Clemente’s Corner: 6 First Round Playoff Heroes Worth Collecting

Role Players and Small-Market Stars Shine Brightest in the NHL Playoffs

The NHL playoffs rarely disappoint in terms of fun and drama. The first round has been a slog, but also a round tinged with upsets.

The record-breaking Boston Bruins, among the favorites in the Eastern Conference to reach the Stanley Cup Final, were dumped out early by the Florida Panthers in seven games. Over in the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers series with the Los Angeles Kings stood out as the most-exciting – only overshadowed by the Seattle Kraken eliminating the defending champions Colorado Avalanche. 

Both upsets – the Panthers beating the Bruins and the Kraken beating the Lightning – went to seven games. Having the President Trophy winners and the defending Stanley Cup Champions bounced out of the playoffs — and in the same night! — is truly amazing. 

Also, not having any team sweep was certainly a sign of how talented even the lower seeds have been this spring.

Teams aside, the playoffs are also about individual skill. For card collectors, the playoffs can help or hurt a players’ value. Of course, this is just the start. The playoffs are a two-month grind that involves lots of grit and some luck.

One of the biggest storylines from this first round is the ability of second-fiddle players, not the stars, to shine. Whether it meant scoring key goals or making that big play, it was the sidekicks that have shined brightest so far.

Here’s a look at six players who have done just that, while seeing their stocks go up. All figures cited below based on eBay sales and

1. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers

Always in the shadow of teammate Connor McDavid, Draisaitl is one of the league’s top snipers and the guy you want on the power play. He’s putting in a Conn Smythe performance so far should the Oilers win the whole thing. Why this guy is so underrated — both as a player and in the hobby — remains a mystery to me. It could be a combination of playing alongside McDavid in a market that many often forget.

He reminds me of Mark Messier, who only became a star once he stopped playing with Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton and won with a big market team like the New York Rangers. No matter how the Oilers do in the playoffs, Draisaitl should be getting more respect from the hobby, especially his Young Guns card from the 2014-15 season could be had for $225. Maybe now he finally will.

2. Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs

Another player who is second fiddle to his more popular teammate Auston Matthews, Marner has shown that he can score big goals when called upon. The Maple Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 with Marner leading the team in points with two goals and nine assists. Marner has been strong both on the power play and when the Leafs are at even strength.
Marner’s form at the moment could very well help Toronto get past the Panthers in the Conference Semifinals. As for Marner cards, his Young Guns appearance dates back to 2016-17.

While this card has reached the $150 to $200 range, his O-Pee-Chee Marquee Rookies card is a cheaper option at about half the price.

3. Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights captain was back to his old self in the series against the Winnipeg Jets won in five games. A team known more for Jack Eichel’s goals, Stone’s return from back surgery in time for the playoffs proved key. He even scored the game-winner in the series-clincher.

Stone has a team-leading eight points after the opening round, tied with Chandler Stephenson. Stone has proven the naysayers wrong once again (I was one of them in the past). Stone’s 2012-13 Young Guns card, featuring him in an Ottawa Senators uniform, goes for as little as $40. That’s a real steal.

4. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes

Aho helped the Canes dispatch the New York Islanders in six games. He led the team in that series with four goals and three assists. Aho, however, will also be remembered from being left bloodied after being struck near the mouth by a shot by Pierre Engvall. As the puck was falling to the ice, the Isles’ Brock Nelson swatted it in the air and past Carolina goalie Antti Raanta for the first goal in an eventual 3-2 win in Game 5.

Aho is a great player. His Young Guns card is from the 2016-17 set sold recently for $100, but most can be had for about $50.

5. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida Panthers

The biggest upset so far was the Panthers dumping out the Bruins. The credit goes to a number of factors, including a never-say-die Florida team that never gave up. They had the stamina, tenacity and patience that very well could have more surprises in them.

This is where Tkachuk comes in. He managed to tally 11 points against the Bruins, five of those goals. His performance has certainly helped Tkachuk’s stock rise. His Young Guns card, dating back to the 2016-17 season, can be had for between $40 to $60. Again, he’s a talented player in a small market. That certainly doesn’t help him.

6. Akira Schmid, New Jersey Devils

We all know that a hot goaltender can make all the difference in the playoffs. That was the case for the New Jersey Devils who booted their Hudson River rivals New York Rangers out of the first round.

One of the stars of that series was goalie Akira Schmid. He shut out the Rangers twice and helped turn the series around to post a 1.38 GAA. While goaltenders aren’t respected much in the hobby, their card prices do see upticks during the postseason. In Schmid’s case, it’s quite an increase. Before the playoffs, his Young Guns card from the 2021-22 Upper Deck Extended Series set went for as little as $5. His card sold this past week from anywhere between $30 to $50.

Schmid is another great buy at the moment before his values potentially rise like all the players on this list.

Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.

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Author: Clemente Lisi

Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.

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