It’s the best time of the year, well at least for hockey card collectors. November means that Upper Deck’s flagship product has finally been released. While MVP and O-Pee-Chee are nice sets to wet the appetite, this is the set that gets the collectors going. Mainly because of the rookie cards, aka Young Guns, which serve as the bellwether for how a player’s career is going to be seen by the public.
Connor McDavid - prepare to shell out over a hundred bucks for his little piece of cardboard. Alan Quine - go to a local card shop and search through the dime box.
Of course the Young Guns subset only makes up 50 cards out of a set of 250. So there are plenty of other players featured in the base set. Along with the base cards there are also more than enough parallel and inserts to interest fans of any team.
Boxes will set you back around $75 and that price should hold for most of the season. It’s unlikely that Nico Hischier and Charlie McAvoy will cause such a demand that the prices will sky rocket.
Upper Deck is in business to sell as many cards as they can, so they have to release a product that appeals to as many collectors as possible. That is why players like McDavid and Sidney Crosby pop up in as many insert sets as possible. For a Lightning collector that can be a little frustrating.
The Lightning are coming off of a subpar season. They are a small market team that doesn’t get much league-wide recognition (unless they start off the season winning 13 of their first 17 games). Their most marketable star, Steven Stamkos, was coming off a major injury. All those signs point to a muted presence in this year’s set.
Nikita Kucherov’s emergence as one of the best goal-scorers in the league does help them out and I expect to see his name pop up more than once in the insert sets. If he keeps up his play (and this season seems to indicate he will) he should rival Stamkos for popularity in the hockey world.
So how well are the represented? I picked up a random box in Toronto and ripped open some packs.
If you purchase a hobby box, chances are you will get most of the base set which consists of 5-6 cards of each team. The Lightning have six cards in the base set: Alex Killorn, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Anton Stralman, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat.
The photography for the base set cards is always fun to see. As you can see with Stralman card not all of the action takes place on the ice. In fact, after flipping through the cards a second time I noticed a certain theme emerge:
There is also a couple of other cards featuring players warming up with a soccer ball or in alternative jerseys. It does break up the set a little, after all there are only so many ways to photograph players on the ice.
Vegas has some representation in the base set, not on the ice, but from the expansion draft festivities. Here’s Jason Garrison:
As you can see from the cards, the design is minimal. Upper Deck does like to let the photographs do the work. The team logo is silver as is logo in the upper left corner. The white lettering against the dark background makes it easy to read the name, something that isn’t always the case.
Jake Dotchin receives the distinction as the Lightning’s representation this year (Mikhail Sergachev appeared in last season’s set in a Canadiens uniform). It’s the second set that Dotchin has appeared in this year as he debuted in O-Pee-Chee. Expect to the card to be affordable. Despite a large amount of players from this year’s draft making it to the NHL, there is no huge star like Auston Matthews or McDavid as has been the case in the past few seasons.
Sadly, I did not pull any Dotchin’s. Here is Hayden Fleury instead.
Upper Deck’s Artistic take on hockey cards, painted cards printed on a canvas-like surface, is popular among collectors. Falling one per every seven packs it isn’t hard to put together, but will take some investment.
Point, Vasilevskiy and Kucherov made the checklist for the Lightning. Here is Kucherov’s.
As you can see they do use different photos for the canvas insert set.
Dotchin did not make the cut in the Young Guns portion of the set. There are only 30 rookies featured and will show up once every 148 packs. Good luck.
A yearly insert set that showcases ten collectable players at each position. Nikita Kucherov shows up in the left winger group which appear about once per box. There is a red parallel that shows up every three boxes.
Crop a photo tight on a player’s face and then use the Noir filter setting on your Instagram and you have portraits. I continue to wonder what the draw of this insert set is, but it’s back for another year. It gives Upper Deck a chance to shoehorn in some more Auston Matthews cards as seen below.
Not to be confused with the NHL’s Top 100 players list (Evgeni Malkin actually made this checklist) this set celebrates 100 of the most popular players in the league’s history. Steven Stamkos is the lone Lightning representative.
The Second Six
If you ever wondered what a California Golden Seals card would look like as a modern Upper Deck product, here is your chance. It’s nice to see some of the older logos that came out of the second wave of expansion for the NHL, but I’m not a big fan using modern players - hey another card for Sidney Crosby - with the retro logo in the corner. Dig up some photos of those awesome expansion teams.
Day with the Cup
Win the Stanley Cup and you will get a short printed insert set in the next season’s flagship product. No, Upper Deck did not recycle cards from last year’s set. Nor did they use this photo for Olli Maatta.
See through cards? Always a fun card to see in a pack. This is a straight parallel, so it’s the same card as in the base set. Case in point - Nikita Kucherov in his St. Patrick’s Day warm-up jersey.
Clear Cut Superstars:
Another take on the clear hockey card, this insert is a die cut see-through card that shows up every 400 packs or so. Nikita Kucherov is again a representative.
Clear Cut Foundations:
A similar product to the Clear Cut parallels, Foundations features two current players for each team (except for Vegas) and is serial numbered to only 25. For the Lightning the pairing is Anton Stralman and Ondrej Palat. That’s a solid defensive card.
Clear Cut Leaders:
Rolling right along with the clear theme is the leaders set. There are only five cards in the set and each card is serial numbered to 10. Kucherov shows up on a card with Alex Ovechkin and Brayden Schenn.
Canvas Signatures, Signature Sensations, Upper Deck Game Jersey, Game Patch, A Piece of History 300 Win Club Jersey and Patch, 500 goal jersey, 1,000 point jersey
The various insert sets that have either jersey relics or autographs on the card. There are a couple of Lightning players represented. The odds of pulling the card are in parentheses. Yes, you have roughly the same odds of hitting four numbers in Powerball as you do in pulling the Vasilevskiy Signature Sensation card. May they be forever in your favor.
Andrei Vasilevskiy - Signature Sensations (1:36,179 packs)
Andrei Vasilevskiy - UD Game Jersey (1:102 packs)
Nikita Kucherov - UD Game Jersey (1:1,262 packs)
Victor Hedman - UD Game Jersey (1:2,805 packs)
There are a few more small insert sets that I won’t list as they don’t include any Lightning cards. As a final review it’s not a bad set. I have a feeling that Series 2 might be a little more appealing in player selection. If you’re a casual collector, picking up a few packs wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to do.