Monday, June 3, 2013

James Neal Swatch Card

James Neal is a goal-scoring machine. He's also a tough power forward who has become a lock to play for Team Canada whenever he's available - he has already won gold at the 2007 World Juniors and silver at the 2009 World Championships, and has accumulated 8 points and 12 penalty minutes in 9 games with the men's team.

In the NHL, he was drafted 33rd overall by the Dallas Stars in 2005, who chose to keep Jamie Benn over him as trade bait, sending Neal and Matt Niskanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Alex Goligoski. In his draft year, he and Paul Stastny were the two prospects I vowed to watch most closely. Jonathan Quick, Carey Price, Tuukka Rask and Anze Kopitar were also products of that amazing year.

Neal scored 24 goals in his rookie season in 2008-09, and improved to 27 (and 55 points) the next year. And he had 21 goals in 59 games when the Stars sent him to Pittsburgh in his third year, where he would have the chance to play with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. I predicted he'd become a 40-50 goal scorer with those two, and he did reach 40 last year in his first full season with the team; he had 21 in 40 games in this lock-out-shortened season.

And so, when I fell on this beautiful 2011-12 Titanium card by Panini (card #76 in the set, the Game-Worn Gear sub-set) showcasing him in the Pens' superb dark alternate jersey (I'm not a fan of the lighter one), I was more than thrilled:
The actual card is much brighter and flashier than the scan.

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