Big Rapids, Mich. - Two former Ferris State University men's ice hockey standouts were recalled to the National Hockey League (NHL) this past weekend as the Calgary Flames announced the addition of defenseman Chad Billins and the Winnipeg Jets brought back up defenseman Zach Redmond.
Both former Bulldogs were called up to their NHL parent clubs after stints in the American Hockey League (AHL). Billins previously made his NHL debut with the Flames back in November while Redmond has been with the Jets' NHL club for parts of the past two seasons.
Billins appeared in his first two career NHL games for the Flames during a recall in November recording two assists. He is in his first season with the AHL's Abbotsford Heat and currently leads the team among defensemen with 40 points netting 10 goals and 30 assists in 62 games and was named to the 2014 AHL All-Star Game. He saw action in Sunday (March 30) night's 6-3 loss at Ottawa, seeing 13:01 of total ice time.
Redmond, 25, has played in three games with the Winnipeg Jets so far this season. He has also suited up for 37 games with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps this campaign for 21 points (6G, 15A) and 26 penalty minutes. The right-handed defenseman has played in 11 career NHL games, all with Winnipeg, for four career points (1G, 3A) and 12 career penalty minutes. He was originally drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in the seventh round, 184th overall, in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Last season, Billins played a key role as the Grand Rapids Griffins claimed the 2013 AHL Calder Cup Championship by beating the Syracuse Crunch under another former Bulldog alum in head coach Jeff Blashill. It was the first title in the 17-year history of the franchise and a Detroit Red Wings farm team's first title since Adirondack captured the Cup in 1982. It was the first-ever championship in nearly 30 seasons of professional hockey in Grand Rapids and came in the longest AHL season ever.
Billins helped set the tone with an assist on the first goal of the title series and finished the Calder Cup Playoffs with a pair of goals and 12 assists for 14 total points along with a +5 plus/minus efficiency rating. The Grand Rapids rookie led all AHL defenseman in playoff scoring last season. During regular-season action, Billins totaled 37 points on 10 goals and a team second-best 27 assists in 76 contests. He placed sixth among the team's scoring leaders while recording seven power-play goals.
Billins joined the Griffins after wrapping up his senior campaign as both an All-American on the ice and an Academic All-American for his work in the classroom while helping the Bulldogs to their first-ever NCAA Frozen Four appearance and a national runner-up effort in 2011-12. A native of Marysville, Mich., Billins logged 29 points (7-22—29) and 24 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Bulldogs as a senior while claiming American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) All-America Second Team plaudits on the ice.
The veteran defenseman served as a co-captain for the Bulldogs during the team's run to the NCAA Frozen Four, where they were defeated in the championship game by Boston College. The 5-10, 175-pound defenseman skated in 149 games in four years with Ferris State, notching 67 points (17-50—67) and 108 penalty minutes.
Billins was recognized in his final season as both a All-CCHA First Team recipient and the winner of the CCHA's prestigious Scholar-Athlete Award as the Bulldogs claimed the school's second-ever league regular-season crown. He placed second among CCHA defensemen with 25 points (7-18—25) in 31 conference games. In 2011-12, Billins was also a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS award and earned a spot on the Senior CLASS All-America Team, which rewards academic success and the loyalty of seniors that honored their four-year commitment to their university.
Meanwhile, Redmond made his NHL debut in 2012-13 when he appeared in eight games with the Jets and recorded four points (1G, 3A) before suffering a significant leg injury which ended his NHL season.
After the injury a year ago, Redmond capped one of professional hockey's most miraculous comebacks when he returned to play in two games with the IceCaps at the end of the year before being recalled by the NHL club. Last year, Redmond was also named to the 2013 Dunkin' Donuts AHL All-Star Classic in January for his efforts with the IceCaps.
Before turning pro, Redmond played four seasons at Ferris State from 2007-11 and served as the Bulldogs' team captain as a senior in 2010-11. A 2010-11 All-Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) First-Team performer, Redmond registered a team second-highest 20 points on a career season-best seven goals with 13 assists in 26 contests for the Bulldogs in the 2010-11 season.
Redmond concluded his four seasons (2007-11) as a Bulldog with 90 points on 22 goals and 68 assists in 141 contests. The 2009-10 second-team All-CCHA skater chalked up 12 power-play goals, seven game-winning tallies, one short-handed lamplighter, 217 blocked shots, and a plus 22 efficiency rating.
A 2008 seventh-round NHL Entry Draft pick (184th overall) by the Atlanta Thrashers, Redmond originally inked a contract with Atlanta and began his career skating for their top affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, of the AHL before moving to the IceCaps.
A record number of more than 20 former Ferris State University skaters signed new professional contracts last offseason. Four of them have seen action in the NHL this season, including reigning NHL First-Team All-Star Chris Kunitz (Penguins) along with Greg Rallo (Panthers) in addition to Billins and Redmond.