Chad Ruhwedel got knocked out of the NCAA tournament last Thursday by eventual champion Yale. For a third year player at UMass-Lowell, it must have been a crushing blow. However, opportunity came calling (literally) the next day when Ruhwedel got a call from Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier asking if he'd like to play in the NHL.
"They had a lot of interest all year long, and they just kind of stayed with it, so I felt comfortable choosing them," said the new Sabre. The promise of immediate ice time helped sway Ruhwedel towards Buffalo. "It definitely sweetened the deal for me."
Ruhwedel came from humble beginnings, and the collegiate free agent didn't think he deserved to be drafted, saying "I had kind of a slow start growing up. Going to UMass...the coaching staff there I got in my second year, and on to my junior year...they really helped me along with individual sessions, working on my skating, working on blue line stuff. I owe it all to them."
His work in college paid off, and this year Ruhwedel earned himself a first-team All-America honor as well as winning the New England Hockey Writers Association Defenseman of the Year award, and also served as an alternate captain for UMass-Lowell this season. Not bad for the small California kid they call Rudy.
Ruhwedel is still trying to figure out his palce in the NHL, saying, "I'm going to try and be a puck moving defenseman, and contribute defensively, and anything offensively after that is just a bonus." He's played well in his first two games in limited time, but fans have to wonder if his smaller size (5'11'', 188lbs) will ultimately be a detriment to his professional success. You don't have to be Myers-sized to be successful
For the newest Sabres starter, he's just happy to be getting a shot in the big leagues. "When you have a good opportunity, sometimes you have to just take it and run with it. These chances don't come along very often."