Carson Miller has displayed some enticing offensive flourishes for the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey.
Now he is showing them for his hometown Yorktown Terriers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, with four goals in four games heading into Friday night’s fixture against the Melville Millionaires.
The WHL, which is not set to begin until Jan. 8, has allowed its players to perform in Junior A or Junior B leagues until then.
Carson Golder of the Royals is with the Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. The Victoria Grizzlies of the B.C. Hockey League have added Payton Mount and Luke Bateman from the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. The Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL have Montreal Canadiens 2019 third-round NHL draft pick Gianni Fairbrother skating on their blueline from the Everett Silvertips of the WHL.
“I grew up cheering for the Terriers. We were season-ticket holders and used to go to every game, so it’s so cool to be able to put on a Terriers jersey,” said Miller.
He is one of four WHLers playing for the Yorkton squad. Miller said he’s finding only a few differences between the major-junior WHL and Junior A level in terms of speed, pace and physicality, but not as much as some might expect.
The rinks are bereft of fans in the SJHL, as they are in the BCHL.
“You have to rely on your teammates for energy,” said Miller.
“But I never pay much attention to what’s going on outside the glass. It’s still hockey and it’s still fun.”
Miller went home in March after the WHL regular season and playoffs were cancelled due to COVID-19. He stayed in trim through the spring, summer and early fall through his annual landscaping job in Yorkton. “It’s been awesome being home with my parents,” he said.
The 20-year-old hasn’t been able to do that much since he began being billeted at the beginning of his WHL career with the Prince Albert Raiders in 2016-17 as a touted 2015 first-round WHL bantam draft pick. But this hometown trip to Yorkton is anything but normal in many ways.
Miller said it’s frustrating to be back in familiar surroundings but unable to really hang around with old friends because of pandemic restrictions.
This will be Miller’s fifth season in the WHL, the last two with the Royals, after coming to the Island in a trade that sent Royals veteran Dante Hannoun to the Raiders.
Miller has enjoyed his time in the B.C. capital despite being stymied by some unfortunate injuries. He had four goals and 12 points in 32 regular-season games for Victoria in 2018-19 before a fine playoff run with five goals in 10 games. He was on 12 goals and 28 points in 45 games last season before it was scrubbed.
Despite being more of a finesse player, Miller is not averse to mixing it up, as attested by his 83 penalty minutes last season. An all-rounder, Miller made it to the Saskatchewan provincial championships in lacrosse with the Yorkton Fighting Pikes, and also in track and field.
Although it is the target date, the WHL season is not guaranteed to begin Jan. 8. It’s a final season of junior hockey Miller never expected.
“I’ll be ready for when the time comes [WHL opens] and make the best of it,” said Miller. “Whatever happens, I look forward to it.”
Meanwhile, the current sojourn on his hometown SJHL team is proving an unexpected, but pleasant, full- circle diversion in old haunts.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said.