The last time the Soo Greyhounds used a second round draft pick on a goaltender was in 2010.
That year, the team took a 6-2, 155-pound goaltender from Thunder Bay by the name of Matt Murray.
Move ahead 12 years and the Greyhounds would again use their second round pick on a tall netminder, selecting 6-3, 176-pound Landon Miller of the Vaughan Kings.
If Miller’s OHL career resembled Murray’s final two seasons in a Greyhounds uniform, it could be well-worth the pick as the latter won 58 games over his final two seasons in the Sault
That size is something Miller likes to take advantage of between the pipes.
“I’m a very athletic goalie and I’m also a smart player. I read the game really well,” Miller said. “I’m a bigger goalie and I’d say I use my size really well. I’m really calm in the net and relaxed.”
Miller added that his size as a goaltender “is definitely a big advantage.”
“It’s a luxury for sure,” Miller added. “I have pretty long limbs, so that, combined with my athleticism, bails me out quite a bit.”
Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis added that the size is key, specifically because it’s combined with an athletic ability.
“When you combine both of them, sometimes the fact of the matter is, there is sometimes when you’re watching games and you hate to put it on size, but a smaller goaltender might not be able to make those saves,” Raftis said.
With training camp approaching, Raftis agreed that the hope is Miller will push incumbent netminders Tucker Tynan and Samuel Ivanov in training camp and the team will look for the best fit for the 16-year-old as camp progresses with a focus on getting Miller playing time.
“You see the size and you see the way he moves,” Raftis said of Miller’s ability. “He’s confident with playing the puck. His skating is there. Obviously, like anyone else in the ’06 age group, you want to see strength added to it, but that’s something that’s going to come.”
Miller was among four goaltenders brought in for the Greyhounds development camp in June and said having some returning players in the mix among the 34 players in camp – Justin Cloutier and Marco Mignosa – was a good thing.
“They showed everyone the ropes and took charge on their teams,” Miller said. “It was good for us to see those guys in action to see what it takes to play at this level.”
After the Greyhounds camp, Miller spent a week in Calgary in July participating in Hockey Canada’s Under-17 development camp where he competed with and against some of the country’s top U17 players.
“It was awesome to get to talk to some of the guys that were first and second round picks in the Quebec League and the Western League,” Miller said. “I picked their brain and talked to them about what’s going on in their lives and their situations. I was soaking everything in from the staff.”
The seven-day camp provided Miller with some valuable learning experiences ahead of his first OHL training camp later this month.
“Preparation as well as taking care of your body afterward and recovery was a big thing we worked on with our physical therapist (J.T. Ward),” Miller said. “We worked on a lot of cool downs and lots of preparation even just before a pre-game skate. It was eye-opening for me for sure.”
Raftis added that the Hockey Canada camp can be a real “eye-opener” for young players.
“It’s a good eye-opener for them just to judge where they’ve come in their off-ice training up to this point,” Raftis said. “Then they can see what they want to work on for that next six weeks up to their CHL camps.”
With camps in the books, Miller has returned to training ahead of the Greyhounds camp, which begins prior to the Labour Day weekend.
“I’m working on building strength and speed,” Miller said. “I’m trying to fill out my body as well as gaining speed to be able to move faster in the net. I’ve been working on that a lot but also holding my feet in the net so I can react to the quicker shots at the next level.”
Miller spent the 2021-22 season with the Vaughan Kings U16 team.
“I had a pretty good year,” Miller said. “I wish we would have had a little more team success. We didn’t achieve everything we set out for, but it was a fun year overall. Lots of development for myself and our team got better as the year went on.”
After the 2020-21 minor hockey season was essentially wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Miller said a return to a normal schedule was crucial this season.
“It was really important,” Miller said. “During the lockdown, getting on the ice once a week was a miracle. Finally getting back to practicing two or three times a week with your team and playing games, tournaments, the memories that are created through those moments were missed (during COVID).”
Though getting into the rinks was limited during the COVID lockdowns, Miller said he tried to make the most of the situation.
“I started lifting weights in my basement during that time,” Miller said. “I went on quite a bit of runs. There are roller hockey rinks near where I live. I was just doing anything I could to stay active and play hockey any way I could.”