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Rangers Top Pick Cherepanov Dies During Game


SteveFromYellowstone

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http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=386386

Cherepanov dies during game in Russia

Monday, 10.13.2008 / 4:13 PM / Morning Joe

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Staff Writer

"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. Alexei was an intelligent, energetic young man, with tremendous talent and an extremely bright future."

-- Rangers GM Glen Sather

Alexei Cherepanov, the New York Rangers' first pick (No. 17) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, has died after suffering an apparent heart attack Monday during a game with Avangard Omsk, his club in the Kontinental Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Cherepanov had 8 goals and 13 points in 15 games this season, his third with Omsk.

Cherepanov had scored the game's first goal in what ended as a 5-4 loss for Omsk against Vityav Chekhov.

"We are extremely saddened by the tragic passing of Alexei," said Rangers General Manager Glen Sather. "On behalf of the New York Rangers organization, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family. Alexei was an intelligent, energetic young man, with tremendous talent and an extremely bright future."

The Rangers had been hoping to bring Cherepanov to New York for the club's prospect evaluation camp or training camp, but with the lack of a formal transfer agreement between the NHL and International Ice Hockey Federation, Cherepanov remained in Russia, with the Rangers hoping to bring him over for the 2009-10 season.

"It (the Russian league) is not as physical as our hockey over here, but it's very skilled," Gordie Clark, the Rangers' director of player personnel, told NHL.com this summer. "It's a fast-moving, very skilled league, and he manages to continue scoring points in it."

Cherepanov was the top-ranked European skater heading into his draft year, and backed up his credentials with 29 points in 47 games with Omsk when it played in the Russian Super League. He had more points in his first year in the RSL than Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, and his 18 goals in 2006-07 broke Pavel Bure's RSL rookie scoring record.

"He was close to a complete package," said Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting. "Very fast skater. He was a goal scorer and a passer.

"I think he could have been a big spectator favorite because he was that kind of player. Sometimes you could hardly notice him, but on one shift, he could do unbeliveable things with the puck -- passing, shooting, skating, extremely skillful. A finesse player with a capital 'F.'"

That he slipped to No. 17 in the draft was a major surprise, one the Rangers were extremely thankful for.

"There are going to be a lot of teams that say, 'Geez, I can't believe he was still there,' " Clark told the New York Daily News after the team picked Cherepanov." But we had him going way, way before this. The guy has got an incredible pair of hands and head on him."

Cherepanov represented Russia at numerous international tournaments. He was named the best forward at the 2007 World Junior Championships after he finished with a tournament-high 5 goals, and his 8 points led the Russian team in scoring and to the silver medal. He had 3 goals and 6 points in six games at the 2008 WJC as Russia won the bronze.

"He was a great kid," Cherepanov's agent, Jay Grossman told TSN. "He had a great smile and was an outstanding player with a great future on and off the ice. It's both shocking and devastating news for all of us."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.

Very saddening. Only nineteen years old.

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