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A star in the making

Prospect Zach Redmond could outgrow AHL soon

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No matter what distractions may be available -- maybe a guy lands a big pot in a card game, gets engrossed by a good flick or dives into a meaty book -- seven hours on a bus is still seven hours on a bus.

And it can be enough to sap the life out of anybody.

So when we caught up with Zach Redmond -- the St. John's IceCaps' star defenceman/Winnipeg Jets' prospect -- early Thursday night, the weariness of the long trek from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Hamilton was evident in the man's voice.

"We just pulled in," said Redmond, whose IceCaps meet the Bulldogs in Hamilton Friday and finish up their pre-Christmas schedule in Toronto against the Marlies on Saturday. "Seven hours... man. Usually we're not on the bus that long. But we got through it."

We begin with this little tidbit because if the accounts from The Rock are true, seven-hour bus rides might not be part of Redmond's near future. Yes, when the National Hockey League does finally get back to work it seems no one on the IceCaps' roster has earned a look from the big club more than Redmond, the 24-year-old product of Traverse City, Mich.


IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge raved about him in a chat with the Free Press last week. And Jet brass is said to have been very impressed with the maturation in his game after just a season and a half in the pros.

Now, all of this was relayed to Redmond during a chat Thursday, but when it comes to the lockout and to possible promotion to the Jets when it is over, he spits out a politically correct answer.

He's an IceCap now. Wants to help his team turn around what has been a disappointing start to the season. And all that other stuff about being NHL ready? It's just chatter.

"The lockout is what it is. It's not just affecting me, it's affecting everybody." said Redmond. "It's something out of my control. To be honest with you, I don't even really think about it. Yeah, it's kind of a bummer but I'm content to play my best down here and control what I can control. Hopefully if they do figure it out this year or whenever I can stay consistent and set myself up as best as possible.

"You could get frustrated. But there are guys that are in worse situations than me. Guys who are in the first year of their one-way contract and they're not able to be up there for it.

"And me... I can't complain," Redmond added. "I'm happy with how the first part of the season has gone personally. I wish we were winning a bit more, but the season is still young. I'm excited to keep it going here because I think we're going to get on a good roll."

Redmond's development in the Jets' organization has been rapid. The Ferris State product showed flashes in his first pro campaign last winter, earning a spot in the AHL All-Star Game and finishing the season with 31 points, including eight goals, in 72 games.

But he was also a healthy scratch when the playoffs opened as the wear and tear of the jump from college to pro began to affect his consistency. Over the summer he religiously followed a fitness program set up by Jet strength and conditioning coach Lee Stubbs and that regime, coupled with a truer understanding of what makes his game work, has smoothed out some of the peaks and valleys in his play.

But that's big-picture stuff. Redmond admitted he chooses to focus on the right here and now. He's got tonight's game against the Bulldogs and then Saturday's contest in Toronto -- one his dad, brother and girlfriend will drive up to watch from Michigan before the whole crew heads back home for Christmas.

As for when the lockout ends and the Jets come calling...

"I can't think about that right now. Out of my control. But," he adds with a chuckle, "that would be a great phone call to get." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Late-round steal?


Position: Defence

Born: July 26, 1988, Houston, Texas

Ht: 6-2; Wt.: 205

Drafted: By the Atlanta Thrashers in the seventh round (184th overall) of the 2008 entry draft.

FYI: Was born in Houston, where his father was working in the oil and gas industry, and raised in Michigan... Nominated for the Hobey Baker Trophy as a freshman and Ferris State in 2007-08... Was the team MVP a year later... Played in the AHL All-Star Game last January.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2012 C3

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