Thursday, June 29, 2017

Rest in Peace Dave Semenko

A part of getting older is you see people you are related to,  know, cheer for or at the very least heard of begin to pass away. 2016 was a crazy year for that in general and it appears 2017 will be one that isn't much different. It was recently announced that Dave Semenko best known for his days with the Oilers has passed away. While he started and left the game before I ever got to see him play, through video and stories including (Wayne Gretzky's Autobiograph) I got a chance to learn a little bit about him. I felt I learned enough and admired his career enough to write him a letter a several years ago. The result was a kind response including this autographed card.

I would like to pass along my condolences to his family and I hope he is at peace now after his battle with cancer.

I've Got Wood!

I am not sure if I will never stop laughing at such a stupid and childish phrase but I guess the day I do is the day I am no longer young at heart. Miles Wood is a player who I got very excited over during the pre-season and felt the future is very bright in NJ. While many of our kids were eventually sent back to junior and the AHL, Miles was able to get back with the big club part way through the year and what he had to show fans each and every night was just awesome.

Miles will probably never score 40 goals and he will never win an Art Ross but that isn't what we need from him. What Miles does do is skates like the wind, plays with an edge and can contribute one way or another each and every night. I feel he's got 20-30-50 potential and is very exciting to watch. He is everywhere when he's on the ice and isn't afraid to do what is needed to help the team win. I have seen enough from him this season to make me a fan and I've started a PC of his stuff too.

16-17 UD Ice Premieres Miles Wood Auto /299
This one is from the Upper Deck Ice set. All cards are acetate which makes them a little pricey to produce so you may not get the best bang for your buck in terms of quantity of hits but you certainly get loads in quality and these cards typically have strong value when compared to other brands in Upper Deck's stable. I definitely am going to try and gobble up some Devils The Cup rookies this fall and I assure you I will be trying to track down a Wood rookie no matter what!

10-11 Upper Deck Jeff Skinner Young Gun

Hockey fans like most sports fans can be too hard on athletes in my opinion and when it comes to hockey especially hard. When you look at football, or baseball chances are the athletes are in the early to mid 20 by the time they are a rookie and those few extra years can make a big difference when it comes to life under a microscope and the pressure of being a highly paid athlete. However in hockey, rookies are often nothing more than young adults who are 18-20 years old and perhaps new to the spotlight and pressures of being a pro athlete.

Let's take Jeff Skinner for example. Before you read any further or do any research, what do you think of? A player who had a good start and fizzled because of injuries? A player who just never reached his full potential?

Now, let's look at the Jeff Skinner I see, first of all he's only 25 years old! That's right, 25. Jeff can easily have another decade of hockey ahead of himself if he stays healthy. Truth is he did have a few concussions over a couple years early in his career but these past 3 years he's only missed 6 games in total. This past season Jeff scored 37 goals on a pretty weak Carolina team and was a huge reason why they were flirting with a playoff spot. His 37 goals this past year was good enough for 6th in the entire league. Over the past two years he's averaged over 30 goals a season and I truly believe the best is yet to come as he reaches into his prime. True 3 seasons ago Skinner's numbers were pretty pedestrian with him only scoring 18 goals and 31 points but the team as a whole was a disaster too.

After 7 NHL seasons Jeff Skinner has scored 20 or more goals 5 times and 30 or more goals 3 times. I believe he can easily reach 30 over the next 5-6 years and perhaps even has a 40 goal campaign or two in him. At 25 there's so much hockey left in this kid I am excited to see where his career will take him. As a Skinner fan, I hope I've convinced you the reader he is worth all the hype he once had back as a Calder Trophy winning 18 year old and might be worth grabbing a card or two of if you don't already have some in your collection.

10-11 Upper Deck Jeff Skinner Young Gun
Once upon a time his Young Gun would have set you back close to 50 dollars but now can be had for under 20 and I believe if he can show the world he's a consistent 30-35 goal a season player you will see those cards take a jump in value.

While I am trying to stand up for Jeff Skinner and his career, I know I am guilty of getting down on prospects who just don't mature as quickly as hoped or panic a bit when that sophomore slump trickles into their 3rd/4th season but patience will always win out with most of these kids because they are indeed humans like the rest of us and the game is a world unlike anything we live in.

Some other players who might be worth a look and some added patience are: Dylan Strome, Mikko Rantanen, Valeri Nichushkin and Jonathan Huberdeau.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and if you have a player you'd like to say still has star potential I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cooperalls and My Childhood Favourite Player

So the Devils got to pick first in an entry draft for the first time since they became the Devils back in 1982. Over the years they've had a few high picks including guys like Scott Niedermayer (Thanks Toronto), Bill Guerin, Brendan Shanahan etc. One player who was a very high pick was John MacLean who was drafted in 1983 and he went 6th overall. Yzerman, Lafontaine and Barrasso all were picked ahead of him and can't really judge those choices at all and Sylvain Turgeon and Brian Lawton happened to be the number 2 and 1 picks respectively and they may not have ended there on a re-draft. John was an excellent player in junior and in his draft year scored 18 goals and 38 points in just 17 playoffs games as the Generals would go on to win the OHL Championships that year and would fall just short in the Memorial Cup Finals. Despite the loss in the finals, John MacLean would still be named to the tournament all-star team.

1982-83 Durham Police Oshawa Generals John MacLean
Here is a card that was sent to me by Sal from Puck Junk which features a John MacLean from his draft year. These cards are larger than your typical card and are very well done. This card predates his rookie card by several seasons as Johnny Mac wouldn't get his NHL rookie card until the 86-87 season.

There is just so much to love about this card. The Titan hockey stick, the Cooperalls and the classic stopping/snow shower photo. Thank you very much Sal for a card I didn't have yet and greatly appreciate. John MacLean was my first ever favourite player and to get a card you've never even seen before of them is just down right fantastic!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

#UDRAK Upper Deck Random Act of Kindness

Surprises come in all shapes and sizes and more importantly types. Good surprises are always preferred over bad ones and I don't think I am alone in this thought. Sure there are some that don't like surprises at all but the world is full of all types of people and I am one that loves a good surprise once in a while. Just before Christmas, Upper Deck sent me a good surprise. It was a completely unexpected and entirely enjoyed. I came home from work one day and sitting on my deck was this box. It looked cold and in need of a good home so I brought it in and took this photo.

I truly felt fortunate receiving this wonderful act of kindness.

Inside was all this cool stuff! I loved the Young Guns shirt and a load of Devils and two boxes of Upper Deck Series 1 which I hadn't had a chance to break any yet. Here is a close up of some of the great things that were in my UDRAK package. 

16-17 UD Series 1 SP2 William Nylander 
A pretty awesome prospect who finished this year with a solid 22 goals and 61 points. A Calder winning performance in some years.

16-17 Upper Deck Midnight Adam Henrique and Damon Severson /25
Upper Deck sent me the whole team set and I have decided to showcase my two PC players I received from the set.

16-17 Upper Deck Victory Black Miles Wood
Once upon a time Victory Black were some of the scarcest cards on the market with a print run of 5. Lots has changed since 05-06 but they are still a pretty cool card to get via NHCD or a Card Expo. I was fortunate enough to get a Miles Wood and a Pavel Zacha.

16-17 Upper Deck Victory Pavel Zacha
Pavel learned a great deal in his first season. During times he showed some great flashes and I'm excited to see how the Devils and Pavel grow and improve next season. This card is a beauty, definitely one of the better Victory designs in the past decade.

12-13 Fleer Skybox Autographics Patrik Elias
You may remember this card from a previous post which featured my tribute to Patrik Elias. It was Upper Deck that sent me this card and given the legacy he had as a Devil it was a very nice inclusion.

2015-16 SP Game Used Patrik Elias
More Elias!!! There were a number of other Elias beauties including this card and the next one.

2015-16 Upper Deck Top Draft Pick Jaromir Jagr
What a great looking retro card. Love the 90-91 design and seeing a young Jagr sporting a deer in the headlights look and puffy mullet are key components to this card's awesomeness. While his time was brief with the Devils, it was nice to see him continue to be so successful.

14-15 Upper Deck Premier Jaromir Jagr /249
Another Jagr, this time from his days with my beloved Devils. I have said this before but I am a fan of the Upper Deck Premier product line. Perhaps even more so than The Cup.

14-15 Upper Deck 25th Anniversary David Clarkson Auto Young Gun /25
The collector I am from 5 years ago would have felt this was the best card he has ever been given. In those past 5 years, David left NJ, went to Toronto, and unceremoniously was shipped to Columbus. Chances are he will never play again. During that time I had lots of chance for reflection and healing from a move that stung me a great deal but meant even more to Clarkson as a person. I would say I am a fan once again but only of his time in NJ and that will be how I choose to remember him. This card definitely exhibits those days well and I love the photo of him during training camp which adds to the cards authentic feel. Thanks for a gem Upper Deck!

2016 Team Canada Wayne Gretzky Program of Excellence Rainbow
The Great One in his 1987 Team Canada uniform? Yes please! This series was like my personal 1972 since I was not in existence for the Summit Series.

15-16 Fleer Showcase Hot Prospects Trio O'Neill/Blandisi/Hrabarenka
A nice little trio here. I believe if we can keep Blandisi after the expansion draft, he will be a solid producer for the Devils organization. So much potential and hopefully his diving days are done.

15-16 SP Game Used Sergei Kalinin RC /51
Shame we lost Kalinin during this past season. He's a solid defensive forward who would be great for any bottom 6. Best of luck and hope to see you back in the NHL soon!

15-16 Upper Deck Ice World Junior Championship Robby Fabbri /1299
A nice little Team Canada addition here. Robby is a pretty solid forward and one reason why the Blues will continue to be a playoff team.

Upper Deck was so kind to also send along some boxes to break open. I am going to share some of the highlights that I discovered in the boxes. I was fortunate enough to complete a base set from the two boxes which is an awesome start!

16-17 Upper Deck Series 1 Steve Santini Young Guns Exclusive /100
Wow!! What a hit. While there were bigger names in the box, to get a Devils player is a fantastic outcome for me.

16-17 Upper Deck Signature Sensations Jori Lehtera
I was also lucky enough to hit a case hit on my second box! This is my second ever Signature Sensations I have ever pulled.

16-17 Upper Deck Series 1 Game Jersey Matt Duchene
I also hit a Matt Duchene jersey card. Nice sized swatch and I like the larger photo too. I'm hopeful this summer the Devils can land another scoring forward or two via trade. Eberle, Duchene or Landeskog would all be good outcomes.

16-17 Upper Deck Series 1 Young Gun Josh Morrissey
Other than my Exclusive, this is probably the most exciting Young Gun I hit. Josh had a very very impressive rookie season in Winnipeg and I believe he will be a fantastic defenseman for the Jets in future years.

16-17 Upper Deck Young Guns Canvas Connor Brown
I did also hit a Canvas Young Guns from Toronto. While it wasn't Mitch Marner, I did get both a base and canvas Young Gun of Connor Brown. Brown was a nice surprise for both myself and the Leafs this season. Brown hit 20 goals this year and added 16 assists. I am not sure what his ceiling is but I am guessing he hasn't hit it yet.

2016 Team Canada Nolan Patrick
Is this foreshadowing? I would be pretty pleased to see him in NJ.

2015-16 Upper Deck Series 1 Gretzky/McDavid SP1
A Gretzky/McDavid card? Oh my, thank you very much! Definitely one of my favourites from this amazing random act of kindness.

15-16 UD Ultimate Platinum Blue Relic Cory Schneider
The best for last? Depends on your taste of course but this is the most unique piece of the package!! Love the tag. 

Well there you have it, a sampling of my truly phenomenal UDRAK package. If you are reading this and are a sports fan, I hope you too are able to receive on someday as it's truly a cool experience and one that I don't imagine many companies do for their customers. What makes this package truly remarkable is I didn't even ask for it or sign up or enter any contests. It just showed up and the people at Upper Deck know my interests and just dropped a box of kindness on my lap. There were even other PC players in the package like Adam Henrique and Damon Severson which I didn't get a chance to share yet but will at a later date. One last time, thank you Upper Deck and thank you for stopping by. More posts to come very soon!