Elite Rangers prospect passes away at 19

By Jason Menard

Earlier today, during a Continental Hockey League contest, New York Rangers draft pick Alexei Cherepanov passed away after falling unconscious near the end of a contest between his squad, Avangard Omsk, and Vitayaz in Chekov, Russia. Cherepanov was 19 years old.

Reports from the Russian Web site of the newspaper Gazeta indicated that Cherepanov fell unconscious with three minutes remaining in the contest.

A statement made available on the New York Rangers‘ Web site quoted general manager Glen Sather expressing his regrets on behalf of the club. "We are extremely saddened by the tragic passing of Alexei. On behalf of the New York Rangers organization, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family," he said. "Alexei was an intelligent, energetic young man, with tremendous talent and an extremely bright future."

Cherepanov was the Rangers’ first-round selection, 17th overall, in the 2007 NHL entry draft. The young Russian was considered by many, at the time, as having the talent and upside to be selected first overall. However, concerns about the lack of a transfer agreement between the league and the Russian hockey federation precipitated the decision by many clubs to pass on the talented young forward.

Since the draft, Cherepanov had continued to display the talent and dedication that saw him regarded so highly throughout the NHL. Prior to his untimely passing, Cherepanov had scored seven goals and five assists in 14 KHL games. In his rookie campaign, he set a Russian Superliga record for most goals by a rookie with 18. He was also a standout on the Russian World Junior Hockey teams, helping his club to a bronze medal last season with three goals and three assists in six games. The previous year he earned top-forward recognition while being named to the all-tournament team. That year he was the tournament’s top-scoring players, with eight points in six games en route to a silver medal.

Cherepanov, according to the Gazeta report, was declared dead at 10:55 p.m. local time. The cause of death has been tentatively regarded as cardiac arrest.