Considering that Upper Deck became the exclusive trading card licensee of the American Hockey League, it is a relief that teams can still produce their own sets. While Upper Deck has made two attractive sets dedicated to AHL players the past two seasons, team-issued sets are always the most comprehensive, featuring almost everyone on the team, from future NHLers to career journeymen to bubble players.
Earlier this year, the Springfield Falcons — top affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets — released a 25-card set for the 2014-15 season. It’s a colorful set that has baseball to thank for its unique, eye-catching design.
Player Selection (4.5 out of 5)
The 2014-15 Springfield Falcons set has 24 player cards and one card of head coach Jared Bednar. That’s fine, but what about the assistant coaches? Most minor league team sets include them too, but not this one.
Another curious omission is goaltender Scott Munroe, who played the second-most games (27) among Falcons’ goalies and posted a respectable 2.45 goals-allowed average. But neither of these omissions are anything to lose sleep over, as all of the Falcons’ top prospects, like left wing Kerby Rychel and goaltender Anton Forsberg, are in this set.
Front Design (4.5 out of 5)
This team set not-so-subtly riffs on two popular baseball card sets, and looks great because of it.
The pennant bearing the team name, as well as the typographical treatment of the player’s name and position, are elements borrowed from the 1965 Topps Baseball card set. Meanwhile, the two-tone colored borders are perhaps the most memorable detail of the 1975 Topps Baseball card set.
This mash-up between two old baseball sets gives the Falcons set a retro feel, which actually works great for a no-frills minor league hockey set. The cards are printed on thin card stock and sans gloss, but who cares? They look good.
Further making the set appealing is the use of photos taken during games.
Stats & Info / Back Design (3.5 out of 5)
Each card back lists the player’s position, if they shoot (or catch, in the case of goalies) left or right, height, weight, birthdate, birthplace, draft information and how they ended up in the Blue Jackets’ system. There is also a black and white head shot.
Up to four years of statistics are listed, plus professional stat totals from each pro league — NHL, AHL or ECHL — that the player has played in. There are no stats from junior, collegiate or European hockey. While more stats are always nice, the card backs maintain a clean look by limiting the amount of stats listed.
The Springfield Falcons sold this card set in their team store starting in February 2015. Gotta have it, and don’t live close? You can buy it directly from the Falcons’ online store for a mere $8.
If you enjoy minor league hockey cards, then this is a great set for the money. It gets better-than-average marks because of its great look and comprehensive player selection — including a few guys who may be in the NHL very soon.
Speaking of which…
Five players to keep an eye on during the 2015-16 season.
1 – Anton Forsberg. The Swedish-born goalie posted a 2.01 GAA in 30 games with Springfield in 2014-15. He also appeared in five games for the Blue Jackets that year, and is considered third in the team’s depth chart for goaltending. (back)
6 – Marko Dano. Dano was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks as a part of the Brandon Saad trade. He scored eight goals and 13 assists in 35 games with Columbus as a rookie in 2014-15. With numerous ‘Hawks forwards leaving over the summer, Dano has a shot at making the team in 2015-16. (back)
11 – Kerby Rychel. The son of former NHLer Warren Rychel is ranked #4 among Blue Jackets’ prospects by The Hockey News. He was drafted in the first round by Columbus in 2013, and scored three assists in five games for the Blue Jackets during a call-up.(back)
13 – T.J. Tynan. The Chicago-area native (Orland Park, IL) was a point-per-game player in four seasons of NCAA hockey at Notre Dame. He scored 48 points in 75 games during his first year in the “A,” and might get a call up for the Blue Jackets soon. (back)
24 – Josh Anderson. The Hockey News ranks Anderson ninth among Blue Jackets’ prospects. The 6′ 3″ center had one assist in six games for the Jackets during a call-up last season. (back) ■