Zach Redmond gives new role his best shot

Brendan McCarthy
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Sophomore blueliner has filled in nicely in Paul Postma’s absence

Zach Redmond no longer is a pleasant surprise.    

Oh yes, there is much that is pleasing about his play. It’s the surprise part that’s obsolete.

No longer is he the seventh-round pick, 184th overall who turned pro last season out of Ferris State University, going from unheralded draft choice to a ‘What have we got here?’ prospect within the Winnipeg Jets’ organization.

He’s a top-three defenceman on the St. John’s IceCaps, one who’s featured on the team’s power-play and now a legitimate candidate to some day play in the NHL.

Through the IceCaps’ first four games this fall and heading to a mid-week series tonight and Wednesday against the visiting Portland Pirates, Redmond has been assigned duties normally assigned to Paul Postma and his howitzer shot. With a hamstring injury keeping Postma from making his 2012-13 debut for St. John’s (and it’s not likely to happen in tonight’s game), Redmond’s gun has been the one that’s often first loaded by his teammates, especially on the power play.

“That’s where (Postma) played ... last year,” said Redmond of his new role. “So yeah, it’s nice to get some shots because last year, I was more of a distributor.

“When (Postma) gets back, we’ll see what happens, but either way, it works out if we score.”

Redmond has two goals this season, both on the power play. He leads the team with 18 shots on goal, his skating and puck-carrying are impressive and he sports a plus-two rating on a team that’s given up one more goal (12) than it’s scored through four games.

“We’re seeing a defenceman who’s really making some solid strides on the development side,” said IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge. “Last year, he was really strong for is. He did have a period where his game fell a bit, but a strong back end (to the season).

“This year, you can sense his confidence with the puck, reading playings, (knowing) when to join the rush, when to skate pucks out of trouble. I really like the way Zach Redmond’s game is right now.

“We always talk about (guys coming out of college) getting worn down (by their first pro schedule), but now, we’re seeing a guy who has trained hard all summer and is realizing his opportunity.”

The IceCaps (2-2) are coming off a split of their first two home games, beating the Adirondack Phantoms 2-1 Friday, before falling to the Phantoms 4-3 on Saturday. Redmond says the team needs to break that win one-lose one habit that was so prevalent in 2011-12.

“We need to figure it out,” he said. “We did this whole .500 thing last year and we need to learn it’s not a matter of being satisfied (with one win).

“We have the veterans and the leadership, so it’s not something to get freaked out about, but we do need to learn how to play with as much, if not more, intensity in that second game. We need to .. do it right away.”

•••••

St. John’s forward Ryan Schnell, who hasn’t played a game yet because of concussion-like syndromes, practised Monday, but there really are no changes in the numbers on the IceCaps’ infirmary list.

After Saturday’s loss, it was reported here that Aaron Gagnon sat out the game to satisfy the AHL’s veteran rules, allowing Derek Whitmore to draw into the lineup. But McCambridge says Gagnon was actually hurt in the third period of Friday’s 2-1 home-opening win.

He joins Postma, Patrice Cormier, Ray Sawada and Carl Klingberg as key players from last year’s playoff run who didn’t play Saturday and aren’t expected to play tonight (7:30 p.m., Rogers Television, CJYQ 930AM/Steele radio-online network)

Jason Jaffray will play Wednesday against the Pirates, which will be his official action since spinal fusion surgery in April. The St. John’s captain also practised Monday and looked “really good” according to the coach. Nevertheless, McCambridge said he will not pencil in Jaffray tonight even if he somehow was needed to fill out a lineup.

“We’ll play short before Jason Jaffray goes in before the projected date,” said McCambridge, who later explained he doesn’t want to test the veteran forward with back-to-back games on his return from inactivity.

•••••

Mark Dekanich will gets start in goal tonight for St. John’s, his first at Mile One Centre. Dekanich was outstanding in his lone appearance for the IceCaps to date, making 37 saves in a 3-2 win over the Connecticut Whale on Oct. 14.

Eddie Pasquale started both games against the Phantoms. He was the first star in Friday’s win and was mostly solid in Saturday’s loss, save for what turned out to be the winning goal when Brayden Schenn’s seemingly innocuous-looking shot somehow sneaked past him in the third period.

“Other than that last goal, which he probably would like to have back, Eddie was outstanding for us,” said McCambridge, suggesting the switch to Dekanich had everything to do with the IceCaps’ busy schedule — they’re in the midst of a six games-in-nine days home stand.

••••••

IceCaps’ centre Eric O’Dell is not taking a crash course in Russian.

Against the Phantoms, O’Dell looked good playing between Russian wingers Alexander Burmistrov and Ivan Telegin, part of which seemed to result from good communication among the three.

“Not in Russian, we all speak English out there,” said Burmistrov, who turned 21 on Sunday..

“I think we have a pretty good line. All three guys are pretty skilled, but the main thing is to be hard-working guys.”

IceCaps Notes

St. John’s native and future AHL Hall of Famer John Slaney is back for a second year as the Pirates’ assistant coach on Ray Edwards’ staff. And former St. John’s Maple Leaf netminder and local fan favourite Mike Minard has returned as Portland’s goaltending/video coach ... Portland’s leading scorer through three games is AHL veteran Chris Conner (4G, 2A), followed by defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has five points. Ekman-Larsson, the sixth overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, played a full 82-game schedule with the parent Phoenix Coyotes (13G, 19A in 2011-12), but has been assigned to the Pirates during the NHL lockout ... Portland’s roster includes a number of notable graduates from the junior ranks: goalie Mark Visentin and defenceman Brandon Gormley, both members of Canadian world junior entries, and centre Brendan Shinnimin, who led the Western Hockey League in scoring last season with 134 points, including 58 goals, for the Tri-City Americans. The difference? Gormley and Visentin were first-round picks of the Pirates, while the 5-foot-10 Shinnimin was undrafted. In fact, he wasn’t even drafted into the WHL, making Tri-City on a tryout ... The Pirates won’t play their first game in Portland until Nov. 2, when the host the IceCaps. That’s because of renovations to upgrade the 35-year-old Cumberland Country Civic Centre. The Pirates do have two home games on their October schedule, but in Lewiston, Me. The Adroscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston will host a total of six Pirates’ home games this season ... Oklahoma City Barons’ defenceman Justin Schultz is the latest CCM/AHL player of the week after scoring three goals, adding an assist and registering a plus-6 rating in two games. The University of Wisconsin product was a Hobey Baker finalist last season and the subject of intense interest as a free agent before signing with the Edmonton Oilers ...

bmcc@thetelegram.com | Twitter@telybrendan

Organizations: IceCaps, Ferris State University, Winnipeg Jets Western Hockey League Phoenix Coyotes NHL The Adroscoggin Bank Colisee University of Wisconsin Edmonton Oilers

Geographic location: Portland, Jaffray, Tri-City Maple Leaf Lewiston, Me. Lewiston Oklahoma City

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