Back in the early days of the last decade, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a pretty bare cupboard of prospects. New general manager Steve Yzerman used all of his tricks to bring talent into the system, including signing undrafted college free agents. J.T. Brown, Pat Nagle, Cody Kunyk, and today’s subject, Andrej Sustr all came from the NCAA ranks.
The Czech-born Sustr had played for the University of Nebraska for three seasons prior to signing with the Lightning in the spring of 2013. A 6’7” defenseman with mobility made to the 13th spot of our 2013 Top 25 Under 25 where Kyle wrote a nice piece about the then young defender.
He’s incredibly poised in his own zone for such a young player and hasn’t yet made the type of horrific mistakes young NHL defenseman are typically prone to. His size is impressive, but he uses his reach and his stick way more than his body, and probably needs to get a bit stronger, particularly in board battles against big forwards.
Appearing in two games at the end of the 2012-13 made Sustr eligible for the 2013-14 card season (players have to appear in an official game to have a licensed rookie card appear in a set). He didn’t make it into the flagship product of Upper Deck as a rookie (that year was stacked for the Lightning with Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov all appearing in the set).
SP Authentic was a released that came out late in the season (June of 2014) and featured numbered rookie cards of Palat, Johnson, Killorn, Panik, Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio, and our favorite baby giraffe - Andrej Sustr.
2013-14 Upper Deck SP Authentic Andrej Sustr #1014/1299
Personally, I’m a big fan of the SP Authentic rookie cards. While the Young Guns are kind of the baseline for hockey rookie cards, I think the SP Authentics tend to look a lot cleaner. They are also a limited quantity. For example, there could be thousands of Tyler Johnson Young Guns rookie cards floating around out there, but we know there are only 1299 of his Authentic rookie. It might be a manufactured scarcity, but it’s still a scarcity and that improves its value.
The length of Sustr’s first go-round with the Lightning always surprises. From 2013 to 2018 he appeared in 318 games with the Bolts, recording 63 points (10 goals, 53 assists). While 318 games may not seem like a lot, it does place him 11th all-time in games played by a Lightning defenseman. That’s more than Matt Carle, Eric Brewer, or Marc Bergevin played. He does have a chance to crack the top-10 if he makes the roster this season (Nolan Pratt is currently 10th with 334 games played).
It could be a bit of a long shot for him to make the team, but he should be in competition for the seventh spot on the blue line along with a host of other players. An added benefit of Sustr making the team would be the resumption of the greatest bromance in Lightning history. He has spent the last two seasons playing in the KHL and generating some really, really good photo content on his Instagram page.
Maybe Upper Deck will give him a behind-the-scenes insert series in a future set? That would be pretty nifty.