Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Nicolas Deschamps Autographed Card

Nicolas Deschamps was a second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks (35th overall in 2008) after posting better than point-per-game averages over three seasons in the LHJMQ, mostly with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens.

He then had up-and-down seasons in the AHL, oscillating between nearly point-per-game runs and a few deeply ineffective ones as well, such as his lone assist in 12 games with the Syracuse Crunch in his last go-round in 2014-15.

He mostly toiled around in Europe for the past four seasons, spending time in Austria, Finland, Germany, and Sweden, before finding his niche with France's Rouen Dragons, with 20 goals, 28 assists and 48 points in 44 games so far for the second-place team (with a 30-9-3-2 record in 44 games).

He signed this card for me in 2012-13, a season during which he spent time with both the Toronto Marlies and the Hershey Bears in the AHL:
It's card #97 from In The Game's 2008-09 Heroes And Prospects set. It shows hiom wearing the Sags' beautiful blue (away) uniform.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

2017-18 Parkhurst Hockey Blaster Box Break

The minute I saw this blaster box of Upper Deck's 2017-18 Parkhurst, I knew I was going to buy it, and I knew I was going to write about it. And I'm fairly happy with the cards I pulled, too.

First, though, this is what the cards themselves look like, starting with the regular-issue base cards:
Green is the defining colour of Upper Deck's current iteration of the brand, as can be attested by these and last year's cards, and it's a good look.

That being said, there are different-coloured parallels, such as the "red" variants:
I was also happy I pulled quite a few Vegas Golden Knights players:
One of them was even part of the Prominent Prospects sub-set:
One semi-original, semi-cool but come-to-think-of-it,I've-never-seen-before sub-sets is East vs West, as can be attested by these Jonathan Toews and Evgeni Malkin cards:
Perhaps the nicest-to-have sub-set is the Rookies:
And one of them was of the "grey" variation, of prized prospect Owen Tippett:
I was happy to land one of the most exciting young players in the game, Patrik Laine, in the Blow The Horn red foil sub-set:
And if the East vs West sub-set reminiscent of past All-Star Games isn't enough, the pseudo-Olympic International sub-set gets the job done:
Cool side note: even though it wasn't the case at the time, all three players I pulled are now captains of their teams.

Perhaps even more so than last year, I think UD scored a home run with this set this year.

Another 8.5 in my book.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Brandon Sutter Autographed Card

Mark this one as the biggest success story of the evening: Vancouver Canucks second-line center Brandon Sutter scored the game winner in his return from a 21-game absence due to a lower-body injury.

The former first-round draft pick (11th overall, Carolina Hurricanes, 2007) has only reached the 40-point mark once in his nine-year NHL career so far, but I do feel like he's a fine #2 center on a playoff team or an excellent #3 on a Stanley Cup contender; he is good at keeping and retrieving the puck, won 54.3% of his faceoffs last year (but realistically should hover around the 52% mark most years), draws penalties and takes very few, leading some to speculate that he may have been the Canucks' most useful player last year. Then again, the Canucks were a tire sale last year.

But he does fall into the third tier, below the elite stars (Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron) and the dependable veterans who are sometimes award-worthy (Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Kesler).

Still, it's nice to see him get his legs back. Welcome back!

Here he is from his WHL days, wearing the Red Deer Rebels' burgundy (away) uniform, on card #118 from In The Game's 2006-07 Heroes And Prospects set (and Prospect sub-set):
He signed it in blue sharpie during the 2014-15 season.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Gilbert Brulé Jersey Card

Congratulations are in order for Gilbert Brulé, who was named to Team Canada's 25-man Olympic roster for the 2018 Winter Games. He'll be joined by the likes of Rene Bourque, Ben Scrivens, Chris Kelly, Christian Thomas, Maxim Lapierre, Mason Raymond, Derek Roy, Chris Lee, Maxim Noreau, Justin Peters and Kevin Poulin.

He was drafted 6th overall in 2005 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, while many thought the Montréal Canadiens would have jumped on the chance to take a francophone center with the fifth pick; instead, the Habs chose Carey Price, but the behemoth center they should have taken fell to the 11th spot (Anze Kopitar).

While Brulé could never muster up a 20-point season in three tries with the Jackets, his passage with the Edmonton Oilers was slightly more memorable, because although he spent parts of two seasons in the AHL in his three years with the Oilers organization, he also put up 17 goals, 20 assists and 37 points in 65 games with the team in 2009-10, more than doubling his production from the four previous seasons combined.

His time in Edmonton was marred by injuries, though, from a knee injury off a dirty Adam McQuaid hit to a severe flu to a high-ankle sprain to a stomach virus to an abdominal injury to a concussion, he was seemingly never in good enough shape to play.

Then there was the issue with the Phoenix Coyotes sending him to the AHL and Brulé opting to "retire" instead, effective January 1st, 2014... a situation that lasted four months, as he signed in the KHL in May, for the following season.

His stat line was average for his first three seasons in the Kontinental League, but he's had a star-like production since last season:
Courtesy of HockeyDB
Point-per-game seasons are pretty rare in the KHL.

At 31 years of age, he may have a year or two left of "prime" play left in him, but perhaps he's burnt too many bridges for an NHL return.

In any event, being named to the Canadian National Team in an Olympic year is quite an achievement, and while I'm not sure hiring Willie Desjardins as head coach was the wisest decision, GM Sean Burke sure knows what he's doing.

Here's Brulé on a Frankencard that represents how most people see him in North America*, as a doomed prospect from the Jackets and Oilers, on card #GJ-GB from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a dark blue game-worn swatch from a jersey worn during his time in Columbus.

*of course, there was that time when he gave a hitchhiking Bono a ride...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

1994-95 Action Packed Pins

Regular readers know my fondness for one of the nicest collectors out there, sometimes The Hockey News/Beckett Hockey contributor and creator of PuckJunk, Sal Barry.

I can easily credit Sal for getting me back in the collectibles game, because I abandoned card collecting in the mid-1990s when cards I could see worth worthless were being sold at $50-100 a pop, roughly a year before I took a decade-long hiatus from following my hometown team, the Montréal Canadiens, although I did continue following the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche in the postseason.

In 2000 and 2001, I started seeing packs of cards at dollar stores and would buy one or two once in a while, and in 2002 I bought a decent bunch and fell upon this Nikolai Antropov autograph card, which piqued my interest and brought it back to a 6/10; when my interest in though-the-mail (TTM) autographs peaked in 2009, Sal's website, personal blog, and tips on how to obtain autographs made it go up to 11, so much so that I also went digging through my old stuff that was in my Mom's attic. (Coincidentally, she was about to throw them out).

A couple of weeks ago, Sal wrote an article for Beckett on ill-fated 1994-95 hockey sets by a company named Action Packed and went more specifically into their set of lapel pins in another article on PuckJunk, then proceeded to hold a contest on his Twitter feed to draw three "packs" at random.

And I won!

This is what they look like as photographed by my smartphone:
Clockwise from left, that's Patrick Roy in his iconic Habs mask, Mike Modano, Doug Gilmour and Sergei Fedorov, four of the best players of their era. There's a case to be made for Roy as the best goalie of all time (and I often do), and there's also one to be made for Hart Trophy winner Fedorov as the most important piece of the Detroit Red Wings' 1997, 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cup-winning teams; where Modano stands as one of the best American-born players of all time may be up for debate, but he certainly makes my current Top-5, and Gilmour was tremendous in 1988-89 and 1992-93, perhaps the best player skater not named Wayne Gretzky of those two seasons.

This was supposed to be a 50-player set of the best players in the world.. and Terry Yake:
from PuckJunk
Well, Alexandre Daigle did play a long time but ended up being a marginal player instead of the Pierre Turgeon-like superstar he was sold as being by the scouts of the era. The same can be said of Pat Falloon, and there were a couple of, uh, fighters in the lot (Dave Manson, Marty McSorley, Bob Probert) as well as serviceable players who were not necessarily stars, such as Dmitry Khristich (wrongly spelled on the checklist), Stéphane Richer, Geoff Courtnall, Rick Tocchet, All-Star by default Geoff Sanderson, Tomas Sandstrom, Steve Thomas and Kevin Stevens.

Like I told Sal, I probably would have purchased the Roy at the time if it'd been below $25, but I wouldn't have bought a pack out of fear of landing a few too many Yakes...

It's a great product, though.

Thanks again, Sal!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Corey Crawford Jersey Card

In the past few years, one goalie has usually dominated the entire NHL season to the extent where they overshadow the rest (Sergei Bobrovsky last year, Braden Holtby in 2015-16, Carey Price in 2014-15), with Devan Dubnyk usually pulling the short end of the stick; only Bobrovsky has been able to replicate such high-level performances onto multiple seasons, although a case can also be made for Holtby last year.

This year, the goalie towering over everybody else is Corey Crawford.

I mean, it's no surprise, really; Patrick Kane said he deserved the Conn Smythe more than he did himself when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2012-13 after posting a 16-7 record with a 1.84 GAA and .932 save percentage, but the fact is that "Crow" was just as good when the Hawks won again in 2014-15 on the superhuman play of Duncan Keith with a 13-6 record (he had trouble against the Nashville Predators in the first round, which didn't stop his overall statistics line falling at 2.31 and .924).

And he's been just as good and steady in the regular season, too, with two Jennings Trophies in the past five years and a fifth-place Vezina finish in 2015-16 when he posted a league-leading 7 shutouts (in just 58 games).

This year, he stands second in the NHL for save percentage, and he missed three games to injury earlier in the season, where the Hawks lost all three games; upon his return, they won five in a row. Talk of Hart Trophy nominations should not be off the table for Crawford, especially if the Hawks sneak into the playoffs on his strong play.

They'll need Anton Forsberg to hold down the fort while Crow's injured, though.

Here he is wearing the Blackhawks' white (away) uniform, on card #AS-20 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 SP Game-Used Editions set and All-Star Skills Fabrics sub-set:
It features a decent-sized red swatch that is either from one of the horizontal lines or the team's red jersey.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Box Break: 2017-18 Artifacts Blaster Box

Christmas was very good to me this year, as I received a lot of love, chocolate, spent time with family and friends, my Mom got a friend of mine a job, and I was gifted a blaster box of Upper Deck's 2017-18 Artifacts hockey cards.

Now what struck me first in this box (8 packs of 5 cards each for 40 total cards) was that I got a lot of doubles from my previous one. At first. Then the hits came.

First, though, I fell upon this very funny picture of Jordan Eberle looking like his head is way too big for his body:
Then I got a Buffalo Sabres Rookie Redemption card, which I immediately redeemed, because I know UD can sometimes take months to get the cards back:
But the coolest-looking card is definitely this Ruby variant #100/299 of Connor McDavid:
What a beautiful card!

And this haul is what I meant when I said "I wish you better pulls" in my official review of the set.

I'm still satisfied. As a matter of fact, if that would have been my break the first time around, I likely would have purchased another one by now, possibly even instead of the 2017-18 O-Pee-Chee blaster box I got a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Nikita Kucherov Jersey Card

The NHL landscape is changing, with new stars making names for themselves among the best goalies (Matt Murray), defensemen (Mikhail Sergachev), and goal scorers (Patrick Laine), while others are cementing their positions at the top (Mark Scheifele, Connor McDavid, Vladimir Tarasenko).

Among the latter is a player who started out making up the lost production of oft-injured Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and just never let up when he got back, Nikita Kucherov.

After a 40-goal (good for second overall), 45-assist, 85-point (fifth overall) season in 2016-17, Kucherov is showing that his constant climb in points (from 18 to 65 to 66 to 85) is no fluke, as he's set lofty goals for himself this year, including trying to net 60 goals.

A case can be made that he's been one of the five best players in the game since last season, and his statistics since last February are pretty convincing evidence of that.

Although it's unlikely that he'll keep scoring at a 20% clip, and it's very possible he'll hit a 10- or 15-game slump at some point, he has a legitimate shot at 60 goals, 60 assists and 100 points, all of which are amazing milestones in this day and age where scoring is at a premium.

Here he is wearing the Bolts' white (away) uniform, on the "Copper" variant of the jersey insert version of card #13 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 SP Game-Used Edition set, which I got from a box of repackaged cards from multiple sports last year:
It features a blue jersey swatch that is certified to have been used in an "official NHL game".

Internationally, he has won silver (2012) and bronze medals at the World Juniors, and bronze (2017) at the World Championships, suiting up for Team Russia.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Marc-André Fleury Jersey Card

Anyone who's followed hockey at least semi-closely in the past year and a half is aware of the tough situation Marc-André Fleury has dealt with, from being the Pittsburgh Penguins' first-overall draft pick in 2003 to netting the game gold medal-winning own-goal at the World Juniors, to making the last-second save against Nicklas Lidstrom that won the Pens the Stanley Cup in 2009, to a return to grace with Top-5 numbers to a concussion leading the way to rookie Matt Murray stealing his job to two consecutive Cups, one of them (last year's) which would not have been possible without Fleury's own stellar goaltending in the first two rounds as the Pens' lone good player, to his being chosen at the Expansion Draft by the Vegas Golden Knights.

It's been a wild ride, but through it all, it has emerged that he is, quite simply, the best teammate in hockey. I always respected him as an individual, he's done great things in the community in Pittsburgh as well as back home in his native Montréal suburb of Sorel.

He's also emerged as my third-favourite NHL goalie (behind Jaroslav Halak and Corey Crawford), which led me to update my jersey collection last September:
If they get James Neal to re-sign, my dark Vegas jersey will be of him. Both former Pens played crucial roles in the Golden Knights' 2-1 win over the reigning Cup champions last night.
I hadn't featured Fleury with the Pens before, so I thought today might be a good time for that, with card #AS-24 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 SP Game-Used Edition collection and 2015 All-Star Skills sub-set:
It shows him wearing Pittsburgh's black (home) uniform with a large matching swatch that was presumably worn at the 2015 All-Star Game skills competition, although the back of the card simply states it was worn during an "official NHL game" (not "regulation" nor "playoff", so it's vague enough to mean whatever you want it to).

I'm glad he's found a home, and I'm extremely happy "my" Knights are doing great.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My Team Canada Numbers Project

Well, I have Numbers Projects for so many teams now (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, my Nordiques Numbers Project, my Flames Numbers Project and my Expos Numbers Project), I figured why not make one for Team Canada as well?

It'll be easier in some regards with all the national teams at all the levels (including but not limited to the World Juniors, the World Championships, the Spengler Cup, the Canada/World Cup, the Summit Series, and the Mens and Womens Olympic teams), but I'm again at a loss for #99 (Wayne Gretzky) and likely will be for my entire life.

I'm sticking to hockey, but who knows, maybe I'll get to add some from other sports as well.
So far, I have featured 27 players representing a total of 23 jersey numbers.

Here they are:

1: Braden Holtby: check!
4: Chris Phillips: check!
5: Samuel Morin: check!
10: Brayden Schenn and Charles Hudon (also wore #16): check!
11: Zachary Boychuk: check!
12: Lanny McDonald: jersey card check!
13: Caroline Ouellette: check (and check again)!
14: Thomas Hickey: check!
16: Charles Hudon (also wore #10): check!
17: Marcus Foligno: jersey card check!
19: Alexandre Daigle: check!
20: Guillaume Latendresse and Louis Leblanc: check!
22: Frédérik Gauthier: check!
23: Rob Niedermayer and Daniel Audette: check!
24: Patrice Brisebois and Logan Couture: check!
28: Nathan Beaulieu: check!
29: Marie-Philip Poulin: check!
30: Dustin Tokarski: jersey card check!
31: Geneviève Lacasse and Olivier Roy: check!
32: Charline Labonté: check!
37: Patrice Bergeron: jersey card check!
51: Ryan Getzlaf: jersey card check!
97: Joe Thornton: jersey card check!

Captains: Poulin, Hickey