Alexei Cherepanov had heart problems, and probably shouldn't have been allowed to play in the game during which he collapsed and died, a Russian investigator suggested Tuesday.
Yulia Zhukova said Cherepanov — a 19-year-old New York Rangers prospect who died Monday while playing for Avangard Omsk in a Continental Hockey League game outside of Moscow — apparently had chronic ischemia, which occurs when the heart or other organs do not get enough blood.
"Checks will be conducted to clarify, in particular, why the sportsman with such an illness went onto the ice," said Zhukova.
The regional investigator also said officials would look into why Cherepanov was playing with ischemia, and said officials could open a criminal investigation.
Cherepanov's agent, Jay Grossman, said NHL tests had showed his client was healthy.
Earlier Tuesday, a Russian lawmaker alleged Cherepanov may have died due to negligence by paramedics responding to an emergencey call.
Pavel Krasheninnikov, who's on the Russian Hockey Federation's supervisory council and is a member of the State Duma, said there was no ambulance on duty at the arena where Avangard Omsk was playing.
He alleges emergency workers took too long to respond and didn't have a defibrillator, a machine used to shock the heart.
It was unclear how much time it took paramedics to respond.
"There are elements of negligence here," Krasheninnikov alleged in televised comments.
NHL tests didn't show trouble
Rangers' officials said they had spoken with former captain Jaromir Jagr by phone and the veteran told them he had just finished a shift with the youngster when Cherepanov lost consciousness on the Avangard Omsk bench.
There was apparently no collision that preceded the incident and Cherepanov had been playing well — scoring a goal earlier in the contest.
"It was really kind of a surreal thing for the players," said Grossman, Cherepanov's agent. "He was skating in on a 2-on-1 with Jaromir and then they came back to the bench. Jaromir was talking to him and he told him he has to score on that play. The next thing you know, he collapsed.
"[Jagr] went with him into the dressing room area, and they revived him for some time and then he didn't make it."
Grossman said Monday that testing done on Cherepanov at the NHL scouting combine before last year's draft didn't reveal any heart problems. He has been told that players in the KHL receive regular heart and blood tests, similar to those given in the NHL.
Points totals impressive
Cherepanov was drafted 17th by the Rangers in the 2007 NHL draft. He tallied 18 goals in 47 games for Omsk Avangard in the preceding season, despite being just 17 when the campaign began.
Many observers felt Cherepanov had the talent to be one of the top picks, but his draft stock fell due to concerns about the ability to sign him and the potential difficulty in getting him to leave Russia.
Cherepanov posted respectable numbers in 2007-08, registering 28 points (15 goals) in 46 games. In 14 games this season, he had 12 points (seven goals).
"He was an exceptionally talented kid," Grossman said. "He played in the Russian Elite League, in the men's league, even before he was drafted which in and of itself is an achievement. He was a self-motivated kid that had an inner-confidence about him."