Not long after being drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2015, Jack Eichel signed an exclusive deal with Leaf Trading Cards. As a part of that deal, only Leaf products could include cards autographed by Eichel. In late 2016, Leaf released the “Jack Eichel Collection,” a 30-card boxed set that showcases the Sabres’ young superstar. The big draw to the set is that it includes a hockey card autographed by Eichel. Unfortunately, that’s really the only upside to this otherwise mundane set.
What’s in the Box?
The Jack Eichel collection consists of 30 cards, plus one autographed card. The cards are packaged in a two-piece plastic card holder, surrounded by die-cut foam, giving this set a premium feel.
Front Design – 1 out of 5
Since Leaf does not have an NHL license, the company cannot show NHL team logos on its hockey cards. Thus, the Buffalo Sabres logo (and any other team logo, for that matter) was digitally removed from any picture where it might be visible.
I’ve collected my share of cards by In The Game, who has lacked a league license for over a decade but still manages to make nice hockey cards. So, I don’t see the lack of NHL team logos as a problem with this set.
My problem is that there is really no variety or significance in the 30 photos used on these cards. All of the photos were taken during a Sabres game, and most show Eichel just skating around, with a few of him passing — or maybe shooting? — the puck. One shows him celebrating, but we’re not sure what, as the card backs offer no context; more on that in a bit.
But why no draft day photo of Eichel? Or a photo of him battling in front of the net with an opponent? Or a photo of him being congratulated by a teammate? Hell, I’d even settle for a picture of Eichel rollerblading on the beach, because at least that would be different.
Perhaps the worst thing about the Jack Eichel Collection is that the colors are off. The colors are not as bad as say, the 1998-99 Panini Photocards set, but the colors are still dark. Instead of blue and yellow, Eichel’s uniform looks more black and gold, making me wonder if he was actually on the Boston Bruins. Believe it or not, the scans of the cards actually look better than the cards do in real life.
Finally, cards have only a small amount of gloss on both sides. High gloss or UV-coating isn’t necessary in order for a hockey card to be “good” in my opinion, and many times I prefer a matte coating on cards. But when you combine the lackluster photos, poor color reproduction, lack of gloss and, yes, the redacted team logos, these cards look and feel cheap.
Back Design / Stats & Info – 2 out of 5
Did you know that Jack Eichel likes to eat steak and lobster?
Or that he’s a movie buff, and his favorite actor is Leonardo DiCaprio? Or how about that he led all rookies in shots on goal in 2015-16?
Because all 30 cards are of Jack Eichel, listing his one year of NHL statistics (along with his college stats) would probably get boring after one card. So the back of each card in the Jack Eichel Collection has a close-up of Eichel — just the photo from the front, but zoomed in and cropped — along with what should have been called a “Jack Fact.” Usually, it is about something that Eichel likes (such as drinking coffee before a game) or a feat he accomplished during his rookie year.
What Leaf could have done is made this set a biography about Eichel in 30 cards, starting with his days in youth hockey and culminating with his first year of pro hockey. The text on the back should have given way to fuller biographies about the subject, instead of just telling us his musical tastes or favorite movies, or that his roommate on the road (Sam Reinhart) was also a second-overall pick.
The backs are lame, but at least Leaf made an attempt to help us get to know their spokesman; it’s just not a very interesting attempt.
But, hey — an autograph!
The autographed card cuts Eichel out from the background and places him on a charcoal gray background. The signature is on-card in blue Sharpie marker. Eichel’s name, the Leaf logo, and other design elements are embossed in shiny silver ink. This all make the autographed card look a lot nicer than the base cards. My card was numbered 2 out of 5. Some versions of the autographed cards use different colored foil, such as red or blue, and are numbered out of 10, 15 or 25 copies. Some parallel versions of the signed cards are even limited to one copy each.
The Jack Eichel Collection was released on November 22, 2016. Every boxed set has 30 cards and one random autographed card. A full case consists of 20 boxed sets. The set was printed only in enough quantities to fulfill orders. While Leaf has not released its production numbers, my best estimate is that 1,800 sets were made.
I really wanted to give this set a higher rating. It isn’t often that I review modern-day cards by a company besides Upper Deck, so I wanted to find something to like about the Jack Eichel Collection. The base cards are neither attractive, nor are they informative. The only thing I like is the autographed card…and maybe the two-piece plastic card case. ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.