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2016-17 IceCaps Season Review: Zach Redmond was a steadying presence on the St. John’s blue line

The veteran defender was exactly what St. John’s needed this year.

Jeff Parsons/St.John’s IceCaps

When the Montreal canadiens announced they had signed Zach Redmond to a two-year deal in the off-season, it was seen a depth move, albeit one with potential value. He immediately rewarded Marc Bergevin with a strong pre-season, where he outplayed Mark Barberio for the final roster spot.

Then things went south as Redmond suffered a broken foot in practice before the regular season started. After that it was a battle to earn ice time at the NHL level, and it would lead to Redmond eventually being waived to join the St. John’s IceCaps.

Despite his NHL tenure lasting just 16 games this year, Redmond produced five assists, which is more than respectable in the minutes he was playing under Michel Therrien.

He returned to the AHL, where injuries would limit him to just 26 games all year for St. John’s. In those 26 games, however, Redmond put up an outstanding four goals and 14 assists, which placed him second on the team in scoring by a defencemen. The leader, Joel Hanley, had four more points, but played in 39 more games this year.

It was clear from his play on the ice that Redmond was a stabilizing force for the IceCaps, especially after Mark Barberio was called up, and subsequently claimed on waivers by the Avalanche. When he was out of the lineup the young defence struggled mightily.

While not being a flashy, high-event player, Redmond drove the play in the right direction, and allowed the younger players to take easier minutes on the blue line. As one would expect from a top-pairing defender, he was Sylvain Lefebvre’s go-to player in all situations. On the power play, penalty kill, or a key even-strength faceoff, he was the player the coaches wanted on the ice.

He made the smart play, carrying the puck out and looking for passes, as opposed to blindly throwing it up the boards. When push came to shove, Redmond laid his body out to block shots in crucial situations, like the end of Game 1 in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

In the offensive zone he stepped in admirably for the departed Barberio, who was a major producer in his two seasons in Newfoundland. While not a silky smooth passer like Andrei Markov, nor possessing a mortar shot like Shea Weber, Redmond was able to keep plays alive and flowing with simple plays and passes.

On the power play he was trusted as the lone defenceman on the point, while Charles Hudon or Chris Terry occupied the spots next to him. Redmond was patient, found open teammates, and helped drive a power-play unit that finished in the top 10 in the AHL this past season.

Redmond in the above clip cycles with his teammates, moves to find an open lane, and waits for an Albany Devils player to screen his goalie. He then lets a wrist shot fly and the goalie has no chance to see it, resulting in a power-play goal.

The issue this coming year for Redmond is that the competition for an NHL spot has gotten a lot more fierce. Jordie Benn and Brandon Davidson both brought a lot to the table after being acquired late last year, and Jakub Jerabek is a wild card in the mix. Though this was the case last year, when Redmond outplayed both Greg Pateryn and Barberio for a spot before sustaining a broken foot.

However, if he is AHL bound then the Laval Rocket have a solid leader to help guide Noah Juulsen and Simon Bourque in their rookie seasons next year. They also found a highly capable captain to replaced Max Friberg, who joined Frölunda of the Swedish league at the end of the season.

Redmond is in a unique spot, much like Chris Terry, in that they’re very good AHL players who can fill depth roles at the NHL level. If Redmond can stay healthy in the coming year, he’s a solid player to have in line on the off chance the injury bug rears it’s ugly head again. And in the worst-case scenario he gets to lead what should be a talented Laval team in their debut season.