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Mitchell Miller, once an NHL draft pick bound for UND, wins top USHL honor after controversial past

Former University of North Dakota commit set a number of league records this past season after not playing in 2020-21. Miller was a fourth-round draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2020 but the NHL team renounced its rights to him after a report surfaced about an assault, bullying and racial abuse incident in 2016.


CHICAGO — Mitchell Miller had a record-setting season playing junior hockey for the Tri-City Storm. On Tuesday, May 31, Miller was named United States Hockey League Player and Defenseman of the Year, an honor coming two seasons after the University of North Dakota and the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes cut ties with the defenseman.

Miller, a 20-year-old from Sylvania, Ohio, was a fourth-round draft pick (111th overall) of the Arizona Coyotes in 2020. He was also enrolled at the University of North Dakota that fall and was set to join the Fighting Hawks hockey team.

But after an in-depth report by the Arizona Republic detailing Miller's admitted assault, bullying and racial abuse of a Black, developmentally disabled classmate in eighth grade in Sylvania, the Coyotes renounced his rights and he was removed from the hockey team.

Mitchell Miller is no longer a part of UND's hockey team.

He did not play hockey during the 2020-21 season before returning to Tri-City, a team that he played for in 2019-20. In 2018-19, he played for the USHL's Cedar Rapids Roughriders.

Miller set league records for goals (39) and points (83) by a defenseman in a season. In 60 regular season games, his 39 goals tied for the league lead and he also was first in the USHL in power-play goals (21), power-play points (37) and plus/minus rating (plus-43). He was second in the league in assists (44) by a defenseman.


The USHL's award announcement Tuesday on social media was met immediately with strong waves of criticism in online replies.

"It doesn't matter what awards Mitchell Miller ever wins for the rest of his life. We are forever going to think of Isaiah Meyer-Crothers. He is who we should be celebrating for overcoming adversity, bullying, and discrimination. Isaiah is more important than hockey and some stupid award for on ice achievement that was a team effort," a user replied in the USHL's Facebook thread.

"Disgusting," a tweet said.

"Embarrassing .. Hockey culture at its worst. Absolutely appalled to see this racist bully be applauded and celebrated just because of his on ice performance (who’s spot should have been given to a decent human being instead)," another tweet said.

"y'all stay keeping hockey as the bottom tier pro team sport, congrats, well done," another Twitter user said.

He is the second Storm player to earn Player or Defenseman of the Year honors. The first was Ronnie Attard, who won both in 2018-19 after having 30 goals and 65 points in 48 games. Attard played three seasons for Western Michigan before finishing the 2021-22 season with the Philadelphia Flyers, who drafted him in the third round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Also on Tuesday, Miller's teammate Jeremy Wilmer, the leading points producer in the league, was named the USHL forward of the year.


USHL awards are voted on by each team's general manager after each team nominates players for the awards.

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com

For more coverage of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities, check out St. Cloud Live.
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