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Wings mourn Rufenach's death

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

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DETROIT – The untimely death of a Red Wings prospect on Tuesday evening during a backpacking trip through Switzerland, may have been the result of him coming in contact with an overhead power line.

According to the Swiss newspaper 20 Minuten, Bryan Rufenach was electrocuted when he touched power lines above a stationary train car park at the Grindelwald-Grund station.

“He was a very personable young man,” Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “Everybody loved him, he was full of energy and just starting his pro career. He had a great college career and he was hoping to really get his feet wet in pro hockey this year.”

The 23-year-old defenseman played in 54 games last season for the Toledo Walleye, the Wings’ minor-league affiliate in the East Coast Hockey League. Rufenach, who played four seasons at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., also played in 13 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins last season.

“Each year he got better and better and he really became one of the top defensemen in college hockey and then last year was his first year as a pro.”

In his last three college seasons, Rufenach led or tied for the lead in defensive scoring for the Golden Knights. A finance major, he was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic team following his sophomore season.

Last year, Rufenach told the Toledo Blade newspaper that had wanted to travel the world, and once his hockey career ended he wanted to become a stock broker.

“He knew what he wanted to do, a very smart young man and very focused,” Nill said. “He had great hockey sense and very smart on the ice. He was a very big man, but he sure played hard, he was tough for his size.”

Wings center Cory Emmerton was drafted in 2006, a year ahead of Rufenach and the 2007 draft class. While Emmerton never got to know the former seventh-round pick, news of Rufenach’s death stirred some emotions.

“I didn’t know him very well, though I met him through development camps and stuff,” Emmerton said. “He was in college so he wasn’t always around. He just went to Grand Rapids and Toledo this year so I really didn’t get to see him too much. But I knew him and whenever you meet someone in the hockey world that passes at a young age it’s really sad. It doesn’t matter if you know them well; it’s never easy to see.”

Condolences poured in via Twitter on Wednesday afternoon with several of Rufenach’s Grand Rapids and Toledo teammates, as well as others from around the hockey world paying their respects to the Barrie, Ontario, native.

Gustav Nyquist: My thoughts and prayers are with Bryan Rufenach's family and friends. Very sad news about a great player and person. RIP

Tomas Tatar: Bryan Rufenach Great player and person. R.I.P

Landon Ferraro: My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Bryan Rufenach. Great player and person. RIP

Trevor Parkes: My thoughts go out to Bryan Rufenach's family today! I still can't believe the tragic news, Ruffy was a great guy and he will be missed! RIP

Brendan Smith: Deepest condolences to Bryan Rufenach's family and friends. Great player and was an even better person.

Mitch Callahan: 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

Will Coetzee: 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

Matt Duchene: RIP to old teammate and great friend Brian Rufenach. You were a great hockey player and an even better guy. Will miss you big guy

Ryan Sproul: Pretty sad news about Bryan Rufenach. Roomed with him for my first ever development camp last year #willbemissed #RIP

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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