It was a good stepping stone. I've got to take what I have learned and keep improving each and every day, and keep working towards the goal of one day hopefully making it in the NHL. - John Ramage on his first pro season
CALGARY, AB -- Like any other rookie player, there were high and lows to defenceman John Ramage's first professional season.
His 2013-14 season began in Pencticton, playing in the Young Stars Classic. Ramage dressed for three games and was Calgary's second-leading scorer with one goal and three points and led all Flames defencemen with six shots on net.
He continued that strong play throughout training camp and looked solid heading into the regular season with the Abbotsford Heat. The St. Louis, MO native ended up playing 50 games in Heat silks, notching two assists, 55 shots on net, and a plus-two rating in that span.
In late March, the team decided to assign him to the Alaska Aces in order to give him more playing time and he made the transition seamlessly.
He suited up for six regular season games with the Aces, scoring his first professional goal in his fifth game, and headed into the 2014 Kelly Cup Playoffs with a ton of confidence.
The 23-year-old ended up leading all ECHL blueliners in scoring in the postseason, rattling off four goals and 13 points in 20 games, and was a key cog for the Aces on-route to capturing the Kelly Cup.
"There were ups and down, for sure," Ramage told CalgaryFlames.com. "But overall, I'd say the biggest thing was that I learned a lot. Not only did I learn a lot about the pro game, I learned a lot about myself as a player.
"It was a good stepping stone. I've got to take what I have learned and keep improving each and every day, and keep working towards the goal of one day hopefully making it in the NHL."
The Flames 2010 fourth round pick has won at different levels throughout his career; he nabbed gold with the Americans at the 2010 World Junior Championship and was the captain of the 2012-13 University of Wisconsin Badgers squad that claimed the WCHA Broadmoor Trophy.
But even a few days after the Aces Kelly Cup win, the reality of it still hasn't fully sunken in for Ramage.
What makes this championship run different from the success he has encountered in the past is the time and energy it took to get there. Neither the World Juniors or the WCHA playoffs match the number of games Ramage played in the ECHL postseason.
"This was a long grind," he explained. "This was the first time I've experienced something like that. It was long and hard fought.
"It was a incredible experience."
Now, it's time for a rest. Ramage will rest and recuperate for a bit before his off-season training regimen begins. He is headed back to Madison, WI to work with a group of fellow pro players and even though he's just a week removed from winning the Kelly Cup, he's already eager for the start of the 2014-15 campaign.
"I'll be there all summer, getting ready for the next season. I can't wait to get things going again."