With just one professional AHL season under his belt, Zach Redmond doesn't scream 'veteran hockey player' however, when you take a closer look, the 24-year old defenseman has quite the resume and just made his fifth appearance at a professional training camp. Over the last year, he has made tremendous strides towards becoming a full-time professional.
Being from Traverse, Michigan, Redmond decided to take the collegiate route to develop his game. He began playing with Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL before committing to Ferris State University in 2007-08. He had an excellent freshman season leading the Bulldogs in defensemen scoring with 6 goals and 13 assists in 37 games and had a plus-minus ranking of +15. The strong season resulted in the Atlanta Thrashers selecting him in the seventh round, 184th overall at the 2008 NHL Draft.
He played out his four years with the Bulldogs and signed an entry-level contract with the Atlanta Thrashers quickly after. He made his AHL debut and played three games with the Chicago Wolves. His then followed the team when they relocated to St. John's where he played a full season with the IceCaps. In 72 games last year, he recorded 8 goals and 23 assists, adding a goal and a pair of assists in 10 playoff games.
“I learned a lot,” said Redmond about his first pro season. “There are ups and downs with every season, especially a rookie season but I learned a ton, the city was great and the coaches were great the team was awesome. I really did have a fun year.”
IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge believes Redmond has shown he has what it takes to be a professional hockey player and making moves in the right direction to land a job in the National Hockey League one day soon.
“You can definitely see the polish he has,” said McCambridge during July's development camp. “He has the one-year of playing pro hockey under his belt and is coming off a real strong season. Anytime you can have the experience that he gained in a year, not only in the regular season but to have a chance to go as deep as we went in the playoffs, I think is invaluable. He looks really strong out there and he’s making the right strides development wise so we’ll look to see how that translates come training camp.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound blueliner is known to be a very strong skater with excellent mobility and transitioning ability. He has also been mentioned as having very good vision on the ice and good hockey sense. All in all, he’s thought by many to be one of the closest NHL-ready players currently on the Winnipeg Jets prospect shelf.
“First and foremost, from the start of the season, his offensive ability was always there,” continued McCambridge. “I always knew that he had a real knack for when to join the rush, how to carry the puck through the neutral zone, generate offense form the blue line. The strength of his game really started to develop from taking care of his own zone, and being strong and dependable in his own area of the ice in front of the net and in the corners.
“He’s an intelligent defenseman. He understands where he needs to be on the ice and when to join the rush, and when not to. You look at a young defenseman and all the steps he needs to make, I believe he made some really big ones this season.”
So, is he ready to make the jump into the National Hockey League? If he doesn’t break the full-time Jets lineup, what are the biggest things he needs improvement on?
“When I look at his game and the areas he needed to improve last year, it was puck possession through the neutral zone,” explained McCambridge. “At times we felt he exposed the puck a bit and got that taken away from him, but he got better at that, as well as puck protection, using his speed, moving pucks to getting open and generating that second layer of attack that you really need in today's game.”
Redmond’s off-season goals:
“This year is about getting the rest because the pro-season is a long season,” he explained. “They [Jets management] did say that after this year you should know more about what you want to do, how you want to handle your summer and what you need to get better at. So I’m working on the ice to stay quick and making sure my shot, and my passing, and even my mental game, is where it needs to be.
“They said it was a big summer for me, and they seem to have a plan for everyone. My goal is to make sure when I get that chance, that I’m their guy, and don’t let them down.”