As the internet’s resident Tampa Bay Lightning card collecting blogger I must say this post is long overdue. As the Lightning bandwagon grows (it’s actually more of a mini-van at this point) folks out there are going to want to know what cards they need for their collection. Well I’m here to drop the cardboard knowledge on you!
Coming up five names for this list was fairly easy. That’s what happens when you follow a team that has been in existence less than 20 years. I didn’t have to go back 40 years and figure which long-dead greats should make the list. Nor did I have to debate which Hall of Famer should I leave off. For the record on two members of the Hall of Fame have donned the black, silver and blue – Dino Ciccarelli (111 games) and Denis Savard (105 games). Spoiler alert – neither made the list.
I debated a couple of names from the pre-Cup teams, names like Selivanov, Puppa and Zamuner. In the end, I thought I’d stick with players whose rookie cards showed them in Lightning uniforms (with one exception). If I’d extended the list to 10, at least one of those names would have definitely made the list (but so would Nikita Alexeev – hey my list, my rules!).
One benefit of being a Lightning collector - low prices. There isn't much demand for the cards below so they're pretty easy to pick up (with one glaring exception).
With no further adieu – I present the Top Five Rookie Cards Lightning Fans Should Own
5. Brett Connolly 2011-12 Upper Deck - $4.25-$6.99
The new kid on the block has had an up and down rookie year. His cards have slid back down a bit after starting off hot (around $10) when the Upper Deck series was first release. His performance at the World Juniors provided another bump, but lately the prices have been coming back down (getting benched does that).
Connolly could very well be the first of the new crop of Lightning stars to emerge in the NHL. If things work out as management hopes, names like Carter Ashton, Dustin Tokarski, Cory Conacher and Tyler Johnson could be gracing this list pretty soon.
4. Brad Richards 1997-98 Upper Deck - $1.25- $5.00
Yes he’s a Ranger now (a dastardly Ranger who scores overtime goals against his former team), but he still has a loyal following in the Tampa Bay area. Moving to the bright lights of the big city hasn’t affected his cards that much so they’re still relatively easy to obtain.
Upper Deck was able to sneak a bunch of young players into their main set before they were drafted by creating a subset called “Program of Excellence” and showing them in dramatic staring-off-in-the-distance poses or in their Team Canada gear. A very young Vincent Lecavalier is featured in this set as well. Is that card on the list? Only The Shadow knows.
3. Martin St Louis 1998-1999 Upper Deck Rookie - $.99 - $2.99
There are so many weird things about this card - the Calgary uniform, the number 46, the fact he isn’t scoring a goal. Marty’s entry into the NHL wasn’t exactly accompanied by fanfare. As a non-drafted, college player who toiled in the AHL for three seasons he didn’t get all of the bells and whistles that card companies lavish on top prospects. So his Upper Deck rookie was just a common card released in the era of over produced sets. Since there are a lot of these cards out there the prices remain low.
When he eventually retires I’m sure there will be some talk about the Hall of Fame for St. Louis. He should have over 350 goals and close to 1000 points. I hope it’s enough for him to be enshrined, but you never know with these things. If he is inducted it will be interesting to see if his cards get a bump in value.
2. Vincent Lecavalier 1997-98 Upper Deck Black Diamond - $1.29-$4.99
It’s almost criminal that Enzo’s cards go for so low on eBay. There are some parallel versions (Triple Diamond) that trade for around $20 or so, but those don’t pop up that often and we don’t consider parallels as true rookie cards here at the Hopeful Chase headquarters (except for the number one card on the list).
I think the relative affordability of Lecavalier’s cards is reflective of being a star in a non-hockey market. To the hockey world outside of “Hockey Paradise” his declining numbers and escalating salary have hit him with the dreaded overrated label and that affects his collectability. That being said, if had been traded to Montreal the value of his cards would have escalated no matter what his performance would have been.
I’m not even going to offer you a cheaper alternative. If you can’t spare $1.50 – get off of eBay right now.
1 .Steven Stamkos 2008-09 Upper Deck The Cup Patch Auto - $1700-1800
This is going to be the first card I go out and purchase once I hit the Powerball. For those not familiar with “The Cup”, it’s pretty much a product geared toward the 1%. Four card “boxes” can sell for more than $400 online and even the base cards normally hit the secondary market for more money than I care to spend.
Stamkos’ card is the card to have out of the 2008-09 set. It started off high and never wavered. As he continues his march to being the most elite goal scorer in the NHL I don’t see it tapering off any time soon.
There are less expensive rookie cards out there to bring into your collection. His 2008-09 Upper Deck Young Guns goes for about $50 on eBay these days. As I’ve mentioned before, the Young Guns rookies are pretty good cornerstones for player collections. If that’s still a little too rich for your blood his 2008-09 Upper Deck MVP card can generally be had for less than $5.