Thursday, July 11, 2013

Henrik Zetterberg: 2 Autographed Cards

Can you say ''best return in a long while''?

One of my favourite players in the NHL/world is also one that is often overlooked when naming the best in the world, despite his multiple achievements. Even on his own teams, he is often thought of second - or third. Yes, I'm referring to Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. I had sent him these 4 cards and a fan letter on April 25th, 2013, and received all 4 back, 2 signed in black sharpie, on July 10th, 2013:
The fact that he was chosen in the seventh round in 1999 remains the stuff of legends, but he's not the only one whose draft position was out of whack when analysed over a decade later: many remember first-overall pick Patrik Stefan, who had a decent if not-quite-stellar career with the Atlanta Thrashers, but 4th pick Pavel Brendl was also an early-pick ''bust''. And though considered a ''deep'' pool at the time, only 16 of the 28 first-rounders ended up playing 82 games (in total, not in a single season) or more in the decade after they were drafted - compared to 23/27 for the 1998 picks and 21/30 for the 2000 batch.

Not just that, but the seventh round (Zetterberg's) also included long-time NHLers Martin Erat, Tom Kostopoulos, and Radim Vrbata, while the eighth round produced Garnet Exelby, new Montréal Canadiens tough guy George Parros, Radek Martinek, Jeff Finger and impact defenseman Douglas Murray. All guys worth - in retrospect - a late first-round or second-round pick - except Zetterberg, who would now be a consensus top-3 pick (keep in mind the Sedin twins were chosen second and third overall). He was a favourite of then-assistant GM (now Dallas Stars GH) Jim Nill.

Which brings me to how Zetterberg can be considered underrated: on his own NHL team, he started in the shadows of Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan, and even today, Pavel Datsyuk is the yearly no-surprise finalist for the Selke trophy and considered by some as the most complete player in the world. Yet Zetterberg has a Conn Smythe, and is team captain. He's at an almost point-per-game pace in the NHL (672 points in 714 regular-season games, 114 points in 123 playoff games), although he often centers the second line.

On Team Sweden, he often was surpassed by Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg - and even the Sedins. Daniel Alfredsson, too. And unlike them, he's a member of the Triple Gold Club (Olympic gold, World Championship gold, Stanley Cup)... Then again, on a team that stacked, it's no surprise he's won gold at the 2006 Olympics and 2006 Worlds, silver at the 2003 Worlds and bronze at the 2001 and 2002 Worlds... He has 54 points in 72 Sweden men's games despite often being relegated to third-line duties, and had a whopping 3 goals, 12 assists (15 points) in 8 games at the 2012 Worlds.

He is also often mistaken for actor/singer Jared Leto:
I don't know why he didn't sign the Stars Of The Game cards, but I'm more than happy about the other two! First, sporting the Wings' red (now-home) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 SP Authentic (card #36), making a deft pass:
There he looks even more like Jared Leto!

Also, wearing the white (now-away) uniform, from UD's 2010-11 Victory (card #71):
The background complements the cards so well, especially the perfectly-toned V on the last card. I wish I had a card displaying his captaincy, but maybe in a couple of years...

Beautiful, classic uniform, worn by a player who exudes grace on skates and yet grinds it out of pure passion each shift out, while almost never accumulating penalty minutes. The perfect card, I think.

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