Thursday, November 20, 2014

Jonathan Rheault Autograph Card

One thing I won't miss for the next while of Upper Deck's monopoly in NHL hockey cards is companies' endless quest for the ''best'' and ''most unique'' rookies possible, often resulting in cards of players who wouldn't have donned cardboard some 20 years ago - or at the very least who wouldn't be included in highly-collectible and expensive sub-sets, such as this 2013-14 Contenders card (#156 of the Rookie Ticket autographed sub-set) by Panini, signed on-card in blue sharpie:
Don't get me wrong: Jonathan Rheault - for having been drafted 145th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009 and never having signed with them, instead earning his way from success in the AHL with the Abbotsford Heat to an NHL contract with the Florida Panthers, and playing 5 games with them in 2012-13 - deserves all our respect, even if he was held off the score sheet at the top level. He still made it there, and didn't even register a number in the minus column.

But did that warrant inclusion in the much-hyped Dual Rookie Class category with Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Galchenyuk and Nail Yakupov? I'm not sure.

Here's what I do know: he's shown wearing the nicest-looking jersey the Panthers have ever worn, their current red (home) uniform. Had he been three inches taller, the 5'10'', 200-pound speedster would probably still be in the NHL instead of playing in Germany with the Mannheim Adler, because he can pass, doesn't shy way from traffic, and is responsible defensively. He had been a consistent goal scorer in minor leagues, but I could see him net maybe 10 goals per year on a third line in the NHL, 7 or 8 in fourth-line duties, earning penalty-killing minutes; he'd probably get between 20 and 30 points a lot of the time, and either be a minimum-wage player for 7 or 8 years, or a millionaire for 5.

An American who played for the Providence College Friars, he scored 56 goals and totaled 105 points in 142 games spread over 4 seasons in the NCAA's best division, and he had to dominate in the ECHL to earn his way up from the start.

That's the type of resilience and inner strength that brought Alexandre Burrows to NHL stardom. I'm not saying Rheault has that kind of game in him, but if I was in the bottom-10 of the standings and possibly in salary spending as well, he's one guy I'd look at for a bottom-six role, or 13th forward.

In the meantime, he has 16 points in 18 games so far in Germany.

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