In the National Hockey League, call-ups are earned and not given.
And through his play this season with Columbus’ AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, defenseman John Ramage has earned his first stint with the Blue Jackets.
“It’s definitely nice to see,” Ramage said of the recall. “It’s an opportunity that I’m very thankful for. I mean, it could’ve gone to a lot of guys and, coming to a new organization, I’m a new face, so it’s just nice to get the opportunity.”
Tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena will mark Ramage’s first call up with Columbus, but his second NHL appearance.
Calgary’s third pick (103rd overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft, Ramage appeared in his only NHL game to date with the Flames on April 11, 2015 at Winnipeg.
“A million things go through your head (when you get the call up)," Ramage said. “You’re just trying to play out different scenarios...but this time around I’m just more excited. Obviously, getting an opportunity last year, it’s good to get the first one under your belt, but I’m just really excited and excited to prove what I can bring and (how I can) help this team.”
A native of Massissauga, Ontario, Ramage has 162 AHL games under his belt with three teams (Abbotsford, Adirondack and Lake Erie). He signed a two-way deal with the Blue Jackets on July 3, 2015 and has gone on to set career highs in goals and assists in his first season with the organization.
Ramage has been a steady and reliable presence on the Monsters blue line, chipping in six goals and adding 12 assists in 55 games. He's second among Monsters defensemen in both goals and points. He was rewarded with a new two-year (two-way) contract signed earlier this month.
One of the challenges in the AHL is a constantly-changing roster, and the Blue Jackets and Monsters have experienced it first-hand this year. As a result, Ramage has not had a regular defense partner, which he said has helped on a game-to-game basis.
“There’s a lot of guys in and out of the lineup and in the American (Hockey) League, you find you’re definitely playing with different guys almost every night,” Ramage said. “All the (defensemen) have been playing well, the team’s been playing well in general, so it’s been a fun time down there so far.”
Ramage drove his gear down from Cleveland on Wednesday and participated in the Blue Jackets optional skate this morning. He said it was nice to get out on the main ice and get a feel for the puck and for his teammates.
“They have a good group of guys up here,” Ramage said. “I met them a little bit in training camp and in the summer, and I got that right from the start: there’s a really solid group of guys in this locker room, so it’s definitely made it an easy transition.”
And Ramage isn’t the only one excited for tonight. Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said he is looking forward to seeing Ramage and the other call ups (right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand and center Michael Chaput) in game action tonight.
“(I’m) anxious to see him play,” Tortorella said of Ramage. "At this time of year, we want to see some of the kids play, but also keeping in mind that there’s a lot of playoff races going on here and so we need to play the right way, but also have to think about ourselves a little bit and try to assess some players."