Sunday, March 10, 2019

Petr Nedved Autographed Card

The 1990 NHL draft caught my generation's imagination, in part thanks to it happening just prior to the league expanding its card licensing to allow for multiple manufacturers to produce cards, which in turn stimulated manufacturers to find innovative ways to feature more players, trying to be one step ahead of the competition, usually by trying to get an exclusive on the next "big" rookie...

And so the 1990-91 sets were the first to feature cards of first-round picks from the draft. Only two of them never played an NHL game: Michael Stewart (New York Rangers) and Scott Allison (Edmonton Oilers).

Heck, only six players drafted in the second round never played in the big show. 98 made it to the NHL in total.

15 players suited up for more than 1000 regular-season games. 71 played in over 100 games.

Three players posted more than 1000 career points: Jaromir Jagr (1921), Keith Tkachuk (1065), and Doug Weight (1033).

Seven scored more than 300 goals: Jagr (766), Tkachuk (538), Peter Bondra (503), Owen Nolan (422), Vyacheslav "Slava" Kozlov (356), Geoff Sanderson (355), and Petr Nedved (310).

Eleven had over 1000 penalty minutes: Gino Odjick (2567), Brad May (2248), Tkachuk (2219), Chris Simon (1824), Nolan (1793), Derian Hatcher (1581), Keith Primeau (1541), Enrico Ciccone (1469), Chris Tamer (1183), Jagr (1167) and Paul Kruse (1074), with Mike Ricci (979), Weight (970) and Turner Stevenson (969) falling just short.

Team captains? Jagr, Nolan, Tkachuk, Weight, Hatcher, Primeau, Alexei Zhamnov, and Craig Conroy.

#1 goalies? Martin Brodeur, Félix Potvin, Roman Turek. Solid backups? Trevor Kidd, Mike Dunham, Corey Schwab, and Tommy Soderstrom.

To put it simply, it was one of the best draft classes of all time.

And the second overall pick, who modeled his game after Wayne Gretzky from the way he tucked in his jersey in his pants to the bent over stance when skating forward to the pass-first attitude on two-on-ones was Nedved, a lanky Czechoslovakian defector who stood at 6'2" and only weighed 178 pounds at the time (he would grow to 6'3" and 205 pounds in his later years).

Nedved posted 65 goals, 80 assists and 145 points (with 80 penalty minutes) in just 71 games in his draft year for the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds, despite playing away from his friends and family, before the internet, back when long-distance phone calls would cost a fortune, and while on the receiving end of racist taunts as a "commie" and "job thief", skating in Western Canada.

He went on to acquire his Canadian citizenship in 1993, even suiting up for Team Canada at the '94 Olympics whilst in a contract dispute with the Vancouver Canucks, earning a silver medal in the process, proving those kids wrong in their assessment of his true intentions when leaving Czechoslovakia; he won bronze representing the Czech Republic at the 2012 World Championships to bring things back full circle and to this day still spends half his time in Liberec and the other half in Vancouver.

What's impressive is his longevity and production even past his peak; his last 25-goal season in the NHL came in 2002-03 with the Rangers when he scored 27, yet two years later he scored 22 in just 46 games for Praha Sparta during the season-long 2004-05 lockout; and in his final six seasons in the Czech League, playing for his hometown Liberec Bili Tygri HC, he was still a point-per-game player:
from HockeyDB
He retired a month after the 2014 Sochi Olympics, although he hinted at a return at age 46 last year so he could play against Jagr.

He signed this card for me in blue ballpoint pen when I was a kid, probably in the early 1990s:
It's his first rookie card, #402 from Pro Set's 1990-91 Series 1 set, wearing the team's white (home) jersey from the draft. He wore #19 with the Canucks (1990-93) but mostly wore #93 (in honour of the year he received his Canadian citizenship) for the remainder of his career, with the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, and Oilers.

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