Dubuque's Rueschhoff Battled for WMU Commitment
To say Austin Rueschhoff had to work for every inch in his development path would be an understatement.
Two years ago, the Wentzville, Mo., native played for five different junior teams in the same season. After spending 2015-16 with the Austin Bruins in the NAHL, he caught on with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints this year.
“On some of those teams, playing college hockey wasn’t a possibility, but a lot of teams gave me a chance and it finally worked out,” Rueschhoff said.
Playing in the best Tier I junior league in North America, Rueschhoff started to catch the attention of college recruiters this season. He scored 17 goals and added 10 assists in 57 regular season games.
He finally secured his NCAA commitment thanks to a good showing in his team’s first-round playoff series win over Muskegon. He notched two goals and an assist, including a stellar performance in front of his future coach, Western Michigan’s Andy Murray.
“It felt great,” said Rueschhoff of committing to WMU on April 16. “I knew that it was going to come if I kept working hard.”
At 6-foot-6, Rueschhoff plays a heavy game. His style of play will certainly mesh well with the type of system Murray utilizes in Kalamazoo. That, along with his coach’s pedigree in the NHL, sold him on becoming a Bronco for the 2017-18 season.
“Andy Murray is well known for coaching in pro hockey. He has a lot of ins and outs to make it to the next level. It’s the perfect place to try to make it to the NHL,” Rueschhoff said.
Rueschhoff is a big-bodied winger who projects as a bottom-six forward who can chip in offensively from time to time. He’s the type of player that can get in corners, use his size and outmuscle opposing defensemen.
“I like to play down low. I have no problem making the moves to cut inside. My shot has been pretty good. I’ve worked on it a lot. I just try to use my size to my advantage,” he said.
Rueschoff has worked on his footwork so he can get out of the gates quicker and be more efficient in tight spaces.
“I think I have good footwork, but I do 'ladders' and 'box steps' during training and work on my skating. You also need to have good hands to protect the puck and stickhandle close to your body,” said Rueschhoff of using his size to control pucks.
NHL scouts often talk about the importance of a prospect’s first two or three steps. Most players can get going once they’re moving, but to keep climbing the development ladder, players need to be able to go from 0 to 60 quickly.
“I’ve been working on my first two strides. I get fast when I get moving, but need to get moving more quickly,” he acknowledged.
Rueschhoff’s coach in Dubuque is Jason Lammers, who was just named the new head coach at Niagara. Lammers has taught Rueschhoff to become a better player in all three zones.
“My defensive game,” said Rueschhoff of his biggest improvement this season. “I came in as an offensive player. I wasn’t a 200-foot player. He’s made me into a 200-foot player. We’ve watched a lot of video to develop my game.”
Born in 1997, Rueschhoff is in his third year of draft eligibility. There is talk he could hear his name called in the later rounds with organizations looking to draft older players. However, the draft talk is on the backburner for now as his team moves on to face either Chicago or Youngstown in the USHL Eastern Conference Finals that begin this weekend.
“We’re in the middle of the playoffs right now. I leave it to my advisor, Jeff Boston. He tells me to just focus on the playoffs right now, but it would be cool to get drafted,” Rueschhoff said.