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Red Wings, Griffins release statements marking passing of Bryan Rufenach

From all the information available via the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe, the Lindsay Post‘s Jason Bain and other sources, Red Wings prospect Bryan Rufenach was backpacking through Europe with a childhood friend and died accidentally due to some sort of electrical mishap. This morning, the Red Wings posted a press release acknowledging Rufenach’s passing…

RED WINGS MOURN THE PASSING OF BRYAN RUFENACH

… Defenseman was a Seventh-Round Pick by Detroit in 2007 …

Detroit, MI… The Detroit Red Wings regret to announce the passing of Bryan Rufenach, a 23-year-old prospect who passed away recently while traveling in Switzerland. Rufenach was Detroit’s seventh-round pick (208th overall) in the 2007 National Hockey League Entry Draft. He split time between the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League and the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye in 2011-12. The Barrie, Ontario, native registered two points (0-2-2) and 11 PIM in 13 games with the Griffins last season and posted 33 points (13-20-33) and 54 PIM in Toledo. He earned a degree in financial information and analysis from Clarkson University in 2011. Rufenach played four seasons for the Golden Knights and led all Clarkson blue-liners in points from 2008-2011.

As did the Grand Rapids Griffins:

The Grand Rapids Griffins are mourning the death of defenseman Bryan Rufenach (ROOF-uh-nack), who passed away recently while traveling in Switzerland. He was 23 years old.

“Bryan was an up-and-coming player in our organization who improved a great deal this season and had a bright future ahead of him,” said Griffins head coach Curt Fraser. “He was a really good kid – smart and quiet – who understood his role, worked hard every day he came to the rink and was a pleasure to coach. We’re going to miss him.

“Our deepest condolences and heartfelt prayers go out to Bryan’s family and friends.”

A native of Barrie, Ontario, Rufenach was the Detroit Red Wings’ fifth choice (208th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. After playing four seasons (2007-11) at Clarkson University, where he earned a degree in financial information and analysis, he made his pro debut with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye at the end of the 2010-11 season.

Signed by Grand Rapids last September, Rufenach made his AHL debut with the Griffins on Nov. 23, 2011 and appeared in 13 games with the club as a rookie, contributing two assists and 11 penalty minutes. He also played 54 games with Toledo, leading Walleye defensemen in scoring with 33 points (13-20—33).

Memorials and arrangements are pending.

Via the Wings’ Twitter account, the Toledo Walleye released a statement as well:

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.

Update: The Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner also spoke to coach Fraser about Rufenach’s passing:

“He was a smart, good young man,” Fraser said. “My boys (now ages 19 and 20) would go to the prospects camps (in Traverse City and Detroit) and Bryan was always one of their favorites, so that gives you an idea of what kind of kid he was. He looked after my guys, they really paid attention to what he did, and they really enjoyed his company.”

Rufenach, who played in 13 games for the Griffins last season, died Monday while traveling in Switzerland. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear, although it was reported he was electrocuted. He was 23.

Injuries to the Red Wings defense last season provided Rufenach considerable time with the Griffins. The 6-foot, 192-pound defenseman was called up from Toledo of the ECHL on four occasions, the first on Nov. 23, 2011, and the last on April 1. He had two assists and 11 penalty minutes with the Griffins. Ten of his 13 games played came in March.

Fraser said Rufenach, the fifth choice of the Red Wings in 2007 draft, was developing as a defenseman.

“He was an offensive defenseman really the defensive side of the game,” Fraser said. “But he was also a kid who liked to hit, and that was a welcome addition to our hockey team. He was trying to find his way. Just trying to find his niche with our group and it was slowly coming. And then to have this happen—it’s pretty devastating to everybody.”

Update #2: Via RedWingsFeed, the Grand Rapids Press’s Wallner took note of Rufenach’s teammates’ Twitter comments, and yes, as his second story notes, it appears that Rufenach was somehow accidentally electrocuted.

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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.