Almost every season since 2000-01, Choice Marketing has issued a team set of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 2015-16 Wilkes-Barre Penguins set is worth a look from hockey card collectors because of the nice design and, more importantly, because many of the players in this set went on to play in the NHL.
In fact, quite a few of the players in the 2015-16 WBS Penguins set are now regulars in the NHL. Goaltender Matt Murray became the Pittsburgh Penguins’ number one goalie during the 2016-17 season, while several others, like Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl and Carter Rowney, are currently full-time players on Pittsburgh’s roster.
Player Selection (5 out of 5)
There are 23 player cards, one card of team mascot “Tux,” and one team logo card that has a checklist on the back. Every player with a significant of games played for WBS that season is included. Curiously, there are no cards of the coaches. Most fans probably didn’t notice or care, though.
Front Design (5 out of 5)
The cards use a muted, desaturated, palette that is almost devoid of color. The players are shown in their white uniforms against a grayed out background. Red accents in the text at the bottom and the two logos at the top punch up the design a bit and keeps the cards from looking too bleak.
Stats & Info / Back Design (4 out of 5)
Card backs list out up four seasons of statistics, as well as the player’s total stats from the AHL, and the NHL when applicable.
Vitals like height and weight, and a short biography are also included. The photo on the front is reprised as a black-and-white head shot on the back.
Mascot Tux’s card lists a short bio, claiming that he “Leads the AHL in popcorn dumped on Phantoms fans,” and that he “Loves fish, hates chocolate.” Because, you know, the Hershey Bears of the AHL are from Hershey Pennsylvania — the same town where Hershey’s chocolate candies are made.
If you are a Pittsburgh Penguins fan (or WBS Penguins fan), then this set is a must-have. But if you like cards of players before they make it to the NHL, then the WBS Penguins set is great to have in your collection because so many of these players are now regulars in the NHL.
Five players who won the Stanley Cup in 2016 as members of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Card #18 – Bryan Rust – Rust was second on the Pittsburgh Penguins in +/- during the 2016 playoffs with a +7, and was tenth in team playoff scoring with 9 points (6 G, 3 A). But his most memorable contribution was his two-goal performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rust scored the all-important first goal of the game and the game-winning goal to propel the Penguins into the Finals. (back)
Card #19 – Conor Sheary – Sheary, a rookie who was called up from the AHL during the 2015-16 season, was 9th on the team in playoff scoring with 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in 23 games. His biggest goal came in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, when he scored the overtime game-winner to give the Penguins a 2-0 series lead. (back)
Card #21 – Oskar Sundqvist – Sundqvist appeared in two playoff games for the Penguins in 2016. He was credited with 5 hits in Game 4 against the Washington Capitals in the second round. (back)
Card #8 – Tom Kuhnhackl – Kuhnhackl scored the Penguins’ only shorthanded goal during the 2016 playoffs, which came in Game 1 in the first round against the New York Rangers. That goal was also the game-winning goal. (back)
Card #12 – Matt Murray – By far, Murray was the biggest story for the Penguins during the 2016 playoffs. He won 15 playoff games, tying the record for most playoff wins by a rookie goaltender. Patrick Roy (1986), Ron Hextall (1987) and Cam Ward (2006) are the other three goalies to accomplish this feat during their rookie year. Murray posted a 2.08 GAA and a 0.923 save percentage. He had one shutout, which was against the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the first round. (back) ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.