For a third year in a row, Upper Deck has produced a set of trading cards of American Hockey League (AHL) players. The AHL is the top developmental circuit for the NHL. Many players who play in the AHL go on to play at least a little bit in the NHL, making this a sort of future prospects set.
The 2015-16 Upper Deck AHL Hockey set came out in April of 2016. A box costs around $65 and has 20 five-card packs. Being a fan of minor league hockey, I could not wait to get my hands on this product, and recently busted a box. Here is what I found inside:
64 Base Cards
Yes, you read that right: base cards. That means that there are short prints, which I will gripe about in a moment. This year’s AHL set, like previous AHL sets by Upper Deck, have a foil-free front. I am OK with the lack of shiny silver stuff, because I usually find those elements distracting, and they never scan too well either. The team name, team logo, player name and position are all neatly tucked at the bottom, which really keeps your eyes focused on the photograph.
Card backs have the usual stuff (height, weight, shoots, birth date and birthplace) as well as their stats from the 2014-15 season, and the player’s totals from whatever league they played in last season (AHL, college or junior). There is also a short biography about the player.
Cards 1 – 100 are the “base cards.” I got 64 of base cards without any doubles.
20 Short Prints
My biggest problem with 2015-16 Upper Deck AHL cards is the one-per-pack short prints. Face it: minor league cards are a tough sell, as there is zero chance of pulling a Connor McDavid rookie card or a Sidney Crosby autograph. That said, the set should be easy to put together, but cards 101 to 150 are found only one per pack, meaning that you’d still need to buy three boxes of these cards for any hope of completing the 150-card set.
Granted, you’d have to buy at least two boxes, if not three, anyway. But what this does is create two different tiers of cards in this set, which is really unnecessary. AHL cards are a tough sell as-is; short-printing 1/3 of the set is probably a turn-off to collectors who were on the fence, but decided that it’s not worth putting in that high of a level of effort to complete what is basically a prospects set.
6 Autographed Cards
However, one big upside is that you get a lot of autographs in a box. Each box of 2015-16 Upper Deck AHL is supposed to yield five autographed cards — one in every four packs — but I managed to pull six auto’d cards. The cards are signed in blue on a shiny sticker which is then affixed to the front of the card. The back of the autographed cards replaces the biography paragraph with the usual “Congratulations” message typically found on the back of autographed or game-used cards.
4 AHL Team Logo Temporary Tattoos
Team logo temporary tattoos? Great if you are a ten year old, but not so fun if you are much (much) older than that. If you are not a kid, these aren’t really useful. And if you are an adult collector, well, what’s the fun in collecting backwards logos?
1 Upper Deck Logo Temporary Tattoos
Upper Deck also included a set of five different Upper Deck logo temporary tattoos. How thoughtful. I guess if you want to display the history of the Upper Deck logo on your, uh, shoulder, then you could do so. The only Upper Deck tattoos I got in my box were of the classic logo from 1989.
3 AHL “Wordmark” Stickers
While this year’s AHL set does have team stickers, they are of either the team’s “wordmark” — the specific way they write the team name — or the team’s secondary logo usually worn on the shoulder of the team jersey. Had these stickers been of the primary logo, this would have been a simple, yet awesome, insert set to build.
2 Upper Deck Logo Stickers
So Upper Deck put Upper Deck logo stickers in an Upper Deck card product. How…Upper Deck of them. Five different stickers show how the Upper Deck logo has evolved over the past 25 years. This may be the most unintentionally narcissistic insert set ever released. I like the way these Upper Deck logo stickers have the small Upper Deck logo in the upper left corner, in case you had any doubts as to who made this sticker.
What I like about 2015-16 Upper Deck AHL: It is a set of future prospects, and I find it fun to have cards of players before they make it to the NHL. The cards have a nice, almost early 1990’s, design. Five autographs per box — or six, as in my box, is very impressive, especially since some of these guys are going to make it in the NHL. The temporary tattoos and wordmark stickers are mediocre, but at least they give the set a little variety.
What I don’t like about 2015-16 Upper Deck AHL: Short-printing 50 of the 150 cards — 1/3 of the entire set! — makes this year’s AHL set harder to complete than it really should be. The tattoos are silly, the stickers would have been better if they featured the primary logo and the Upper Deck stickers and temporary tattoos are unnecessary.
Sure, I complain a lot about the 2015-16 Upper Deck AHL Hockey set. I complain because I care. I like the fact that there is a major set of AHL cards, and I enjoy getting a lot of autographed cards in one box. I would love to see Upper Deck’s AHL sets grow as big as those old ProCard sets from the 1990s, but I fear that short-printing so much of this set may limit the appeal to just die-hard collectors, forever trapping it as a niche, 150-card set. Had there been no short prints, this would have been a “5” in my book. Regardless, I’m still going to build this set, though I’ll probably pass on hunting down all of the temporary tattoos. ■