The Rubberband Man

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    On the topic of spin-o-ramas, here’s a highlight reel play from Leafs’ 6th rounder in 2006 Tyler Ruegsegger during recent collegiate action. [More after the jump, including an update from U of D head coach George Gwozdecky].

    Some of you may remember the interview I conducted with University of Denver head coach George Gwozdecky about Tyler in the summer. I think Ruegsegger has the potential to really surprise at the NHL level if he can continue to improve his footspeed. Providing his speed can simply become adequate by NHL standards, Ruegsegger has everything else going for him – he is insanely competitive, strong in both ends and oozes offensive instincts. His sharp on-ice acuity is reflected by his near-perfect 3.98 GPA in one of the top business programs in the States. Mid way through his third season with U of D, Ruegsegger hasn’t quite put up the numbers I or I’m sure he was hoping, although they are still decent (12 points in 20 games). Ruegsegger, in his freshman year, posted 34 points in 40 games, and I was hoping to see him restore that type of scoring clip. However, I recently received a promising update from Gwozdecky about Tyler’s progress this season:

    “In late October, Tyler Ruegsegger was diagnosed with mononucleosis. He was medically cleared to play. Although the fatigue factor from his illness significantly reduced his shift times and on-ice effectiveness, Tyler did not miss a game. He has an important role as an alternate captain and plays in all situations including power play. As of early December he was fully recovered from mono. As the second half of the season begins, I expect that Tyler will continue his development as one of the most effective and dynamic players in the WCHA.”

    Here’s hoping for a big second half of the season from Ruegsegger now that he’s back to full fitness.

    I’ll be posting Volume 2 of my Prospect Tracker series, which got sidetracked for many number of reasons in November, during my holiday break.

    Here’s the interview with George Gwozdecky from last summer for those that haven’t given it a gander:

    Scholarly Promise
    Since drafting the Denver native out of high school in the sixth round of the 2006 Entry Draft, forward prospect Tyler Ruegsegger has quickly begun to take shape as a potential draft day steal for the Maple Leafs. After a superlative 89 point season with Shattuck-St. Mary’s, his college entrance was moved ahead a year from 2007 to the fall of 2006. After entering the collegiate system last season with the University of Denver’s Pioneer hockey team, Ruegsegger continued to impress scouts as he climbed the hockey ranks.

    This season, Ruegsegger was only one of two Maple Leafs’ prospects who made the trip to Sweden for January’s World Junior Hockey Championships (the other was Czech defenseman Juraj Mikus). Ruegsegger accrued 4 points in 6 appearances for his country, playing alongside James Van Riemsdyk and Kyle Okposo. According Pioneers’ head coach George Gwozdecky, Ruegsegger felt he “performed and contributed” in Team USA’s fourth place finish. Team USA’s brain trust was very pleased with Tyler’s contribution both on and off the ice.

    According to Gwozdecky, Tyler was off to a “terrific year” this season with U of D before his campaign was curtailed by an abdominal injury. The head coach made light of the injury, suggesting it was a “unusual” issue that turned out much worse than originally expected. What first looked to be a one-week layoff ended up being much more long-drawn-out and it was five or six weeks until Ruegsegger regained a clean bill of health. Gwozdecky suggested durability is in fact one of Ruegsegger’s assets and that the injury was unfortunate more than anything. Outside of this issue, Ruegsegger has been a dependable player for the Pioneers for the past two seasons. Despite the injury, Gwozdecky suggested he still saw a lot of development in Ruegsegger’s game.

    Scouting reports seem to infer that a barrier that stands between Ruegsegger and a potential NHL career is a lack of foot speed and acceleration. His head coach admitted this is an area that requires continued improvement, but suggests the other facets of his game more than compensate for this area of weakness. According to Gwozdecky, Ruegsegger’s hockey smarts are of greater import. The veteran head coach suggested that players which have a ton of speed, but lack on-ice acuity, tend to be less successful than players with the inverse skill set. The head coach cited former U of D student and now-Avalance player, Paul Statsny, as prime example. Scouts doubted Stastny’s ability to perform at the professional level due to a lack of foot speed. Stastny’s on-ice intelligence and ability to see the ice has compensated for his slower foot speed and he’s proceeded to assert himself at the NHL level as a point-per-game player. Ruegsegger seems to offer a similar package. According to Gwozdecky, Ruegsegger has a real “head for the game.”

    Another obstacle the five-foot-ten Ruegsegger will have to overcome along his journey towards pro hockey is his size. Gwozdecky suggests Ruegsegger is a determined player who doesn’t avoid trafficked areas. He is strong on his skates and uses his angles for leverage. He also has the ability to outwit opponents. Gwozdecky describes him as tough, durable and great in tight, trafficked areas. He also suggests “no one competes harder”’ than Tyler be it in game or practice situations.

    Ruegsegger, for the second consecutive year, garnered the Dr. Art Mason Award as U of D’s top scholar athlete. He was also named to ESPN’s Academic All-America Men’s University team, after recording a 3.98 GPA on a scale of 4.00. Ruegsegger is almost a straight A student in the business program at U of D, one of the country’s leading business programs. According to Gwozdecky, Ruegsegger brings a similar work ethic and attention to detail to the dressing room. He’s well liked by his teammates and has a serious passion for hockey. He dons an “A” for the Pioneers and will continue to be a major constituent of the Pioneers’ leadership next season.

    Ruegsegger is one of the Pioneers’ top 2 centers and will continue to be a key component for the team at center-ice next season. Gwozdecky describes him as a playmaker with a goal-scoring knack who dominates certain areas of the game. He projects Ruegsegger as a top six player at the NHL level. He is flexible in terms of his positioning; he’s a natural centerman but can play either wing. Gwozdecky suggests that a timeline for Ruegsegger is difficult to project, but that he wants to come close to, or completely finish receiving his degree before pursuing a career in professional hockey. The head coach maintains, however, that the NHL is a “real goal for Tyler.” Leafs fans, he certainly appears to be one worth waiting for.