EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers say they have been unable to confirm reports that one of the team’s prospects is missing and has possibly drowned in eastern Europe.
The NHL club put out a statement late Thursday afternoon saying if was aware of reports Kristians Pelss was unaccounted for in his home country, Latvia, but was unable to confirm conflicting information in that country’s media.
"There has been contradictory information reported, at times, and we are trying to confirm the facts," the Oilers said. "Once we are able to do that, we will be able to offer further comment. At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the Pelss family."
Latvian news outlet Apollo reported that Pelss, 20, had died.
It cited a rescue service spokesman as saying witnesses saw a man jump from a bridge into the Daugava River in the city of Riga. However, a spokesman for the Latvian Hockey Federation was quoted in the same article as saying he could neither confirm nor deny that it was Pelss.
A Russian sports news agency, R-Sport, tweeted that the Latvian Hockey Federation believes Pelss is missing, but not dead.
Pelss’s agent told The Canadian Press he was looking for more information from Europe.
Despite the conflicting reports, fans flocked to Twitter to pay their respects to the youngster under the has tag #prayforpelss.
Pelss was drafted in the seventh round by the Oilers and last played for the Oklahoma City Barons and affiliate Stockton Thunder, both teams in the Oilers farm system.
A left-winger, he played junior hockey for two years with the Edmonton Oil Kings amassing 42 goals and 41 assists in 126 games. He also played for the Latvian junior team.
The Oilers statement comes on the same day the death of another young NHL prospect was confirmed.
The Dallas Stars released a statement Thursday on the death of Scott Winkler, who passed away at the age of 23.
"The Dallas Stars are heartbroken to hear about Scott’s passing," said Stars General Manager Jim Nill. "Scott was a wonderful young man with great character and a bright future; we extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends."
Winkler was Dallas’ third-round selection (89th overall) in the 2008 NHL draft.
The cause of Winkler’s death is not yet known. A statement form Colorado College, where Winkler played the last four seasons, said he was found unresponsive at his parents’ house in Asker, Norway.