Hobby Musings: Hockey looks to continue strong hobby momentum – The hockey trading card market has seen strong interest in the past few years. Thanks in large part to consecutive years of extraordinary newcomers, the rookie cardboard in the sport has been a hot commodity. One of the big questions for this year is how it can stack up to its predecessors. Beyond that, there also happens to be a new team in Vegas for collectors to chase cards of. For more on what to expect from this year in the hockey card world, I had the chance to catch up with Beckett hockey editor Stephen Laroche and author, radio host and hockey analyst for SiriusXM Russ Cohen.
KS: Heading into the hockey season, what do you think is the biggest trading card storyline?
SL: By far, the biggest storyline is Leaf Trading Cards signing Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick to autograph exclusives. It has forced Upper Deck and the NHLPA to figure out different ways to market hockey card products and to create products that collectors will still embrace without that autographed content in there. Most collectors and dealers do not seem to be happy about the situation at all, but we have to be patient and see how it ultimately plays out.
RC: Alex DeBrincat is a huge story. He was drafted 39th overall in 2016. He was a first round talent but he’s only 5′-7″ so teams passed on him. He was one of the best junior hockey players to ever lace up his skates. He could be a Calder Trophy Finalist.
SL: At this point, it is Connor McDavid in my mind. He’s closely followed by Auston Matthews and Sidney Crosby. All three of them play in strong hockey markets and demand from collectors for premium cards of them is huge.
RC: I still think it’s Wayne Gretzky. His demand has always outweighed the supply. Connor McDavid may have passed Sidney Crosby as far as active players go. He still has some room to grow and I think that’s why. Crosby is already a first ballot Hall of Famer.
KS: Rookies are always a big part of each new hobby season. Hockey has been blessed with incredibly strong rookie classes the past two seasons. How will this year’s crop of new players compare?
SL: I don’t think it is fair to discount a rookie class before the season is even truly underway. We have lots of carryover guys that are bound to make the opening night rosters, but there are always some guys that break out. Look at Jake Guentzel last season. Nobody could have honestly predicted that he would resonate so much with collectors and his cards came in a perfect storm of late-season premium releases that generate higher secondary market values. By the midway point on the season, we will likely know which players make up the entire 2017-18 Rookie Card class and it may not be as grim as some naysayers are hoping. In fact, I’m hoping that there will be a handful of surprising talents which will help drive the market – or at least help it remain somewhat steady.
RC: It’s another strong class. I mentioned DeBrincat, then you have Coyotes future star, Clayton Keller (his card has already been released), Nico Hischier (Devils and first overall pick in 2017), Nolan Patrick (Flyers and second overall pick in 2017), Pierre-Luc Dubois (Columbus), Thomas Chabot (Ottawa), Brock Boeser (Vancouver), Josh Ho-Sang (Islanders), Filip Chytil (Rangers) and Tyson Jost (Colorado) are some of the big names.
KS: Out of all the new players, which one do you think will make the biggest hobby impact?
SL: I think that Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks is my favorite member of the carryover rookie class and he looked good on a team that really struggled last year. The Canucks are probably not ready to be contenders at any point in the near future, but Boeser could break out if he is given a prominent role on the ice. He’s a chill sort of guy and I really want to see him succeed and contend for the Calder Trophy. Playing in a market like Vancouver, he is bound to get lots of attention, but he’s not playing in a pressure cooker situation like Montreal or Toronto. He could really thrive and shine this season and beyond.
RC: Nico Hischier certainly has the ability to do that. Devils players haven’t had the greatest hobby impact aside from Martin Brodeur, but he is capable.
SL: As a whole, I don’t really think that it will have a huge impact on the market. Will there be some local interest? Definitely. Some traditional collectors may want to put together team sets, too, for the historical significance.
RC: I think fans will collect as many of them as they can to complete a team set of sorts. Marc-Andre Fleury’s first card will be huge. Maybe there will be a full team set available. Anytime a new team hits they are instantly collectible.
KS: Is there any particular player on the Knights you’re looking at to make hobby waves?
SL: Honestly, I don’t think there will be a Golden Knights player making a major impact in the hobby in the first year. The concentration of demand for their cards is probably going be localized, which could see player collectors trying to get what is already out there for some vets – especially Marc-Andre Fleury. If Vadim Shipachyov breaks out in his first NHL season, his age is a factor to consider when chasing his cards. He’s 30, so he is not eligible for the Calder Trophy, and that may hold his cards back a little bit.
RC: Alex Tuch has that ability. He is a power forward with some great hands especially around the net. The team is loaded with defenseman so the very talented, Shea Theodore may be sent down due to a numbers game. If he starts the season with the team he can be a very potent offensive weapon for them.
KS: Who’s an under-the-radar player you think could make a hockey hobby impact this season?
SL: It’s always hard to predict who might catch on with fans, especially among players that have been around for a while. Last year, Brent Burns’ rookie cards went crazy – and deservedly so. This season, I have high hopes that Mark Scheifele will take his game to an even greater level and the hobby reacts accordingly. Winnipeg is a great market for hockey cards, but hopefully people outside of there start to realize the special kind of talent that he is.
RC: Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen had 20 goals in his rookie season. He’s capable of more. The team isn’t great but he should be one of the bright spots for them.
KS: Which hockey trading card product are you most looking forward to seeing come out this season?
SL: Normally, I get excited about some of the traditional favorites like O-Pee-Chee and the flagship Upper Deck product. However, there is a Toronto Maple Leafs Centennial release coming out in a few weeks which should be huge. When you consider the success that the Montreal Canadiens version had a few years ago, I have a feeling that this will be warmly embraced by the hobby.
RC: Upper Deck Series 1 hockey. I still love the Young Guns rookies. I also look at the Flyers locker room shots because some of my friends and my hand have ended up in a few of them.
KS: Looking a little further ahead, who are some hobby prospects that won’t make their NHL debuts this season that collectors should still be keeping an eye on for down the road?
SL: There was one name in the early cuts which caught my eye. Kieffer Bellows, who is the son of former NHL star Brian Bellows, was signed by the New York Islanders and sent down to get some junior experience with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. It may be a while before we see him on an NHL card, but I’m looking forward to that day.
RC: There’s a long list. Aside from the stars that will be drafted in 2018, here are a few who are in the junior ranks or playing overseas.
Miro Heiskanen– Defenseman – Dallas, 3rd overall pick, 2017
Elias Petterson – Center – Vancouver, 5th overall pick , 2017
Casey Mittelstadt – Center – Buffalo, 8th overall pick, 2017
Timothy Liljegren – Defenseman – Leafs, 17th overall pick, 2017
Lias Andersson – Center – Rangers, 7th overall pick, 2017
Hobby Musings: Hockey looks to continue strong hobby momentum
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