought they were getting a shifty, gifted goal-scorer with the ability to accelerate a rebuild. In the Rangers, Panarin believed he was joining an exciting young team with brighter days ahead.

Both were correct.

During his final year with Columbus, Panarin expressed his desire to play in a big hockey market, and he certainly looks happy in his new hockey home. Between him and Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers got off to a hot start and though the club has proven inconsistent when it comes to winning games, Panarin has shown himself to be the steady scorer they need.

While he’s been effective with Zibanejad, he has also stepped up in his injured teammate’s absence. Panarin, 28, is currently enjoying a seven-game point streak with four goals and 10 points during that time and is showing no signs of slowing down.

3. James Neal, LW, Edmonton Oilers | 12G, 2A, 14Pts (18GP)
Previous team: Calgary Flames (via trade)

Hockey Twitter was a dangerous place for Flames fans at the start of the season, with every visit inciting more anger directed at July’s one-for-one trade with the Edmonton Oilers that saw Neal sent to Edmonton in exchange for Milan Lucic. Though both Flames GM Brad Treliving and Oilers boss Ken Holland felt they’d completed a rare mutually-beneficial transaction between historic rivals, early results indicate a more lopsided transaction.

So far, the month of November has brought a dip in production for Neal compared to October, but how could it not? His second game as an Oiler saw him score twice. In his third, he added four more. Another marker one game later brought his total to seven goals through four games, already matching his total from all of last season (63 games) with Calgary. Just adding another element to the rivalry.

4. Matt Duchene, C, Nashville Predators | 5G, 9A, 14Pts (15GP)
Previous team: Columbus Blue Jackets (via free agency)

The summer’s least-surprising signing has, unsurprisingly, yielded pretty solid results for both team and player. His long-anticipated union with the Predators got off to a hot start, with the centreman tallying a trio of assists in his first game with the club and enjoying a five-game, nine-point streak to open the season.

That unsustainable production has since cooled a little, of course, but not by much — his stat line still shows him scoring at a nearly point-per-game pace thanks to strong chemistry with Filip Forsberg and a little power-play magic with defenceman Roman Josi. Three goals to start November — including one against his first team, the Colorado Avalanche, on Thursday — didn’t hurt either.

(This is where we won’t point out that the Avalanche scored six straight goals to bury the Predators immediately following Duchene’s goal…)

T5. Andre Burakovsky, LW, Colorado Avalanche | 5G, 7A, 12Pts (16GP)
Previous team: Washington Capitals (via trade)

Acquiring Burakovsky back in June in an effort to fill out its depth scoring was a smart move that looks even better now that the injury bug has struck in Colorado. Burakovsky could never fill the shoes of injured stars Mikko Rantanen or Gabriel Landeskog, but it’s pieces like him that could help Colorado get through some hard times.

Though he hasn’t been as productive in the weeks since registering eight points in his first seven games, the 24-year-old put up three points Thursday against the Predators and is showing plenty of promise for more should his role expand. He’s also forming a pretty great habit of scoring important goals — he leads the team in game-winners, with three.

T5. Connor Brown, RW, Ottawa Senators | 2G, 10A, 12Pts (15GP)
Previous team: Toronto Maple Leafs (via trade)

Success for this year’s Senators won’t exactly be measured by the number in the wins column, but rather by the number of building blocks GM Pierre Dorion can stack as the foundation of Ottawa’s rebuild. So far, Brown is looking valuable regardless of the measurement. The 25-year-old went from being a depth piece in Toronto to a veteran that can be relied upon by Ottawa in almost every part of the game. He’s proven that he’s more than up to the task with his expanded role, leading the Senators in assists and points as a top-six forward.

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