© Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Hockey is a long way from over for Dallas Miller.
The 15-year-old player, as well known for his temper as his immense skill, is no longer on the Prince Albert Raiders' 50-man protected list. But with nine points in his last six games, the member of the Winnipeg Sharks AA team that won the Kelly Dmyterko Memorial Midget AA Tournament on Sunday at the Kinsmen Arena in Prince Albert isn't giving up on a hockey future just yet.
Miller says he knows he has things to fix, including a reputation for getting angry on the ice.
"I worked on it this game," he said a few minutes after the final.
"I'm trying to work on my defensive game so that I can build it up and play on the PK (penalty kill) and in key situations," he added.
The Prince Albert Raiders took a chance on Miller in the last WHL draft, taking him with the first pick of the sixth round, 111th overall. Long considered an elite talent, the Thompson, Man., product was dogged with criticism that he had a temper.
Still, Raiders head scout Dale Derkatch wrote glowingly about Miller on the club's website after the WHL draft.
“Dallas has played a lot as an underage player in minor hockey, consistently playing against players older than him. He is a big strong power forward, good skater and can be a very good second line player in the future.”
Concerns were heightened a month after the draft when Miller slashed an official at the AAA Hockey Challenge in Brandon last spring, netting him a long suspension.
But after a tarining camp with the Raiders, the team chose to cut ties with Miller.
Raiders GM Bruno Campese explains why.
"To me you have to have the whole package,” he says. “Sometimes you’ll take a less talented player who doesn’t have the demands or the expectations. Sometimes you’ll take the lesser player because they are a good citizen.
“It wasn’t an easy thing because we thought he had a good camp but there were some things that I don’t want to talk about that transpired that we weren’t very happy with so the decision was made to take him off our list.”
Miller protests that he had broken a finger in a fight and played through it anyway.
"I went to the camp and got injured the first practice," he said. "I played injured through the whole thing; I broke the tip of my finger in a fight and I just wasn't the same after that."
His coach with the Winnipeg Sharks, Andrew Coop, picks his words carefully when he talks about his young player.
"He's really worked hard and made a commitment to help the team succeed and the more he does that, the more I think he'll see himself achieve what he wants to achieve in hockey," he said. "He's an unbelievable talent. Dallas Miller is, in the city midget league in Winnipeg, one of the best talents and pure goal scorers, second to none."
He hasn’t been listed by another WHL club.