Hobby Musings: Can hockey’s prospects excite for a third season – While it was an exciting season on-the-ice, another strong rookie class helped make it a fun one for collectors, off-the-ice as well. Culminating with another Stanley Cup win for the Pittsburgh Penguins, this past year was full of great moments and special cards. For more on the hockey card season that was, as well as what to expect from this year’s rookie class, I had the chance to catch up with both Russ Cohen of the NHL Network on SiriusXM and Beckett’s Hockey Editor Stephen LaRoche. The following interviews were conducted via email.
KS: With the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup, what kind of affect have you seen on the card markets for those players?
RC: I’ve seen a spike. They’re the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the Red Wings in 1997-98. That’s a big deal. The Penguins needed 34 players all season to accomplish this.
SL: During the playoffs, there was a lot of interest in star players from both the Penguins and the Predators. Pittsburgh has long had a really strong market out there for its favorites, but there were a few guys on the Beckett Hockey Hot List that probably had not been on there for years like Pekka Rinne and Phil Kessel. I was also not surprised by the dedication and intensity of the fans in Nashville and encourage them to continue to support what is a great team.
KS: Is there anyone in particular you’ve seen a sharp spike for?
RC: Jake Guentzel is on fire and for good reason. I think people will buy up existing inventory of Marc-Andre Fleury out of nostalgia. Crosby always sells and Malkin never sells for what his real worth to the sport is. Matt Murray cards will take another jump as well.
SL: Jake Guentzel is killing it in the hobby right now. He had the top five cards on our Hot List in the July issue. He gave an incredible performance in the playoffs, but he was showing signs of promise in the last couple of months of the season. His Young Guns card can only be found in 2016-17 SP Authentic as an update card, along with his first certified autograph, so that product will continue to be hot over the summer months and beyond. P.K. Subban also was starting to get some more interest in his early cards. He doesn’t have a ton of certified autos compared to some guys, too.
KS: Looking back on the regular season, which veteran player do you think had the best trading card season?
RC: Erik Karlsson is that guy. For some reason it took this season to show fans and collectors that he’s one of the best players in the game let alone defenseman.
SL: By far this season, it was all about Sidney Crosby. His Young Guns card from 2005-06 jumped dramatically and it shows no real signs of slowing down. In a calendar year, he wins two Stanley Cups, the Conn Smythe Trophy, scores his 1,000th career point and wins the World Cup of Hockey with Canada. Hard to ignore those accomplishments and investors are really driving his key Rookie Cards.
KS: The 2016-17 rookie class proved to be pretty star-studded. From a cardboard perspective, how do you think it performed?
RC: It was one of the best I’ve seen in decades. The NHL has the best young talent of any league in the world.
SL: I think it exceeded expectations. Each year, there tends to be some grumbling and some optimism. The performances of Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews got people out buying cards and helped sustain the momentum of from the previous years. Hopefully it helped some people stay in the hobby or even return to collecting cards.
KS: All in all, how do you think it compared to the impressive rookie class led by Connor McDavid from 2015-16?
SL: In all honesty, it felt somewhat equal as a whole. The two big rookies were in great Canadian hockey markets and the late-season emergence of a name like Guentzel keeps people opening packs. Having three big rookies in Toronto certainly helped, too.
KS: We know the bigger names like Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine, but were there any sleeper rookies who surprised you this past season?
RC: I think 20-year-old, Mikko Rantanen, who was drafted 10th overall by Colorado in 2015, will build on his fine rookie season of 20 goals and 19 assists on a bad team.
SL: Guentzel surprised everyone, but I think there are guys that did not get much time in the NHL or did not get much buzz that could become bigger among collectors in coming years. Matthew Tkachuk, Jesse Puljujarvi, Sebastian Aho, and Travis Konecny could become more popular in time. The ones you might be able to scoop at bargain prices now are guys like Mathew Barzal and Dylan Strome, who spent much of the season at the junior level and are almost NHL-ready.
KS: McDavid had himself a pretty good sophomore season. Where would you currently rank him in trading card standings among the other players in the NHL?
RC: He’s the leader with Auston Matthews in second, but a significant distance away right now. He can close the gap as his career continues to blossom.
SL: Right now, I’d say he’s number two behind Crosby, but he is definitely gaining ground. Once Crosby chooses to retire or slow down, he’s the heir apparent. A Stanley Cup or two for the Oilers would help him out in that regard as well.
KS: Looking ahead, the NHL entry draft is coming up this weekend. Which new prospects should collectors be keeping an eye on?
SL: The obvious answers are Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier, but it’s a tough call beyond that to choose someone that could potentially be on an NHL roster in the fall. I have heard positive things about Gabe Vilardi, Owen Tippett and Nick Suzuki, but there is decent buzz on guys like Casey Mittelstadt and Michael Rasmussen, too. Jake Oettinger is a few years away, but collectors always love goalies.
KS: One other point of speculation is the future of Alex Ovechkin. If he were to end up with another team besides the Capitals, how do you think that would impact his trading card and memorabilia market?
RC: Alex Ovechkin would be a first ballot Hall of Famer if he retired tomorrow. I don’t believe he will be traded this season. I think his cards will take a big jump when he starts passing legendary names in goal totals. He currently has 558 goals. Guy Lafleur had 560 as an example.
SL: A trade often greatly softens the demand for a player’s older cards and this would definitely happen for most Ovechkin cards. His key Rookie Cards are probably fairly safe, though. If he went to a strong collecting market, though, collectors who decide to pursue his early cards may find some great bargains.
KS: We’ve come off of a remarkable couple of years for hockey cards thanks in large part to these two strong rookie classes. Looking at the bigger picture, how would you assess the current state of the hockey trading card market?
RC: Very strong. With players poised to play in the NHL for the first time like, Pierre-Luc Dubois (Columbus), Olli Juolevi (Vancouver), Travis Sanheim (Philadelphia), Jake DeBrusk (Boston), Oskar Lindblom (Philadelphia) and many more it will be a strong card class next year as well.
SL: I think the past couple of years have been fantastic not only for the rookie classes, but for bringing people back to the hobby. We’re seeing a lot of people coming back to collecting after a long absence after the post-boom market saw so many folks leave. In Canada, the Tim Hortons set has helped the hobby on a grass roots level and got people back into card stores looking for supplies. Thankfully, dealers were able to welcome them back and get them interested in what else is out there. Card companies and distributors are working hard to retain them, too. The market is definitely getting stronger and 2017-18 will be a bit of a test without a new generational player leading the way, but I feel optimistic.
Hobby Musings: Can hockey’s prospects excite for a third season
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