No season? No problem! Upper Deck shines despite lack of strong rookies
Year-for-year and dollar-for-dollar, Upper Deck is the best hockey set a collector can buy. It’s combination of exciting action photography, broad player selection and desirable rookie cards make this a perennial favorite of causal and serious card collectors. Driving Upper Deck’s immense popularity for the past decade were its short-printed “Young Guns” rookie cards, where collectors can hope to pull a card of one of the top new rookies for the season.
But a work stoppage of the NHL is currently preventing new players from entering the league. Since a player has to appear in one game to appear on a card, how would Upper Deck Series One fare without any of the 2012 draft class?
Surprisingly well. Sure, Upper Deck is lacking cards of first round picks Nail Yakupov, Matt Dumba or Alex Galchenyuk–assuming they would make their NHL squads this year. But it does stick to what makes it successful, offering exciting action photography and a pared-down design that does not distract from said photographs. The only downside is the weak selection of rookie cards, but even some of them still show promise.
Player Selection 5 out of 5
The first 200 cards of Upper Deck Series One make up the “base set,” which features 198 players and 2 checklists. As far as veterans go, Upper Deck Series One offers a good mix of superstars, stars and role players. Each team is represented by 6 or 7 base cards. Certain players are notably absent–like Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Sedin and Duncan Keith–but will be included in Series Two, which is due out in 2013.
Front Design 5 out of 5
Whoever picks the photos for Upper Deck hockey cards does a great job. Of course, the photographers do a great job too, but whoever makes the tough choice of what pictures to use really deserves credit here. Upper Deck Series One features some of the best photos you will see on hockey cards, period. It is a strong mix of exciting game action, candid close-ups and a few offbeat pics that are interesting but not “Pinnacle-goofy.”
One nice touch this year is that the player’s name is written in white, instead of the usual silver embossed ink. Silver ink–at least for me–is harder to read, so printing the player’s name in white against a brown gradient stripe makes it super-easy to read, as it should be.
The only drawback of the design is the stripe at the bottom of the card sometimes gets in the way of the action. In other cases, it tends to cover up an important detail in the photo.
Stats & Info / Back Design 5 out of 5
The back of each card has a nice, organized layout. It includes a headshot of the player that differs from the photo on the front (I never understand why companies sometimes use the same picture again on the back).
Upper Deck also has all of a player’s stats on the back. Even the back of Nicklas Lidstrom’s card manages to squeeze in all 20 seasons’ worth of stats.
If the player does not have that many stats, then a short biographical paragraph is included.
The only unnecessary detail is the team logo “ghosted” behind the stats, making them harder to read.
Subset Quality 3 out of 5
The only subset in Upper Deck Series One is the Young Guns short-printed set, featuring 49 rookie cards and 1 checklist. Young Guns are found 1 in every 4 hobby packs of Upper Deck Series One.
There are no players from the 2012 draft class included in the Young Guns set–meaning that everyone here is a LEFTOVER ROOKIE from the 2011-12 season. That makes for a pretty unexciting group of prospects, though you really can’t fault Upper Deck. They included the best players they could. With no new rookies appearing anytime soon, it should be interesting to see what Upper Deck does with their Young Guns subset in Series Two.
When Upper Deck Series One came out, Chris Kreider was the only real “hot” Young Gun in the set, as fans were speculating on his performance (5G, 2A) in his 18 playoff games with the New York Rangers last year.
But some of these “leftovers” are currently enjoying pretty good seasons in the AHL, and may become more desirable rookie cards to own in the future. Jason Zucker (Minnesota) and Sven Beartschi (Calgary) are point-per-game players in “The A” right now, and may make an impact when they get their next shot in the NHL.
Upper Deck Series One gets a 5 out of 5. It is a set worth owning–whether you just go after the base set or decide to pursue the Young Guns rookies as well. While the rookie class may be weak compared to previous seasons, you can’t fault Upper Deck for that. And really, the RC selection is no better in any other 2012-13 set.
Here are the 10 best photographs in the set:
128 – Daniel Alfredsson. Talk about freezing a moment in time. I’m dying to know if Alfie scored an amazing goal, or if Jets’ goalie Ondej Pavelec made an amazing save. (back)
90 – Cal Clutterbuck Looks like Clutterbuck just scored one of his 15 goals from 2011-12. (back)
63 – Henrik Zetterberg A promo picture for the 2013 Winter Classic, which was going to be held at Michigan Stadium. However, it was canceled due to the lockout. One day, you are going to have to explain to your kids why the Red Wings man is holding a football helmet. (back)
7 – Jonas Hiller Are you there God? It’s me, Jonas. (back)
126 – Craig Anderson From the intense look on Anderson’s face to the puck rolling off the edge of his stick, this is one amazing photograph. (back)
151 – Sidney Crosby As usual, all eyes are on the Penguins’ best player. The repetition of helmeted heads makes for a cool photograph. (back)
184 – Dan Hamhuis The Canucks’ D-man slides to block a shot that otherwise would have been in. (back)
131 – Chris Neil OH MY GOD! THEY’RE FIGHTING!!! (back)
13 – Tyler Seguin The Bruins’ star player signs an autograph for a young fan. (back)
124 – Derek Stepan A nice close-up of the Rangers’ center from the 2012 Winter Classic. (back)
– 200 base cards
– 50 short-printed Young Guns
Card size: 2 1/2″ wide x 3 1/2″ tall
Click here to download a printable checklist