The picture that's coming together is that Alexei Cherepanov, the 19-year-old Rangers' prospect died due to cardiac arrest and not after colliding with another player. One Russian outlet reported that ex-Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr, who had become a mentor to Cherepanov (whose desire to remain in the KHL for at least one more season was due, in part, with a desire to be Jagr's teammate), was distraught and in tears after the game.
There have been scattered reports that the emergency facilities at the Russian arena were not what we might consider modern. There were reports that the on-site ambulance was not on-site at the time of Cherepanov's collapse and that the defibrillator had no batteries. None of this is confirmed and coach Tom Renney said today when he's traveled to Russia, even rural Russia, he did not worry for the players' safety in case of emergency.
Not many of the current Rangers had any contact with Cherepanov. But Renney said his reports from Avangard Omsk coach Wayne Fleming, a friend, and Jagr were that Cherepanov's development was rapid this season and Jagr indicated Cherepanov could play on the Rangers' second line right now.
Pelino was in Russia from Aug. 29-Sept. 4, mainly to check in on Cherepanov, the Rangers' first-round pick in 2007 (17th overall). At one point, Pelino, Jagr, Cherepanov and a few other Omsk players all went out to dinner.
Here are the highlights of what Pelino had to say:
"When I went over I was really excited after I got to spend a little bit of time with him. First of all, he was very, very engaging as a young man. He was very excited about the opportunity of when it was going to happen for him to get to New York."
"As far as a player, I had seen him a couple of years ago at the development camp, then to see the improvement he had made, he was bigger, he was more physically mature, he had a real nice change of pace going in on the goaltender. He was very effectively going into the zone. I came back very excited about what I had seen."
"He said he was really looking forward to the day when he could come play for the New York Rangers. He didn't know how that would pan out."
"One of the nicest stories I heard was when he was 12, he left his hometown (Barnaul, Russia) to move to Omsk because he wanted to become a hockey player. I never was concerned he would be able to come to New York and fit right in and become a good player for us."
"After I saw him this past year, and being on the ice with Jaromir, just the way he asserted himself on the ice with his confidence, he was someone who I was really excited about as, 'Wow, we did get something special here.' He had things to work, we felt he had to be a little stronger, he had to be a little more aware defensively. As far as raw talent and an ability to score, he was great."
"Id' have to say if we were in a position to give him an opportunity (next year) and he was able to take advantage of it, he would have stuck with us. He looked good."