BREAKING: Red Wings prospect Rufenach found dead in Switzerland

By: Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor
@TimKolupan_

Hawk Eyes, Flickr)

Reid Cherner of USA TODAY reports that Detroit Red Wings prospect Bryan Rufenach has died while traveling in Switzerland.

The 23-year-old defenseman from Barrie, Ont. was electrocuted, though no other details of his death has been released.

Ed Burkholder, Director of Player Personnel for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye sent this tweet out yesterday: “Very sad to hear about Bryan Rufenach. He was a huge part of the @ToledoWalleye My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

From USA TODAY:

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

Said Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser: “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. 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.”

Rufenach was selected 208th overall in 2007 and split last season between the East Coast League’s Toledo Walleye (54 GP, 13-20-33, minus-19, 34 PIM) and the American League’s Grand Rapids Griffins (13 GP, 0-2-2, minus-2, 11 PIM). He spent four years at Clarkson University, raking up 21-34-55, and 107 PIM in 140 games.

Like most players, hockey had been his whole life. From Jason Bain of the Lindsay Post:

Growing up in different cities and towns throughout Central Ontario, Rufenach learned to skate at age one, just four years before picking up a hockey stick for the first time, according to a Nov. 10, 2006 story in The Lindsay Daily Post.

Rufenach then jumped into his minor hockey career playing for teams like the Barrie Flyers and the Central Ontario Wolves. By age 16, he had settled in Lindsay and became an up and coming player to watch.

Rufenach turned down an offer to play for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals – with whom he was drafted in the 10th round in 2005 – in order to retain his college eligibility. He played four years at Clarkson University, in Potsdam, New York, and was drafted 208th overall by Detroit.

After the string of tragedy that dominated the headlines of the hockey world last summer, this is a truly unfortunate and sad way to begin the offseason.

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