by Kirk Dyson || AHL On The Beat Archive
Watching Portland Pirates forward Andy Miele play, there is no wonder as to how he is one of the top scorers in the American Hockey League this season.
A smooth skater that can stop on a dime, a crafty stickhandler that can hypnotize with moves and a playmaker that finds a way to produce offensively, Miele has had his best season as a professional.
Miele was a product of Miami University where he played three seasons, his last culminating in an impressive offensive output of 24 goals and 47 assists for 71 points in 39 games, earning him the Hobey Baker Award for the most outstanding men’s ice hockey player in the NCAA. He immediately signed as a free agent with Phoenix and burst onto the AHL scene, finishing his rookie season with 54 points (16g, 38a). His second season was just as good as his first, compiling 19 goals and 34 assists for 53 points, but Miele was only getting started.
The third-year center was one of Portland’s best this year when it came to offense. He set new highs in goals (27), assists (45) and points (72), finishing tied for third in the AHL in scoring. Because of his outstanding season, he was named to the 2013-14 AHL All-Star Second Team, something that came as a pleasant surprise to the 26-year-old.
“It’s exciting. I had no idea and I got a text from [GM] Brad Treliving and then Coach Ray [Edwards] announced it on the bus so I got a little round of applause,” Miele said. “It was good to have that support.”
Miele’s success in the AHL has seen him climb the list of all-time scorers in Pirates history as well as he nears some of the team’s own Hall of Fame members. Miele ranks 13th all-time in goals for the Pirates with 62, ninth in assists with 117 and ninth in points with 179.
“It feels good,” Miele said. “It feels good to be up there with those players that had great seasons in the past and to be one of those guys is a great honor.”
Miele has excelled on the power play and has benefited from the arrival of one player in particular this season.
“I’ve been with Tobi Rieder all year and he’s been great with me,” Miele said of his linemate. “He’s obviously a great goal scorer. It’s his rookie year and he has 27 goals or something like that (28), so it’s been great playing with him all year and to have that chemistry with someone is so beneficial.”
While his time in the AHL has proved him to be an offensive threat, Miele is still working on transitioning that same game to the NHL.
“It’s been good,” Miele said of his time spent up in Phoenix. “They play a different game, I play a different role there, so I’ve got to adjust to that. You know, my goal is just to play the same way I do down here up there and hopefully I’ll be able to have that opportunity next year.”
Miele was called up to Phoenix on three separate occasions this season, playing in seven games and earning his first two points as a Coyote, both assists.
“It felt great,” Miele said of notching his first NHL points against the Los Angeles Kings this past October. “It took a couple of years to get them but it was nice to grab them and move forward from that.”
On one of his assists, Miele nearly finished the play off for his first NHL goal, but narrowly missed making contact with the puck.
“I’d like to get that goal,” Miele conceded. “That’s what the organization wants. They want people who can score goals because that’s what puts the points on the board. Assists are nice too, but it would have been nice to get the goal.”
And Miele has tried to improve on his goal-scoring. Always the playmaker, Miele has worked harder at getting pucks to the net and attacking it more.
“I just worked on shooting in the summer, took a lot of shots. I’ve got to get some ice in the summer and go out there and shoot numerous amounts of pucks and then it’s just a mindset on the ice I had to change, getting the puck towards the net more.”
Pirates head coach Ray Edwards agreed that Miele has taken a step forward when it comes to getting shots on net.
“This year, he’s focused on being more direct as far as shooting and attacking and, obviously, he’s scored more goals and that was a big part of it,” Edwards said. But Edwards sees other areas that his top center has improved as well.
“The face-off circle has been a big one,” Edwards said. “He’s been one of our top face-off guys, really, the last couple of years. Last year, I think he really put an emphasis on defending a little better. This year, he maybe hasn’t been as good defending as he was last year, but our team was different last year too.”
Still, Miele has struggled to find his game at the NHL level. He has continued to work on his game while in Portland, but Miele believes his mindset could be one of easiest fixes.
“The biggest thing I think when I go up there is just to have more confidence and if I play with more confidence up there, I think I can stay,” he said.
Edwards echoed Miele’s sentiment, though he admitted that can take a little time.
“I think it’s a part of the process. Sometimes you’ve go to go up and back a few times and sort of get comfortable and play with that confidence that you would down here,” Edwards said. “You can tell, a lot of guys go up and just play a safe, simple game because they don’t want to make a mistake. Well, sometimes, you’ve got to go put it all on the line and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But he’s got to go up and play his game up there and I think the more opportunities he gets to go play his game up there, the chances are he’ll find a way.”
Edwards compared Miele’s struggles to play his style and offensive skill set in the NHL to that of a former AHL star currently playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“If you look at a guy like Tyler Johnson that did that down here for a couple years, and now this year, he’s gone up and been able to translate that game to Tampa. And that’s what Andy’s got to find a way to do: translate that offensive game up there and produce as well up there.”
In three years, Miele has quickly become one of the best offensive forces in the AHL. If and when he can find a way to translate his game to the next level, Miele should quickly become a household name on hockey’s biggest stage.