BY MIKE ECKERT
TRAVERSE CITY — Zach Redmond already owned the distinction of being the first Traverse City native to be drafted by a National Hockey League team when Atlanta selected him in 2008.
Now, he's the first to play in the NHL.
Although Winnipeg opted to keep the rookie on its roster after training camp, Redmond was inactive the first six games. That all changed Thursday night when he was activated for the Jets game with the Florida Panthers, a 6-3 loss. In his NHL debut, the 6-foot-2 Redmond finished with three shots, a +1 plus/minus efficiency rating and four penalty minutes during 20:56 of game action.
Winnipeg was back in action Friday in an 8-3 loss at Tampa Bay. Redmond played 20:11 with a shot on goal, a penalty and an even plus/minus rating.
Bay Reps coach Todd Spaulding coached Redmond at the Bantam AA level in Traverse City when Redmond was a teenager.
"He was unreal, fun to watch," Spaulding said. "He had a great shot, a cannon for a shot. He was a hard-working kid, too. We knew he had potential to go somewhere (in his hockey career). We're real happy for him."
Prior to joining the Jets, Redmond played in 36 games with the St. John's IceCaps in the AHL. He left with 17 points, including eight goals and a team-high 95 shots on goal.
Redmond was named to the 2013 Dunkin' Donuts AHL All-Star Classic, but had to be replaced when Winnipeg kept him on the NHL roster.
From 2007-11, Redmond played at Ferris State and was team captain as a senior.
While Redmond graduated from TC Central in 2006, he didn't play for the Trojans. Instead, he was involved in midget and junior hockey in Detroit and Sioux Falls, N.D. TC Central coach Chris Givens said he's known Redmond over the years through summer softball.
"He's a really good guy," Givens said. "He's down to earth. This couldn't have happened to a better guy."
After completing its road trip, Winnipeg is scheduled to return home to face Florida on Tuesday before hosting Toronto on Thursday. The Jets are back on the road to face Ottawa on Feb. 9.
Because of the NHL lockout, Winnipeg will not be facing the Western Conference's Detroit Red Wings.