Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Redmond might be most NHL-ready

Blue-liner, 23, steadily upped his game last season on The Rock

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It's been fun, it's been a blast -- maybe even the best development camp he's ever attended. But inject Zach Redmond with a truth serum and he'd likely tell you this:

No offence to all the newbies, but the next step he makes -- the one he hopes takes him from emerging prospect on The Rock to The Show with the Winnipeg Jets -- will make all this but a memory.

"This is my fifth development camp and every year I'm like, 'Where do they get all these good players?' " said the 23-year-old defenceman after another on-ice session at MTS Iceplex. "Everyone's chomping at the bit to have your job, you just have to make sure you're working harder than the next guy.

"Every time you get put in these... they're watching and you always have to show up. You have to work at this, it's your job and there are so many good players."

It could be argued, and feel free to discuss among yourselves, that in a camp that features 27 Jet draft choices -- including first-rounders Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba -- it is Redmond who is the most NHL-ready.

A standout at Ferris State, Redmond's first season as a pro last year in St. John's was so solid (8 goals, 23 assists in 72 games) that Jets management didn't just expect him to jump off the page here this week, they are eager to see if he can do the same at main camp in September.

"You can definitely see the polish he has," said IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge, who has been leading the on-ice sessions this week. "He looks real strong out there. He's making the right strides development-wise. We'll look to see how that translates in training camp.

"When you look at a young defenceman and all the steps he needs to make, I believe he made some really big ones this season."

McCambridge praised Redmond's natural offensive instincts, but spoke of how his defensive game matured during his year in the AHL and how he worked on the little things like improving his puck protection through the neutral zone, using his speed and getting open to generate a second layer of an attack.

"I'd like to think I'm close," Redmond said. "That's definitely the goal in all this. It's exciting to be here again and the way I look at it, any time you can make a good impression is valuable time. I hope even in something as small as this I can impress them and inch a little bit closer.

"As time goes on you just start to mature and, for one reason or another, things just start to click. I've always had the offensive part of my game, but it's about learning where and when to use it. And defensively, last year was a huge year for me to get a feel for what defence is like at the next level.

"There's a famous quote -- 'offence is what gets you there and defence is what keeps you there.' You definitely have to hone that part of your game."

And it's that kind of maturity that speaks volumes of his readiness. Redmond doesn't just understand what it takes to be a pro now, he has a much better feel of who he is as a player.

"The mental part of the game, it could be argued, is more important than the physical side," Redmond said. "To me, it's about knowing what kind of player you are and sticking to your style of game.

"I would love to be that guy who takes the next step. (Jets management) said this was a big summer for me. My goal is to make sure that when they do need that extra D-man that I'm the guy and I don't let them down."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2012 C4

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