Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk could undergo liver transplant surgery in the coming week as 12 potential living donors have been identified.

The 12 candidates are at various stages of the screening process at Toronto General Hospital, according to an email update from the NHL team on Saturday evening.

"Mr. Melnyk's health remains stable for the time being and he is in great spirits buoyed by the outpouring of public support," the email reads.

The team announced Thursday afternoon that Melnyk, who turns 56 on May 27, has battled major health issues since January. He was admitted to hospital about three weeks ago and is in need of an urgent liver transplant "sometime in the next few weeks," a doctor on his medical team told CBC News on Saturday.

"His transplant won't be today," Dr. Atul Humar said Saturday. "This process usually takes several days to over a week to complete. But I anticipate, if we find a suitable donor, hopefully his transplant might be later this week."

Melnyk's rare AB blood type allows him to accept a liver donation from any blood type.

Between Thursday and Friday afternoon, the donor transplant team in Toronto got more than 2,000 calls and emails, the Ottawa Senators said.

As of Saturday evening, more than 500 donor applications had been received.

"The response by the Ottawa community, hockey community and the entire country has been unbelievable, with calls being received from across North America, the United States and as far away as Europe," the team said.

'It's a win-win situation'

Questioned whether Melnyk was jumping the queue for a transplant, Humar said there is no wait list for the live-donor transplant Melnyk's medical team is calling for. 

"The way I see it is, Mr. Melnyk is reaching out to his community, which is his fan base," Humar told CBC News.

"Every time a person receives a live donor liver transplant it actually saves two lives, because it frees up that liver spot on the deceased donor list. So it actually benefits everyone. It's a win-win situation."

Asked if Melnyk is using his position and influence in a way that ordinary people can't, Humar didn't offer a comment but said the medical team is handling his case as they would any other.

"I think this needs careful discussion and consideration," Humar said, "Our job is to evaluate all the donors that come forward. We do that for all our patients and we're treating this case the same as we would for any other patient on the waiting list."