Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ales Hemsky Jersey Card

It's been a long time since my days of youth, since the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers tore through the NHL and re-wrote the entire league's record book. This season, marred by injuries, will likely see them finish last overall.

Ever since the surprising Stanley Cup run of 2006, the team has failed to reach the post-season; apart from the usually stellar play of goalies (such as Dwayne Roloson), Ales Hemsky has pretty much been the lone bright spot on the team since then. Injuries, however, seem to be taking their toll on him, as he has only once played in over 80 games in a season (2005-06), and while he is always near the point-per-game mark - even in the playoffs - more and more critics are emerging from Edmonton to the effect that he might never fulfill the high expectations that were thrown his way upon entering the NHL.

Eager to catch the attention of NHL scouts, Hemsky played his junior hockey with the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL, who had made him their first choice in the midget European player draft. In his rookie season with the Olympiques, despite having to adapt to new surroundings, Hemsky scored 36 goals and gathered 100 points, made the All-Rookie team and won the Mike Bossy trophy as the best prospect in the league, an honour won the previous year by Antoine Vermette and the following year by Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Other recent recipients include Sidney Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier and Alexandre Daigle...

In his second junior season, he scored 27 goals and finished with 97 points in 53 games, after the Oilers had made him the 13th overall pick of the 2001 draft.

He managed to collect 30 points in 59 games in his rookie season, despite being a healthy scratch for 23 games and playing limited minutes on the third and fourth lines. In his second season, he scored 12 goals, doubling his output from the previous year. By 2005-06, he was a team leader, managing 77 points in 81 regular-season games and 17 points in 24 games in the Cup run; the following season, he lead the team in scoring with 53 points - in a mere 64 games.

Before the 2007-08 season started, he was named one of the team's alternate captains, and he didn't disappoint nor crumble under the pressure, finishing first in points (71) and assists (51), while reaching the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career; in 2008-09, despite only playing in 72 games, he again led the team in points (66), but led it in goals as well, for the first time, with 23.

With his skill set, it is safe to say he can now be counted on to have 20-goal, point-per-game seasons, even on terrible teams like the current Oilers squad; if he were to be surrounded with better talent, he could flirt with the 25 goal/90-point mark, perhaps even 30/100. Considering other winners of the Mike Bossy trophy in the Québec junior league such as Vermette and Bouchard, Hemsky's statistics are vastly superior; in fact, they now resemble more those of a Saku Koivu, who was considered an elite player - when healthy - for most of his career.

What I like the most about this card (#10), an Authentic Game-Worn Jersey card numbered 159/250 from Pacific's 2003-04 Crown Royale set is that the piece of jersey contained in it is from the team's third jersey, designed by then-co-owner Todd McFarlane (the Calgary-born creator of comic-book series Spawn, also noted for his work drawing Batman and Spider-Man). The overall design is reminiscent of the Gretzky-era Los Angeles Kings jersey, while the logo, a stylized oil drop with gears and five smaller drops representing each of the team's Stanley Cup conquests... a work of art.

And for those who might like him for the wrong reasons, say the fact that he's blonde and has nice eyes, here's a whole entry on just that, from Hockey For The Ladies.

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