Armchair Scout: John Ramage

 

ARTHUR:

As you can probably tell from the Montreal graphics in the video above, John Ramage was passed over last year.  There were plenty of reasons to take a flier on him.  He was a great shot blocker, a confident hitter, he was strong around the net and he had a booming slapshot from the point-- all great things in a young stay-at-home defenseman.  The major knocks on him seemed to be his ability to space forwards correctly and his ability to hold up in a one-on-one situation.  Still, he was headed to a great program in Wisconsin under the watchful eye of former Badgers defenseman coach Mark Osiecki, so it's hard to say why he fell off the board.  Regardless, he's back in the pool again, and after a quality performance in the World Juniors, he's firmly on the map.  The Ducks shouldn't pick him in the 2nd Round-- 42nd Overall is just too high --but if they acquire a 3rd round pick or if he's still there when they pick in the 5th, John Ramage could be a quality pickup.  

Ramage entered the Badgers locker room as the team's only straightforward lunch pail defenseman.  He was surrounded by three converted forwards and only the third defenseman ever to win Minnesota's Mr. Hockey award.  That's a tough room for a hitter/shotblocker, even if he is the son of 1979 first overall pick Rob Ramage.

Luckily for Rammer, as he's called in the Wisconsin locker room, assistant coach Osiecki is more concerned with defensive chemistry than class position.  As such, Ramage settled into the depth chart next to upperclassman Brendan Smith, who would finish the season third in goal-scoring for the team and tied for 2nd in points.  Smith, one of the aforementioned converted forwards, is definitely the freewheeler his numbers intimate, and some would say the best test of a defensive defenseman is how his team fares while he covers for a blueline scorer.  How's a trip to the NCAA championship game for success?

Wisconsin boasted one of the best bluelines in the nation last year, thanks not only to Osiecki but to his recruiting efforts, which put together a corps where every player other than Ramage was a 1st or 2nd Round NHL Draft selection.  It was a great place for a freshman defenseman to learn the game.  And Ramage certainly fine tuned many of his deficiencies, but the most surprising facet of his performance last year was how much of his game translated effortlessly to the NCAA.  He was consistently a physical presence and an effective shot blocker.  

And it was that consistency that got Ramage onto the World Juniors team.  Osiecki, a member of USA's WJC coaching staff, dropped the defensive-defenseman's name into the selection process late.  The assistant coach suggested Rammer might be the role player who did all of the little things right and opened up the ice for everyone else, just as he had for his teammates in Wisconsin.  He was right.  Ramage played steady minutes for Team USA and ultimately found himself on the passing end of the of the overtime game-winner against Canada.   

The Ducks' cupboard is a little top heavy with high-end offensive defensemen and size shutdown guys that may or may not pan out.  So spending a 4th rounder on Ramage isn't a bad call for some shutdown depth.  He's not a player that stood out in every Wisconsin game I watched-- not while he wasn't hitting someone --but when I was really looking for him, I saw strong work around the net, smart shotblocking, great defensive stick positioning, a hard shot and a good first pass.  Add to that the fact that he's already playing with Anaheim picks Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz (and may be playing in a pairing with one or both next year), and he begins to look like a solid investment in the 4th Round.  He does still need to work on his one-on-one, and he may need a full cycle in the AHL after Wisconsin to get that done, but that only gives our developing offensive defensemen (maybe even Schultz) a solid partner in the AHL.

 

Upside?

Perfect Attendance - Ramage is incredibly consistent with a high compete level.  His basement value above the shoulders is very high

Movable Part - Despite being the team's rookie stay-at-home defenseman, Ramage did play in multiple situations for the Badgers, showing off an impressive shot and some puck confidence in addition to his defensive skills.  

 

Downside?

Sizable Disadvantage - While not small, Ramage is not the prototypical big stay-at-home defenseman.  Martin Madden and Bob Murray were comfortable taking a chance on a diminutive offensive defenseman (Sami Vatanen) in the 4th Round last year, and there may be defensemen with more upside, even in the 4th Round, drawing attention away from Ramage.

A Different Tune - He was still fine tuning his one-on-one skills, and he will have to finish his career at Wisconsin without Osiecki.  It's hard to project how his amateur development will proceed.

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