While at my local Target store the other day, I decided to take a look at the trading card aisle, knowing full well that Target was currently not selling sports cards. But maybe I’d get lucky and find some top loaders or penny sleeves or — hey now, what’s this?
Yes! My local Target had a few of the 2020-21 Upper Deck NHL Star Rookies Box Sets in stock for $20 each. The set contains “one 25-card rookie set per box,” plus one in every 20 sets has an autographed card.
Autograph or not. I was pretty happy to find this because I haven’t seen any sports cards at Target since May, and $20 for 25 cards seems like a bargain nowadays. And I’ve always been a sucker for boxed sets that focus on a particular subject — in this case, hockey rookies — and that I could just buy and be done with.
So, let’s take a look and see what goodness $20 will bring me.
And while I did not get an autographed card, I was still pretty happy with what was in the box.
Player Selection – 4 out of 5
All the heavy hitters are here, including most of the players that you’d expect to find. First-overall pick Alexis Lafreniere (Rangers) and rookie scoring leader Kirill Kaprizov (Wild) are the first and last cards, respectively, in this 25-card set. Other top rookies are here too: Bowam Byram (Avalanche), Tim Stutzle (Senators), Dylan Cozens (Sabres), Ilya Sorokin (Islanders), Josh Norris (Senators), and K’Andre Miller (Rangers). (Skip down to the full checklist.)
But a few notable rookies were omitted. Stars’ winger Jason Robertson (3rd in points and 1st in assists among rookies), Blackhawks’ center Pius Suter (5th in goals among rookies), and Capitals’ goalie Vitek Vanecek (1st in wins among rookie goalies) are not in this set but should be — especially since they were all in either Upper Deck Series One or Series Two and were well ahead of the rookie “cutoff” date imposed by the NHL Players Association.
Front Design – 4.5 out of 5
The 2020-21 Upper Deck NHL Star Rookie Box Set cards have a simple design that doesn’t get bogged down with too much clutter or unnecessary design elements. Well, except one. Marring what would otherwise be a perfect design is the giant word “ROOKIES” running along the right edge of each card. The “ROOKIES” text is outlined in silver and distracts from the colorful, action-oriented photos.
Otherwise, the design is perfect. The player’s name is in large black text against a white background, making it easy to read. And the team logo is set against a gradient, that goes from black to one of the team’s main colors (i.e. blue for the Rangers, red for the Senators, etc.).
It’s almost a shame that such a great design got used on a small set. A design like this would have been great on a larger set like Fleer Ultra or even an Upper Deck Series One/Two release.
Back Design / Stats & Info – 4 out of 5
Card backs reuse the front photo and include vitals like height, weight, birthdate and birthplace.
There is also a line of stats from the 2019-20 season and career totals, which are a bit varied depending on where the player spent the previous year. If the player appeared in any NHL games during the 2019-20 season, those stats are printed here. If not, the player’s junior, minor league, or European league stats are published — but just one line plus career totals in that league.
For example, Colorado defenseman Bowen Byram spent the 2019-20 season playing junior hockey in the Western Hockey League, so his card back has his WHL stats from 2019-20 plus his four-year totals from the WHL. On the other hand, Josh Norris played three games in the NHL with the Senators in 2019-20 (plus 56 games in the AHL), but only his stats from his three NHL games are listed.
What would have been more interesting is if the player’s entire career up to his NHL career was printed on the back, including any junior, collegiate or minor league stats.
One in every 20 Upper Deck NHL Star Rookie Box Set has an autographed card. Twenty-two of the 25 players signed cards in this set.
The 2020-21 Upper Deck NHL Star Rookie Box Set originally sold for $20 and contains the entire 25-card set. One in every 20 boxes contains an autographed card.
If you want a hockey card set that has most of the top rookies from the 2020-21 season, then this is worth the price of admission. At about $1 per card, the 2020-21 Upper Deck NHL Star Rookie Box Set is a pretty good value for the money and is a nice, cheaper alternative for those who want rookie cards without paying the rookie card price.
Base Set Checklist (25 cards)
Each box set contains all 25 cards.
1 – Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers
2 – Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals
3 – Olli Juolevi, Vancouver Canucks
4 – Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs
5 – Liam Foudy, Columbus Blue Jackets
6 – Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs
7 – Ty Dellandrea, Dallas Stars
8 – Gabe Vilardi, Los Angeles Kings
9 – Josh Norris, Ottawa Senators
10 – Philipp Kurashev, Chicago Blackhawks
11 – Arthur Kaliyev, Los Angeles Kings
12 – Thomas Harley, Dallas Stars
13 – Ty Smith, New Jersey Devils
14 – Dylan Cozens, Buffalo Sabres
15 – K’Andre Miller, New York Rangers
16 – Peyton Krebs, Vegas Golden Knights
17 – Victor Soderstrom, Arizona Coyotes
18 – Nils Hoglander, Vancouver Canucks
19 – Ian Mitchell, Chicago Blackhawks
20 – Cal Foote, Tampa Bay Lightning
21 – Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche
22 – Alexander Romanov, Montreal Canadiens
23 – Tim Stutzle, Ottawa Senators
24 – Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders
25 – Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild
Autograph Checklist (22 cards)
Autograph card odds are as follows:
Group A – 1:460
Group B – 1:124
Group C – 1:65
Group D – 1:38
1 – Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers (A)
3 – Olli Juolevi, Vancouver Canucks (C)
4 – Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (C)
5 – Liam Foudy, Columbus Blue Jackets (D)
6 – Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs (D)
7 – Ty Dellandrea, Dallas Stars (D)
8 – Gabe Vilardi, Los Angeles Kings (B)
9 – Josh Norris, Ottawa Senators (A)
10 – Philipp Kurashev, Chicago Blackhawks (B)
12 – Thomas Harley, Dallas Stars (C)
13 – Ty Smith, New Jersey Devils (C)
14 – Dylan Cozens, Buffalo Sabres (A)
16 – Peyton Krebs, Vegas Golden Knights (C)
17 – Victor Soderstrom, Arizona Coyotes (D)
18 – Nils Hoglander, Vancouver Canucks (D)
19 – Ian Mitchell, Chicago Blackhawks (D)
20 – Cal Foote, Tampa Bay Lightning (D)
21 – Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche (B)
22 – Alexander Romanov, Montreal Canadiens (B)
23 – Tim Stutzle, Ottawa Senators (A)
24 – Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (A)
25 – Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (A)
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■