Monday, March 28, 2011

A Box Break of Heroic (and Prospectian) Proportions

The question that this box break poses is - “When is a prospect no longer a prospect?” For some funny money on eBay I picked up a box of ITG’s 2008-09 Heroes and Prospects. Spurred on by a couple of breaks from fellow bloggers I decided to take my chances and rip some wax.

Normally, I shy away from non-major league cards. I think a lot of it stems from psychological scars left over from a couple of years of prospect speculating that failed miserably (anyone for some Rick Asodarian cards?). Also, the little amount of money that I’ve invested in cards this year has been geared more towards player collecting than anything else. So why break form? Well I missed the beautiful sound of ripping foil or mylar or whatever cards come wrapped in these days.

First impressions are good. I like the use of bold colors for the background. It does lend kind of a retro feel to the whole set. There isn’t much info on the back, basic bio and draft information along with a quick blurb about the player.

The cards are glossy and have a nice hefty feel to them, and I think would look nice signed in black sharpie.

Without further adieu here we go!

The Lightning cards:

There is no Vincent Lecavalier in the checklist so I can’t continue my streak of not pulling any Vinny cards. As a Bolts fan I couldn’t ask for more than Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Hopeful Case magnet Vladimir Mihalik shows up as does the biggest surprise of the team this year - Teddy Purcell. Not too many fans saw 17 goals and 31 assists coming from the talented young winger this year.

The Prospects:

John Tavares, PK Subban, and Taylor Hall highlight an impressive collection of the next generation of stars in the league. While these cards don’t hold the value of true rookie cards like Upper Deck’s Young Guns, they are nice pieces to have in the collection. For around $30 a box, they are definitely among the most affordable to collect as well.

Please allow me a moment to expound on my thoughts of young Mr. Subban. I like him, I really do. He has personality, he plays with an edge and he’s talented. Does he have some maturing to do? Yup, but why hold that against him? He’ll learn (and probably get his lunch handed to him a few times along the way) and he’ll probably end up being one of the best defensemen in the league in the next few years.

The Heroes:

I guess we have to forgive ITG for breaking the unwritten “athletes aren’t heroes” rule that has been in effect since 9/11. After all, “Heroes and Currently Established Stars” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

A smattering of established players are littered throughout the checklist (including players that didn’t even skate in the major junior leagues). Here you see a sample with Peter Forsberg, Chris Osgood, Alex Ovechkin and the ageless one Teemu Selanne. The picture used for the Osgood card made me laugh out loud while I was busting the packs. He looks like he was posing for a JC Penny’s family portrait.

The Back:

See not a lot of info, but bright pretty colors. Ahhh pretty colors.

The Inserts:

Luke Schenn 2008 Draft Picks and Mitch Wahl Memorial Cup Winners. Ehhh. Moving along.

The Autos:

Ivan Vishnevskiy and Angelo Esposito. Not exactly the best choices available, but two autographs with local ties. Vishnevskiy is part of the Blackhawks organization after coming over from Atlanta in the summer and Esposito is skating with the Chicago Wolves these days. More on him in a bit.

The filler:

Each pack had a thick filler card worth 1 redemption point. The redemption period has long since expired, but I wanted to mention these simply because the logos of some of the major junior teams are pretty cool. Look at that bear, he’s so ANGRY!

The Hit:

Angelo Esposito Selects Silver version #’d 7 out of 9. I am so intrigued by this card for so many reasons:

1. Three swatches from three events. First is the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge, then the Top Prospects Game and finally from Team Canada.

2. It’s hand numbered on the back and one of the lowest numbered cards I’ve pulled from a pack.

3. The stitching on the ADT jersey is so thick that it actually pushes the cardboard up a bit in that area. I don’t know why, but I find that awesome.

Finally, it’s from Angelo Esposito. For those not familiar he was a former junior stud who was drafted by the Penguins in the first round of the 2007 draft. He was also the centerpiece of the deal that brought the Penguins Marion Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.

However, since the trade he’s suffered two major knee injuries and hasn’t been able to replicate the success he had in juniors. Five minutes of research show that he’s currently playing for the Chicago Wolves (the Thrashers minor league affiliate) and has racked up 13 points in 52 games.

Is it too early to call him a bust? After all he’s had three years to make it to the NHL and he hasn’t even come close. Looking at some of the scouting reports it appears that he plays a bit soft and tends to drift through games despite possessing elite level skills. Having had to endure two major knee injuries so early in his career can’t help either.

On the other hand he’s only 22 years old, so maybe he still has time to put it all together. Heck, Martin St Louis was 25 when he finally got his break with the Lightning so there is still time. Prospects can mature at different times in their career, maybe he’s just a late bloomer.

So can he still be considered a prospect? Maybe, not a top-level prospect like a Crosby or Ovechkin, but he could still achieve decent things in the NHL. Now, if we’re having this conversation again in 4 years, maybe the prospect days for young Mr. Esposito may be behind him.

Oddly enough this is the first card I’ve ever pulled where I don’t have a clue what the value is. Searching eBay, Beckett Marketplace and the web has turned up nothing. For all I know the card is worth a nickel or it’s worth 50 loonies. I honestly have no clue whatsoever. So that adds to the intrigue.

Final Thoughts:

Much like the 2010-11 Score box I busted last year, this was a fun box to break. No expectations, no elaborate parallels to chase made it easy to enjoy looking at the cards and I'm pretty sure I got the wole 100 card base set. Unlike most of the recent products I’ve busted in the last year there were about 15 duplicates which I think I might send out for TTM’s.

If you are a hockey fan and are looking for something a little different, pick up a box. You should find it for around $30 bucks and you get 24 packs with 5 cards in each pack. Not sure what the exact hit rates are, but I think it should be about 2 auto’s a box and one or two relic cards.

1 comment:

Captain Canuck said...

nice break. Love those sets from ITG.