Drew Miller was a name common amongst Michigan residents given his three years in the green and white of the Michigan State Spartans. Over his three years and 125 games in the CCHA, Miller scored 39 goals and 47 assists but as he entered the pros on the AHL level, he put up decent numbers for Portland over one and half season before making the transition to the NHL and the Anaheim Ducks.
In 2007, Miller won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks but found split time in the AHL the next two seasons. Miller was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in this past off-season. In the 14 games he played, he registered 0 goals, 0 assists, a -3 and a mere 10 shots on net. He was placed on waivers by Tampa Bay and it looked like he might go unclaimed.
The Red Wings had lost Jason Williams, Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen all to injury by that point. Any players that they could pick up would be welcome as Brad May, Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino just weren't enough for the suddenly feeble attack.
Detroit picked up the 26-year-old off waivers and were able to pay him an incredibly low $525,000. Miller played almost immediately and logged 11:33 of ice time for the Red Wings in a 3-1 win over Vancouver. He worked his way into a role within the team as a good defensive forward that showed scoring flashes at times and a good head for knowing where the puck was going.
Up until today's game, Miller has played 63 games for Detroit and scored more goals this season than he had in his entire NHL career.
But what the offensive numbers don't tell is how valuable he is on the defensive side of the puck. Miller worked his way into the role of a penalty killer and he's been one hell of one in that time. Only 7 goals have been scored in the 114 minutes he's spent on the ice as a penalty killer. Miller is also second on the team (for forwards) in blocked shots with 44 and ranks ninth in takeaways with 18.
The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle put out a list of the top 30 defensive forwards and Miller ranked 26th on the list. The criteria was pretty stringent and the fact that Miller is on there and is the lowest paid on the list shows exactly how much of a bargain the Wings and Ken Holland got by offering him a spot in the locker room.
Although Drew will likely always remain in the large shadow cast by superstar goaltending brother Ryan Miller, he's starting to create his own path in Detroit. With the aging Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper on the way out sooner rather than later, Miller could be a new generation grinder in Detroit. The way he played as a waiver wire pick up essentially spelled the end of the Ville Leino experiment in Detroit and showed he more than deserves the sweater that he puts on each night.
Get a new contract ready, Mr. Holland. We want him back next year.