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Alexei Cherepanov
Alexei Cherepanov.jpg
Born 15 January 1989(1989-01-15)
Ozerki, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died 13 October 2008(2008-10-13) (aged 19)
Chekhov, Russia
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight 183 lb (83 kg; 13 st 1 lb)
Position Right Wing
Shoots Left
Played for Avangard Omsk
NHL Draft 17th overall, 2007
New York Rangers
Playing career 2005–2008

Alexei Cherepanov (born Alexei Andreyevich Cherepanov on January 15, 1989) was a Russian professional ice hockey winger who played for Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

Previously, he had played for Avangard's lower level teams and then for the senior men's team in the Russian Super League.

Alexei was selected in the first round (17th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers, although he never played professional hockey in North America.

He represented Russia in international play, and played in several tournaments at the junior level. He won a gold medal at the 2007 World Under-18 Championships. While playing at the Under-20 level, he won silver and bronze medals in 2007 and 2008.

During a KHL game in October 2008, Alexei collapsed on the bench near the end of the game, and could not be resuscitated. He was pronounced dead later that day in hospital at the age of 19. His cause of death was attributed to heart failure, although there were varying reports as to the specific nature of his underlying medical condition.

After Alexei's death, the KHL launched an investigation into the emergency response provided by the home team during the game and also into team officials & physicians for their treatment and the management of his health during his career.

Avangard retired Alexei's #7 jersey after his death and the KHL renamed its Rookie of the Year trophy to the Alexei Cherepanov Trophy.

Playing CareerEdit

Alexei was born in Siberia and played minor hockey for the Motor Barnaul organization. The remote location of his youth hockey play made him an unknown quantity until he left the region to join the Avangard Omsk organization.

He made his debut for the team in the Russian third division during the 2005–06 season, appearing in five games and scoring two goals.

During the 2006–07 season, Alexei split time between Avangard's club in the Russian Superleague (RSL) and the Russian third division. While playing with the top level club, he scored 18 goals and added 11 assists in 46 games.

Alexei's 18 goals set a RSL record for players his age and exceeded the production of his Russian predecessors, Alexander Ovechkin & Evgeni Malkin when they were at the same level. For his play the previous season, he was named RSL Newcomer of the Year. Alexei was eligible for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft after the 2006–07 season. Throughout most of the season leading up to the draft, he was the top ranked prospect in Europe.

Prior to the draft, he attended the NHL's Scouting Combine, allowing club's to evaluate his physical attributes and schedule interviews if they needed additional information prior to his selection. Those attending the combine were struck by his apparent physical immaturity (pointing out his low number of bench press repetitions) and his physique.

Alexei's performance during the interview portion of the event was more impressive with team personnel impressed with his maturity & good attitude. At the draft, he was selected by the New York Rangers in the first round of the draft, 17th overall.

Some attributed Alexei's lower draft selection to concerns about his availability for the NHL, considering the lack of a transfer agreement between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) concerning Russian players.

Analyst Pierre McGuire believed that Alexei was a legitimate NHL prospect, stating, "He was built for the new-age NHL with his speed, his skill and his ability to make things happen offensively."

Alexei was excited to be selected by the Rangers, saying, "I believe that New York is the center of the United States and I'm very happy to be selected by the New York Rangers." He attended the Rangers' prospect camp shortly after he was drafted in 2007.

At the start of the 2007–08 season, he returned to Avangard playing in 46 games and scoring 15 goals, this time in the newly created Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

Going into the 2008–09 KHL season, Alexei had one year remaining on his contract with Omsk & the Rangers had been attempting to have him released from the contract since shortly after he was drafted.

During the 2008–09 season, Alexei was joined on the Avangard roster by Czech forward Jaromir Jagr. He played 14 games with Avangard in 2008. At the time of his death, he was second on the team in goals with seven and fourth in points.

DeathEdit

On October 13, 2008, Alexei died after collapsing during the third period of a KHL game against Vityaz Chekhov. After finishing a shift, he skated to the bench with his teammates, Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Rosa where according to coach Wayne Fleming, "He just laid back, passed out and went kind of white." Jagr immediately shouted for assistance.

Attempts were made to revive Alexei at the bench and when they were unsuccessful, he was carried back to the team's dressing room by his teammates where doctors continued to work. He was transferred to a local hospital, but he was pronounced dead later that evening. Initial reports claimed that he had died of a heart attack.

Despite being from a town over 400 miles away from Omsk, Alexei's family wanted him to be buried in Omsk, a city that had embraced him during his young hockey career. Thousands of people attended Alexei's funeral. His casket was available for viewing on the ice in Avangard's arena before being carried to Staro-Severnoye Cemetery for interment.

InvestigationEdit

In the immediate aftermath of Alexei's death, there were many conflicting reports and accusations. Early reports indicated that he suffered from chronic myocardial ischemia, and many reports questioned Avangard Omsk's medical staff and why they were unaware of his heart condition.

Other reports claimed that Alexei's autopsy showed evidence of myocarditis. Outside doctors (particularly in North America) were skeptical of this early explanation, believing it's unlikely that a young, elite athlete would suffer from an undiagnosed form of ischemia, particularly when considering the medical testing he underwent prior to the NHL draft.

Further reports out of Russia suggested a hypertrophic heart which would be more in line with other cases of sudden death in athletes.

In addition to issues with the immediate cause of death for Alexei, Russian officials immediately launched an investigation into the emergency response by the team, facilities and paramedics on site.

Initial concerns were raised as to why Alexei had been allowed to play if he had a heart condition that should have been picked up by routine medical tests that he was believed to have undergone.

The ambulance that is required to be on duty at all KHL games had already left as there were only five minutes left in the game and the defibrillator in the arena was non-functional.

The investigation into Alexei's death continued for several months.

In December, reports out of Russia indicated that blood & urine samples collected from Alexei showed that he had been engaged in blood doping. This was later clarified as Russian officials said that what initially appeared to be blood doping was actually an attempt by team officials & doctors to treat his condition surreptitiously.

After this revelation in January 2009, the KHL suspended five Avangard officials & doctors for attempting to treat a condition which should have only been managed by experienced cardiologists.

The investigation into Alexei's death was reopened in August 2009 after federal prosecutors ruled that the previously suspended team physicians were unaware of his heart condition, and had not prescribed the medications he was taking.

Alexei's agent, Jay Grossman stated that tests conducted by the NHL prior to the 2007 NHL Entry Draft had not shown any health problems.

Career StatisticsEdit

Regular season and playoffsEdit

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2005–06 Omskie Yastreby RUS-3 42002
2006–07 Avangard-2 Omsk RUS-3 31010
2006–07 Avangard Omsk RSL 4618112945 103580
2007–08 Avangard Omsk RSL 4615132812 42130
2008–09 Avangard Omsk KHL 1585136
RSL/KHL totals 10741297063 1456110

International statisticsEdit

Year Team Event Result   GP G A Pts PIM
2007 Russia WU18 Template:Goca 75386
2007 Russia WJC Template:Sica 65382
2008 Russia WJC Template:Brca 63362
Junior totals 191392210

International PlayEdit

Medal record
Competitor for Template:RUS
Men's ice hockey
World Junior Championship
Silver 2007 Leksand
Bronze 2008 Pardubice
World U18 Championships
Gold 2007 Tampere

Alexei represented Russia at multiple age level tournaments during his junior hockey career. He made his international debut at under-20 level in 2007, at the tournament in Sweden.

He and the Russian team finished with the silver medal after losing to Canada in the gold medal game. He was also named the tournament's "Best Forward" and also secured a spot on the tournament All-Star Team.

Alexei scored five goals & added three assists to finish with eight points and was also selected by his coaches as one of Russia's three best players for the tournament.

Later that same year, Cherepanov stepped down to his age group and helped Russia win the gold medal at the 2007 IIHF World U18 Championships, scoring a goal in the final against the United States.

Alexei was named Russia's Player of the Game for the gold medal game. He earned a spot on the tournament All-Star Team and was selected as one of Russia's top three players again.

The 2007 Super Series was a tournament that pitted the top junior hockey players in Canada and Russia against each other in an 8-game series to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series.

After being drafted by the New York Rangers earlier in the summer, Alexei was one of the biggest names on Russia's roster heading into the series. In the second game of the series, he suffered a concussion after a hit from Brandon Sutter and was out for the remainder of the series.

Alexei's final international appearance for Russia came at the 2008 World Junior Championships where he helped Russia to a bronze medal. He was particularly effective in the third place game, recording 3 points during a 4–2 victory over the United States. He finished the event with six total points (three goals and three assists).

Playing StyleEdit

Alexei was an offensive forward. His agent, Jay Grossman said, "He was an exceptionally talented kid."

The NHL Central Scouting Bureau identified Alexei's offensive skills as the biggest strength of his game and felt he needed to work on his physical play & consistency.

The New York Rangers head scout Gordie Clark said he had a special talent for scoring goals.

AccoladesEdit

InternationalEdit

Award Year
IIHF World U18 Championships Top Three Player for Russia 2007
IIHF World U18 Championships Player of the Game 2007 vs. United States
IIHF World U18 Championships Tournament All-Star 2007
IIHF World U20 Championships Top Three Player for Russia 2007
IIHF World U20 Championships Tournament All-Star 2007
IIHF World U20 Championships Best Forward 2007

ProfessionalEdit

Award Year
Russian Super League Newcomer of the Year 2006–07

LegacyEdit

Shortly after Alexei's death, Avangard Omsk retired his #7 jersey in a ceremony prior to a game against Dynamo Minsk, with his parents in the crowd.

The KHL renamed its Rookie of the Year award the "Alexei Cherepanov Award" starting in 2009.

An Under-20 tournament (which was held in August 2013) was dedicated to his memory. The tournament featured 6 teams including two Russian clubs & national sides from Great Britain, Poland, Belarus and host Lithuania.

The KHL examined their policies immediately following Alexei's death, particularly as concerns were raised about the effectiveness of the emergency response.

New regulations were enacted requiring that two ambulances be present at every KHL game. They also called on the Russian government to enforce minimum standards for the equipment on ambulances.

The league also instituted a program that would allow key personnel to have access to a standard set of medical information about all players in the league, dubbed a "medical passport."

After his death, the New York Rangers sought compensation in the form of an extra draft pick from the NHL.

As Alexei had not agreed to terms with the club at the time of his death, the team claimed that he was technically eligible to be selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and they were entitled to compensation. The team was eventually awarded the 17th selection of the second round in the 2009 draft after the Rangers' proposal was approved by the rest of the league.

NHL general managers also voted to adopt a rule change, dubbed the "Cherepanov rule" that would see any future teams receive compensation if a prospect dies before signing a contract.