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Oh my goodness…Former Wings prospect Bryan Rufenach passes away

Updated 4x at 9:15 AM on Wednesday: Terrible, terrible news from TSN...

Former Detroit Red Wings draft pick Bryan Rufenach has died.The ECHL said Tuesday that Rufenach, 23, died this week while traveling in Switzerland. It gave no further details.

Rufenach, a defenseman, played in 60 games with the Toledo Walleye over the previous two seasons and scored 14 goals with 21 assists. He also played 13 games for Grand Rapids of the AHL. He was taken in the seventh round with the 208th overall pick by the Red Wings in 2007 after four seasons at Clarkson University.

And, via RedWingsFeed, MLive’s Ansar Khan:

Defenseman Bryan Rufenach, a seventh-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2007 NHL entry draft, died this week while traveling in Switzerland, the Toledo Walleye reported on its Web site. He was 23.

Rufenach (6-foot, 192) split the 2011-12 season between the ECHL’s Walleye and the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. He had two assists in 13 games for the Griffins and collected 13 goals and 20 assists in 54 games for Toledo.

“He was a very good college player, was getting his feet wet in the pros,’’ Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “It’s a sad day for his family. It’s been tough. He was a great young man, proud to be a Red Wing. Always had a smile on his face.’‘

The native of Barie, Ontario, spent four years at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. The Red Wings selected him with the 208th overall pick in 2007.

Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said in statement: “The entire team’s thoughts and prayers are with Bryan’s family as they get through this difficult time. Bryan was a great teammate and would play any role asked of him.”

Here’s the Walleye’s press release:

Toledo Walleye defenseman Bryan Rufenach passed away this week while traveling in Switzerland. He was 23 years old.

Walleye head coach Nick Vitucci said, “The entire team’s thoughts and prayers are with Bryan’s family as they get through this difficult time. Bryan was a great teammate and would play any role asked of him.”

Rufenach was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the seventh round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed to his first professional contract by the Walleye on March 25, 2011, after four years at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. He played in the final six games of Toledo’s 2011-12 season, scoring one goal with one assist and eight penalty minutes.

The Barrie, Canada native started the 2011-12 campaign with the Walleye and excelled in his 54 games with the team. He displayed tremendous offensive skill, punctuated by a career-high four goals scored in a 7-4 loss vs. Chicago on November 9. Rufenach finished the season with 13 goals for Toledo – ranking him third in the ECHL for defenseman. He added 20 assists and logged 34 penalty minutes for the Walleye. Rufenach was promoted to Grand Rapids (AHL) on three different occasions, picking up two assists in a total of 13 games with the Griffins.

And, per the Toledo Blade:

Details of his death have not yet been released.

Rufenach, a native of Barrie, Canada, was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the seventh round of the 2007 NHL draft. He signed to his first pro contract with the Walleye on March 25, 2011.

After a four-year college career at Clarkson University, Rufenach played in the final six games of Toledo’s 2011-12 season. Rufenach, who had scored a total of four goals in 33 games his senior year at Clarkson, scored four goals in one game against Chicago on Nov. 4.

Rufenach was an offensive defenseman who liked to jump into the play. He scored 13 goals last season, which ranked him third among all ECHL defensemen.

He added 20 assists and had 34 penalty minutes for the Walleye. Rufenach was promoted to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on three different occasions, picking up two assists in a total of 13 games with the Griffins.

He told The Blade last November that he had aspirations to become a stock broker after his hockey career ended.

US College Hockey Online found a report from the Lindsay Post’s Jason Bain which provides some details of what happened:

Details of Rufenach’s death have not been released, but The Post has learned he suffered a fatal electrocution.
...
A former Lindsay Muskie and Cameron native who died suddenly while traveling in Switzerland on Monday is being remembered as a skilled blueliner who “didn’t mind giving back” to his community. Bryan Rufenach, 23, a member of the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL, was a seventh round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2007 NHL entry draft.

The six-foot, 192-pound offensive defenceman played two seasons with the Muskies, picking up 26 points in 48 games in 2005-2006 and 32 points in 31 games in 2006-2007, the latter in which he suffered a shoulder injury.

Current Muskies coach Paul Mattucci said he was “fortunate enough” to have coached Rufenach when he was an assistant coach in Lindsay in charge of the defence corps in his previous stint with the Junior A team.

“He was one of my favorite players to work with as he was the most skilled player for his age when I had him,” he said via email. “(He) just absolutely loved the game and always had a smile on his face when he was at practice. He was always willing to listen and work on the little things that were asked of him because getting better was all that he cared about,” Mattucci said. “Upon my return to Lindsay last season, Bryan skated with us during preseason practices and took it upon himself to work with our young defense, showing them the tricks of the trade that he had learned. Bryan was the type of person that didn’t mind giving back.”

Update: Per the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner:

Officials from the Griffins said they are aware of the situation and plan to issue a statement once more information is available.

Griffins teammate Mitch Callahan tweeted: “Rip to my teammate Bryan Rufenach. Very sad to see a good guy be taken away from us so young. Thought and prayers to the Rufenach family.”

Rufenach, 23, the fifth choice of the Red Wings in 2007 draft, had two assists and 11 penalty minutes in his first season in the AHL.

Willie Coetzee also commented about his teammate’s passing…

R.I.P Bryan Rufenach buddy our thoughts an prayers are with your family and friends we will miss you. Why someone needs to be taken so young

As did Brendan Smith:

Deepest condolences to Bryan Rufenach’s family and friends. Great player and was an even better person.


Update: The Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe updated his article:

Walleye captain Kyle Rogers said Rufenach’s teammates were stunned as word spread by texts this afternoon.

“It’s a tough time for us,” Rogers said. “We are all good buddies. I have a lot of good memories with Ruffy. He was a great guy and a great teammate.”

After a four-year college career at Clarkson University, Rufenach played in the final six games of Toledo’s 2011-12 season. Rufenach, who had scored a total of four goals in 33 games his senior year at Clarkson, scored four goals in one game against Chicago on Nov. 4. He finished with 20 assists and had 34 penalty minutes for the Walleye. Rufenach was promoted to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on three different occasions, picking up two assists in a total of 13 games with the Griffins.

Rogers said Rufenach had a bright future.

“He was a young kid getting his feet wet and he had a great year,” Rogers said. “He was an all-around player. He had everything going for him for the following years to come. It’s a tough time for our club.”

Rufenach told The Blade last November that his plan since childhood was to “move up and hopefully make it to the NHL.” He also said that he had aspirations to become a stock broker after his hockey career ended.

Update #3: According to Mark Monroe, Rufenach was on a backpacking trip with a childhood friend and was electrocuted somehow :(

Update #4: Here’s even more from Monroe:

Toledo Walleye defenseman Bryan Rufenach dreamed of traveling the world, and the young player’s life ended tragically during a backpacking adventure in Europe.

Rufenach died on Monday in Switzerland. According to the Lindsay, Ontario, Post, the 23-year-old was with a childhood friend when he was electrocuted.

“Everyone is confused by it all right now,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “The details aren’t in yet. We do know that it was a tragic accident.”
...
Vitucci said Rufenach had been traveling in Europe for the last month.

“He was with a boyhood friend and they were traveling from country to country,” Vitucci said. “They were staying in hostels. They were set to come home at the end of this week.”

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Comments

bezukov's avatar

This is very sad.  My thoughts to his friends and family.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 06/05/12 at 10:38 PM ET

Ducksworth's avatar

Awful news, prayers for his friends and family.

Posted by Ducksworth from Brownstown, MI on 06/05/12 at 10:58 PM ET

Forlorn in VA's avatar

Wow, how awful.  My thoughts are with his loved ones.

Posted by Forlorn in VA on 06/06/12 at 09:03 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.