Monday, June 16, 2014

Dustin Tokarski Swatch Card

After trading away two of his rookie cards early in the season, and sending him some to sign near the end of it (late March, no reply yet), I was glad to get my hands on this Dustin Tokarski swatch card via Ebay a couple of weeks ago for less than $4:
It's card #09TC-DT from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Black Diamond set and features not one but two swatches of Team Canada game-worn memorabilia - of two different colours, no less!

I particularly love that it shows him wearing the Canadian uniform from the 2009 World Juniors, where he backstopped his country to its fifth-straight gold medal, a tournament in which he showed that unlike many of his contemporaries (Jonathan Quick, Carey Price) who are either on top of their game or playing very poorly with very little middle ground, he can not just win a 2-1 (or 5-1) game, but also 7-4 and 6-5 edge-of-your-seat thrillers while battling everything - his opponents, the puck, even himself - and come out on top.

I was at the Bell Centre for his first playoff game and, though he lost, he got better as the game went on and had won the crowd over midway through the third period after having cast doubts in the first (I, for one, was happy he was in nets):
After all, we're talking about a guy who impressed so much when he won the Telus Cup in Midget AAA that the WHL's Spokane Chiefs reserved his rights, then, in his rookie season in Juniors, split regular-season games with the incumbent starter but played every playoff game; in his second year, not only was his regular season fantastic (30-10-3, 6 shutouts, a 2.05 GAA and .922 save %), but he was the WHL's playoff MVP en route to a Memorial Cup, and Memorial Cup MVP to boot. His final year in Juniors - the year he won World Juniors gold - he went 34-18-2 with 7 shutouts, a 1.97 GAA and .937 save percentage.

His first year with the AHL's Norfolk Admirals was ok (the team failed to make the playoffs though), but he did get two call-ups with the parent Tampa Bay Lightning club; in his second season in Norfolk, he ran away with the starting goalie position, and posted decent playoff numbers (a 2.19 GAA, a.924 save % and a shutout in a 6-game first-round elimination), but it was his third year in the pros that had heads reeling, with his first NHL win (a 3-2, 29-save affair) but also the Calder Cup (AHL championship), with a playoff run that had him post a 1.94 GAA, .944 save % and 3 shutouts in 14 games, going 12-2.

He was traded to the Montréal Canadiens for Cédrick Desjardins in February 2013.

In 2013-14, he played 3 regular-season games with the Habs, registering two wins, a shutout, a 1.84 GAA and stopping 94.6% of the shots he faced, but it was his play in the Conference Finals against the New York Rangers that cemented his fate as the next big-name goaltending prospect not named John Gibson, winning 2 of 5, with a 2.60 GAA and .916 save percentage playing in a high-pressure situation against the Stanley Cup finalists.

More importantly, he hasn't taken himself out of a game at the NHL level yet, despite critics pointing to his lack of size (he's 5'11'' and 185 pounds) and facing sharp-shooters such as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Brad Richards and Martin St-Louis.

With Carey Price comfortably in place and Montréal kid Zachary Fucale in the pipeline, though, I see Tokarski hitting the trade market in the relatively near future, unfortunately. You can easily make an All-Star team out of players the Habs have let go for close to nothing (not counting free agency) who still play in the NHL; I fear Tokarski may yet just be another link in that chain.

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