A Potential Great Career That Never Began: Alexei Cherapanov

By Patrick Hoffman

It's always intriguing when a hockey fan thinks about what could have been with a particular prospect had things gone right. 

I'm talking about production, reaching their potential, and being the player that the organization knew he would be when they drafted him. There have been so many highly touted prospects in the NHL that have failed for one reason or another.

When it comes to the New York Rangers, they had a prospect back in 2008 that never got step on NHL ice. This prospect was someone they drafted with the 17th overall pick in the first round of the 2007 draft.

Unfortunately for both the Blueshirts and Cherapanov family, the extremely talented forward died on the ice during a KHL game in October 2008. He collapsed on the bench and could not be resuscitated and died later that day at just 19 years old.

This is someone who had the potential to make a significant impact with the franchise that drafted him. He was a player who could dangle, find open areas in the ice, had a terrific shot, and also had speed.

When Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, and Michael Nylander left the club after the 2007-08 season, the Rangers were without a huge chunk of their offense. They needed to be prepared for this and bring Cherapanov over for the 2008-09 season so some of the offense could be restored.

This was a guy who was the top ranked European prospect heading into the 2007 draft. In fact, he should have been a much higher pick, but at the time, teams were concerned because of the lack of a transfer agreement between the NHL and and the International Ice Hockey Federation.

This player was physically mature, had size, and even Pierre McGuire said that "He was built for the new-age NHL with his speed, his skill, and his ability to make things happen offensively." I know that a lot of people despise Pierre (I don't), but when it comes to his knowledge of prospects, there are not many who are better than he is. 

This is a league where offense is everything. When it comes to the Blueshirts, they are not one of the highest scoring teams and they struggle in key situations to put the puck in the net. Someone like Cherapanov could have changed that in a big way and perhaps made the team's offense absolutely lethal in all situations.

If he was still around today, he'd still be under 30 years of age and would be a part of a potentially exciting rebuild for this franchise. I'm also willing to bet that a guy like Pavel Buchnevich because like Cherapanov, Buch is a highly skilled forward and at just 23 years of age, could have teamed up with Cherapanov to make an exciting Russian duo on Broadway.

I don't mean to bring any down with this post. I am just trying to get you Blueshirt die-hards to imagine if Cherapanov was still with us today and had been everything that scouts predicted him to be.

Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.caKukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

For comments and hip checks, feel free to contact Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com or on Twitter at @pathoffman35.