Ramholt looking to future

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Now in his third training camp with the Calgary Flames, defenceman Tim Ramholt clearly remembers the details of his first back in 2003.

He was assigned the same stall, just one spot away from the door to the locker-room. While he hopes to one day make that his permanent seat, the product of Zurich, Switzerland, knows he's still got some work to do before he can call Dion Phaneuf or Robyn Regehr his neighbour.

"You've got to compete and play on a high level for a long time to earn a spot on this team," Ramholt said yesterday. "I'm definitely on the right road but I'm not there yet."

The road has been a long one, even though he seemed destined for a shortcut after following up his first NHL camp with an impressive season as a member of the QMJHL Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in 2003-04.

Ramholt scored nine goals and added 27 assists in 51 games that year -- his first in North America.

But he surprised the Flames and their fans when he chose to return to Switzerland to play for Zurich of the Swiss A league, a decision that padded the wallet but certainly delayed his development.

He returned to the Flames organization last year and spent the season adjusting to the North American pro game with the AHL Omaha Knights.

"I had, really, a lot to learn last year at the beginning of the season," said the 6-ft.-1, 190-pounder. "Especially positioning. It was a huge difference."

The 22-year-old Ramholt has always had a flair for the offensive side of the game, but where he made strides last year was in his own end.

"I'm much more focused on doing my work in the defensive zone," he said. "I feel much more confident doing my job as a defenceman and focused on the right things. Before, I was maybe just thinking too much about having points and stuff."

Off the ice, he slowly began to realize, under the organization's guidance, the dedication it takes to be a pro.

One of the most improved players on the Knights, Ramholt is ready to become a leader with Quad Cities. Of course, he'd love to force the Flames to keep him in Calgary.

"I definitely see the goal ahead of me. I know I can achieve it," a confident Ramholt said. "I definitely see myself in a leader spot in the (AHL) or competing for a spot somewhere in the Flames.

"If I'm in Quad cities, I really want to be a leader and build up my game from last year -- and do more."

Still young and with a potentially bright future ahead, Ramholt refuses to second guess his decision to leave North America.

"I'm here now," he said. "I made a lot of progress last year. I'm proud the way it's been. I don't look back anymore."


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