The futures of defensemen Justin Schultz and John Ramage have been a source of great speculation in the Wisconsin hockey community and beyond. Both have been drafted- Schultz by the Anaheim Ducks (43rd overall) in 2008 and Ramage by the Calgary Flames (103rd overall) in 2010.
Though they both have a chance to make an impact at the next level, their paths to get there will likely vary significantly. Not surprising considering they are two different breeds of player.
Schultz has received the bulk of the attention and deservedly so. His impressive resume partnered with a unique situation brought about by a loophole in the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement have made him a valued commodity at the professional level despite not having officially voiced his intentions.
In a nutshell, Schultz has three options. He could sign with Anaheim, the team that drafted him in the first place, although that would’ve most likely happened already according to most reports.
Thanks to language in the CBA, Schultz could also opt to wait until July 1 when he would become a free agent and sign with the franchise of his choice.
The final, albeit, unlikely option is that Schultz returns to the Badgers for his final season of eligibility and hits the NHL free agent market afterward.
At the moment, the consensus appears to be that Schultz will turn pro, however, which avenue he will take remains to be seen.
The two-time Hobey Baker finalist has come to be known as a confident puck handler with great vision. His opportunism on the offensive end compares to that of a center. He knows when to distribute or when it’s his time to make something happen.
His size and play in his own zone have raised some concerns, but there are few professional coaching staffs that will not be able to work with the array talents that Schultz possesses.
Ramage, on the other hand, is a physical force who will go toe-to-toe with just about anyone.
He comes from a NHL pedigree with his father playing in the league for 15 seasons.
While jumping into the pros is certainly an option for Ramage, his situation differs a bit from that of Schultz. Calgary owns the rights to Ramage beyond the July 1 deadline that has been set for Schultz. This makes the Flames the only option for Ramage.
The 2011 campaign brought mixed reviews for the junior from Ontario. That coupled with a laundry list of skills that could use a bit of polishing make it likely that he will don the white and cardinal sweater for one more season.
On the up side, one of his strongest attributes is his character. By many accounts, Ramage is a natural leader who isn’t afraid to take charge.
That is good news for head coach Mike Eaves who will be dealing with a large amount of inexperience on the blueline.
It will likely be at least a month until more definitive information comes to the surface. In the meantime, it is important to remember that neither player has made a final decision. A lot can change in the coming days.