Atlantic City, N.J.
He’s averaging a point almost every other game, he’s leading his team in plus-minus and he’s reserved a spot on the Eastern Conference roster in today’s American Hockey League all-star game.
So it goes without saying St. John’s IceCaps’ defenceman Zach Redmond is enjoying a pretty fine AHL campaign, less than a year removed from U.S. college hockey.
Redmond’s quickly learning there’s a big jump from the NCAA to professional hockey, and just in case he was getting a little too comfortable, the 23-year-old rearguard got a wakeup call this month, courtesy of St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge.
For the first time in his life, Redmond was a healthy scratch Jan. 11 at home against Toronto, and was banished to the press box again last week for a pair of games in Portland and Bridgeport.
“I think my game had dropped, and that’s what the coaches were talking about,” Redmond said. “I guess where you think you’re in the lineup every night, you lose track of what you’re doing wrong, and it just might be you’re going through the motions.
“Sitting out has actually helped me, and I told them that. It helped put things into perspective, and a realization that things aren’t always easy and you have to work to be in the lineup every night, starting with practice.”
During his four years at Michigan’s Ferris State University, a 60-minute drive from his hometown of Traverse City, Redmond played no more than 40 regular season games a season.
The IceCaps already have 44 of their 76 games punched in.
“The second half can be a lot more challenging for the college players,” said St. John’s general manager Craig Heisinger. “He’s had a good start, but he’s got a ways to go yet.
“The No. 1 thing for those young players who didn’t play junior, who instead come out of college, is their stamina in the second half. They play a 36-game schedule and he’s past the 36-game mark now. That’s challenging. The fatigue, the mental preparedness to do it every night, the travel factor, they all set in. There are lots of issues.”
Redmond was Ferris State’s rookie of the year in 2007-08, the team’s MVP the following year and served as the Bulldogs’ captain last season, his final one in college.
Drafted in the seventh round, 184th overall, by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008, Redmond got his first taste of pro last season, appearing in three games.
“You have to show up every game here, you have to do the little things every game,” he said. “Sometimes the little things get away from you, and I think that’s what happened to me for a few games this season.
“I’ve come to learn it’s about staying consistent and preparing yourself every day. I have to tell myself that every day.
“You have to ensure you’re in the right spots defensively, and you’re not getting lazy.
“When the mind goes, the body goes. You have to be on top of your game every night.”
Growing up in Traverse City, Redmond became a Detroit Red Wings fan, in part because the Wings have been staging a portion of their training camp in the northern Michigan town for years.
And no, he’s no relation to former Red Wings 50-goal scorer and broadcaster Mickey Redmond, “although my Dad strikes a resemblance.”
He played a couple of years of midget hockey in Motown in the Compuware program, then headed to Sioux Falls, S.D., for two year in a junior league before returning home and heading to Ferris State.
That was good news to his friends and family, particularly his bother and sister, Alex and Meghan.
One of a set of triplets
The three are triplets, and Alex made his mark in hockey as well, earning Michigan’s Mr. Hockey Award as the top high school player one season.
As for Meghan, she wasn’t much for hockey, although she can take some credit for her brothers’ development.
“She played with us in the driveway quite a bit,” Zach said.
“We put her in goal.”
Despite his solid season, Redmond is still waiting for his first call from the parent Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets so far this year have called on the services of defenceman Mark Flood, who remains in Winnipeg, Paul Postma, Brett Festerling and Arturs Kulda.
“I’m not sure if disappointed is the right word,” he said. “Like any kid, you want to play in the NHL. You’re curious to see what it’s like.
“But they have a plan for everybody, and I’ve come to realize that in this sports, there’s not a whole lot control a player has, other than show up and work hard on and off ice.”
Postma's one main goal: become a reliable two-way D-man
He's tall, a great skater and he's got the big shot, so it's easy to see why all-star defenceman Paul Postma is standing out for the St. John's IceCaps.
But for Postma, his aim is to deliver on the not-so-apparent things, namely his defensive game, the stuff that doesn't grab the fans' attention but is followed closely by coaches and management.
"Certainly, the offensive side comes very naturally to him," said St. John's general manager Craig Heisinger, "and in the last six weeks or so, he's really picked up on his ability to defend and his ability to play defence.
"At the end of the day, his long-term forecast is whether he can play defence at the NHL level."
Postma is second on IceCaps' scoring with seven goals and 30 points in 36 games (he's missed eight games while on recall in Winnipeg).
He, along with Zach Redmond, is in Atlantic City suiting up for the Eastern Conference team in today's AHL All-Star Classic.
Postma also played in last year's all-star game, and finished the season with 45 points in 69 games for the Chicago Wolves.
"I'm putting up some points, but more importantly, I'm getting better defensively," he said. "That's probably the biggest thing I've been working on.
"Keith (coach Keith McCambridge) has done a great job with me this year. I'm competing harder for loose pucks, winning one-on-one battles, being more responsible in my own end."
Postma is still jumping up in the play with the forwards, but is picking his spots more carefully.
"If we're up a goal, and it's late in the period, I'm not going to be leading the rush," he said.
While it's very premature to suggest he is a draft-day steal - he's not even an NHL regular - Postma is shaping up to be a dandy pick of the former Atlanta Thrashers, who tabbed him 205th overall in 2007.
After Postma was selected, only six more players were picked before the draft clewed up.
He was expecting to go higher in the draft, but chalks it up to the fact he was playing junior hockey in Swift Current, Sask., off the beaten path a bit, and not a busy stop on the scouts' radar.
It wasn't until he was traded to the Calgary Hitmen in his third year, and working with former NHLers Kelly Kisio and Dave Lowry who coached Calgary, did he elevate his game.
"They gave me lots of ice time and my career blossomed from there," he said. "They didn't hold me back at all. They played me in all situations, played me a lot."
The Red Deer, Alta., natives who turns 22 next month, has been twice summoned to Winnipeg this season. The first recall came in November, when he appeared in three Jets' games.
The latest was just recently, and though he took the pre-game warmup four times, each time he was scratched from the lineup.
"It's disappointing, for sure," he said. "You want to play, you want to show you're ready to play."
While Winnipeg is staying patient with Postma, the St. John's rearguard believes he's ready for prime time.
"The games I was playing a regular shift, I felt fine out there," he said. "The speed of the game - it's much quicker than the American league - was nothing for me.
"The speed wasn't what I was worried about, rather the battle and the compete level. If I get playing up there consistently, I think I will be fine."
The Jets, however, won't be rushed into bringing up Postma until he's ready. Defenceman, said Heisinger, routinely take longer to develop than forwards.
"And there's nothing wrong with that," he said. "You can never have too many defenceman, and you can never move too quickly on the young ones.
"Defence is the most difficult position to play. His offensive side is a given. It comes naturally to him. But I don't think there's any secret to him or us what he needs to improve on."