Hobby Outposts From the North: Prospecting in 2019-20 Upper Deck CHL – If you’re looking for some fun in the hobby with a little bit of chance of coming away with good value, look no further than picking up some developmental league cards.

Whether it’s an MiLB set, a Collegiate product or, my personal favorite, CHL cards, you’re bound to come across some fun collectibles. No, you won’t get the current big names (unless there is a retro element to the set), but  you will get a shot at early cards of future stars, if not the very first cards of these hot prospects.

Recently, I got a chance to recapture the fun and broke a box of 2019-20 Upper Deck CHL Hockey. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve been afforded the opportunity to crack wrappers on a set like this, so it was a good opportunity to catch up with a product that didn’t have the wantlist cache that most series have. Yes, I hoped to get an Alexis Lafreniere piece (and nabbed one of his inserts), but even more fun is to hunt for other names.

The default for most collectors is to seek players with familiar last names. More than seemingly ever, we’re seeing second generation players making a huge impact. Baseball has been especially bountiful, with the likes of Bo Bichette and Fernando Tatis Jr. topping wantlists. So immediately, I put aside cards of Nathan Staios (Steve‘s kid), Tag Bertuzzi (the fruit of Todd‘s loins) Mason Primeau (son of Wayne and nephew of Keith). Also interesting to me was Jeremie Biakabutuka, nephew of former NFL’er Tim Biakabutuka. While these names will garner collector attention for their famous relatives, they were starting to make noise themselves; but, they weren’t lighting my collection on fire.

Instead, I started to look to the backs of the cards I unpacked to see if there were any potentials to invest in (at least to throw them into top loaders), and from here, I was able to count four future heroes from the base set:

Ryan Suzuki – He’s the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens standout Kurt Suzuki and it seems like these two apples fell off the same branch. The younger Suzuki has counted 177 points in 173 OHL games, split between the Barrie Colts and Stephen Colbert’s favorite team, the Saginaw Spirit. Already selected by the Carolina Hurricanes (2019), Suzuki has a very reasonable shot at cracking the lineup of the fun-to-watch ‘Canes next year.

Matthew Savoie – Okay, this was an easy one to prospect since he plays for the local team, the Winnipeg Ice. Yes, he only counted seven assists in 22 games as a WHL frosh this year (not good numbers for a right winger), but the first overall selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft has tremendous potential and should show even more promise once the league resumes its schedule.

Gabriel Fortier – If you’re a fan of big point-getters like me, then the QMJHL is where you want to search. Fortier, who got a taste of AHL action in 2018-19, was traded to Moncton from Baie-Comeau mid-season in 2019-20 but still averaged nearly a point per game, one year after hitting it big with the Drakkar and amassing 83 points in 68 games. He’s sure to fit in well in the Tampa Bay Lightning roster soon.

Austin KeatingKeating posted 89 points across 68 games in 2018-19 with the Ottawa ’67s and matched that production in 2019-20, despite playing in 10 fewer games. To me, he is a bit of a risk, given that he’s gone the non-traditional route of committing to Canadian University hockey (University of New Brunswick Reds), but the CIS has started to become more attractive to shinny players, and at this early stage, I’ll hold onto the card I grabbed and wait to see what happens.

To round out my prospecting, I took a spin through the inserts I pulled. I will applaud anyone at Upper Deck or any other company who produces these sorts of sets, because when you’re building inserts at the best of times, you’re putting odds on who collectors will want and not relegate to common bins. It’s even harder when you’re future-casting.

From the assortment I pulled (less Lafreniere), I designated one player from each of the Scouting Report and Draft Ready insert sets (I netted four from each checklist). In Scouting Report, I’m calling Brandt Clarke, not just because of his famous last name, but also because this Barrie Colt counted 32 assists in 57 games from the blue line. From my Draft Ready assortment, I chose to tab Marco Rossiwho put up an unheard of 120 points in just 56 games. Something tells me this kid is going high in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

Now the fun of being a developmental league collector is that you’ll likely save your cards for 10 years or so, just in case any of your chosen “next one” prospects fizzle out and someone else surprises, so these will be sitting in one of my monster boxes for a while, or at least until the next NHL season starts (projected to be December) and I can start to see who the new rookies are that I already have cards of in my collection.             

Hobby Outposts From the North: Prospecting in 2019-20 Upper Deck CHL – Image Gallery


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