Hobby Musings: Could Matthews Surpass McDavid? – Once again, last year’s NHL rookie class helped drive a thriving hockey trading card market. At the head of the class was the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid. The hype for the number one overall pick was all too real as sales of his Young Guns rookie card at last year’s Toronto Fall Expo were strong and steady, despite an early season injury.
While several other rookies, including the Chicago Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin and the Detroit Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin emerged as Calder Trophy candidates, demand for McDavid’s rookie cards exceeded all others. By the time the season over, I remembered thinking to myself how the 2016-17 rookie class would have a hard time outdoing those of the 2015-16 season.
Apparently, Auston Matthews is out to prove me wrong. The Toronto Maple Leafs selected Matthews with the number one overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. He had, quite possibly, the greatest rookie debut ever with a four-goal performance on opening night against the Senators. While the sports pundits are debating whether his skills can surpass McDavid, the trading card world is already taking notice with strong interest for the limited amount of NHL licensed trading cards currently availability
For more on this, I caught up with Russ Cohen, author, radio host and hockey analyst for Sirius XM. The following interview was conducted via online chat.
KS: Small sample size, but what’s fan reaction been like for Matthews after his first game?
RC: More surprised than they should be. I think they were told, incorrectly, that because he isn’t Connor McDavid, that he’s not going to be generational. Matthews can be better than Jack Eichel (number two overall pick in 2015), I think he already is, now others see that’s possible. The reaction from fans of other sports was the best in the sense that hockey got their due for having a ton of great young players.
KS: How do you think Matthews stacks up against last year’s loaded rookie class overall?
RC: He comes out #1 in the long run. It’s possible somebody else wins the Calder if he doesn’t get as much ice time and power play time as another great prospect.
KS: Number one for this season or number one when compared to last year’s class?
RC: This season and #2 to Connor McDavid.
RC: I think it’s very close. I think it will push past McDavid at the Toronto Expo, for that moment in time, because it’s in Toronto. I expect box prices to be higher if the products specs are the same as last year.
KS: One bit of speculation is that Matthews’ play could help highlight younger American hockey players. If he does have a strong showing over the next few weeks, do you think that could help the collecting outlooks for other young American hockey players?
RC: It doesn’t hurt. I think it helps the other American players he played with on Team North America in the World Cup of Hockey.
KS: Hockey trading cards have always had an interesting market in respect to being incredibly strong in Canada while not necessarily always finding the same footing in the United States. Do you think that has changed at all given last year’s rookie class and the potential of Matthews?
RC: It’s gotten stronger again for sure. I see that online and saw it at the National. Last year had a great rookie class but this year’s class is better because it’s deeper.
KS: Really? Even with a 2015-16 class that included McDavid, Eichel, Larkin, Panarin and Murray, this year is stronger?
KS: From a trading card standpoint, Matthews has an advantage that McDavid didn’t in that he doesn’t have any officially licensed NHL trading cards yet. All of his current cards are Rookie Redemptions from 2016-17 Upper Deck MVP Hockey and 2016-17 Upper Deck Artifacts Hockey. You touched on this a little earlier, but assuming he keeps up a good pace of play, how do you feel the demand for his cards, especially the live ones and autographs, could end up shaping out?
RC: I think the early products will become scarce because of demand. If he stays hot all season I think sales are going to be very strong.
KS: Last question here. You said you think this year’s hockey rookie class is stronger. Who are some of the other rookies collectors should be keeping an eye out for?
RC: Patrik Laine, Pavel Zacha, Jesse Puljujarvi, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Kyle Connor, Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, Matt Murray is eligible, and he won the Stanley Cup, he’s injured right now but still right there.