Swiss miss

New Calgary Flames defenceman Tim Ramholt relaxes in the lounge at the Northeast Sportsplex during...

New Calgary Flames defenceman Tim Ramholt relaxes in the lounge at the Northeast Sportsplex during Tuesday's prospects camp. Ramholt, drafted in 2003, inked a three-year deal. (Calgary Sun/Mike Drew)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Tim Ramholt's decision to return to Switzerland for two years didn't sit well in the Flames organization.

Apparently, all's been forgiven.

The defenceman selected 39th overall in 2003 officially signed a three-year deal with the team yesterday -- more than a month after reports of it began circulating.

"I always knew I probably would come back," Ramholt said between sessions at the team's prospect camp.

Asked what made it the right time, he replied: "I don't know if it's the right time. Maybe I should have came earlier."

That probably would have been the wisest course of action for the 21-year-old.

Ramholt was drafted after his second season in Switzerland's top league. He then spent the 2003-04 campaign with Cape Breton of the QMJHL, collecting nine goals and 36 points in 51 games.

However, instead of developing his career in Calgary's minor-league system, he opted to return home.

He'll admit the last two seasons weren't the best for his development.

"I thought I could go back and be really successful in the Swiss league, take my experience and my confidence back to Switzerland," said the 6-ft. 1-in., 195-lb. defenceman. "I had a hard time, I was struggling, my ice time wasn't that good. But I learned some other things.

"I've seen both sides, sitting on the bench the last two years. I know now I have to work so much harder to become so much better."

He even had a couple of NHLers -- Randy Robitaille and Andy Sutton -- give him that insight during the lockout year while teammates in Zurich.

"I was sitting beside Randy Robitaille and he told me to go as soon as I can to North America. I stayed one more year in Switzerland but it was great having them beside me," he said.

"Two totally different guys, Andy is a real strong, hard-working guy and Randy's so talented.

"I liked watching them and the way they liked the game. Their attitude was really good."

When he was drafted, Ramholt was singled out for his offensive skills -- the top defenceman at the 2002 Mac's Midget Tournament, he collected two goals and four points in six games at the 2003 world juniors -- as well as his puck-carrying ability and open-ice hitting.

Over the past two seasons, with Kloten and Zurich, he played sparingly in 83 games and collected one goal and four assists.

Time will tell how much that arrested his development. He tried to not let it ruin his confidence.

"When I had hard times, I always tried to remember how I played in Cape Breton and how I felt on the ice and how I did. It always gave me strength," he said. "I had problems to adjust to that game. I had problems with the big ice and carrying the puck much longer and not doing any open-ice hits because then you get two-on-one against. It's hard."

Now, he's hoping a return to North America will put him back on track.

"I think deep in myself, that's my game. That's what I'm thinking and that's why I came over here," he said. "I was only here one year but it was probably the best year of my career."

Had he spent the last two years in the minors, Ramholt may have gone to this fall's training camp contending for the seventh defenceman job.

Instead, he'll likely hone his skills with the AHL's Omaha Knights for the season.

Still, he intends to return for camp battling for a spot on the Flames roster.

"(I want to stay) longer there than last time," he said. "I give (myself) a chance to start with Calgary, I have to give (myself) that chance but I'm looking forward to playing in the (AHL), for sure."


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