Alexei Cherepanov (in Russian: Алексей Андреевич Черепанов b. January 15th 1989 in Barnaul, Russia, U.S.S.R. - d. October 13th 2008 in Omsk, Russia) was a professional winger who played in the Continental Hockey League for Avangard Omsk.
Nicknamed the Siberian Express, Cherepanov was promised to a very bright future. In his rookie season in the Russian Superleague in 2007, Cherepanov collected more points than now-NHL stars Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk did at his age (17) in their first season in the league. He even broke the record for the most goals in a season by a rookie (17) previously established by Pavel Bure. His presence at the 2007 World Junior Championship was felt - he led the whole tournament in scoring and was subsequently named to the tournament's all-star team and was named best forward.
His skills obviously didn't go unnoticed in North America, and the New York Rangers selected the very promising winger 17th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. It was at the moment an unexpectedly low rank of selection, as he had been ranked a top-5 prospect and the top European prospect entering the 2007 class. Many analysts offered as an explanation the lack of a transfer agreement between the National Hockey League and the International Ice Hockey Federation concerning Russian players.
Entering the 2008-09 KHL season, Cherepanov had one year left to his contract with Avangard and nobody could tell when he would make it to the NHL. Meanwhile, the young phenom kept producing and cumulating distinctions. On October 3rd 2008, he tied Avangard's record for the longest scoring streak with goals in six straight games.
However, a mere ten days later, Alexei collapsed with 2 minutes 25 seconds left in a game against Vityaz Chekhov, following an accidental collision with teammate Jaromir Jagr during a shift change. The collision apparently caused Cherepanov's heart to stop. Cherepanov was rushed to an intensive care unit, but it took abnormally long for him to get there, since the ambulance that is normally present at all games had already deperted at the time the incident happened and had to be called back - it is reported that it took 15 to 20 minutes to bring Cherepanov to the hospital. It is reported that Cherepanov's heart restarted beating on five occasions thanks to the medical staff's efforts; on one of these, he even regained consciousness and recognised his teammates. However, each times it would stop beating again.
He died later during that day from commotio cordis, a sudden disturbance of heart's rhythm, at the age of 19.