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Stanley Cup Finals Card MVPs

The Stanley Cup Finals are finally here! As the Colorado Avalanche and two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning gear up for one of the most marquee hockey finales in recent memory, a strong case could be made for either team to come out victorious. The Avs have one of the most high-powered offenses in the league, while the Lightning boast defending-champion swagger and arguably the best goalie in NHL playoff history. As this tremendous closer kicks off, let’s take a look at some of the participants with “Card MVP” potential. 

Cale Makar

It’s not so much a question of how good Makar is right now, but how good he has the potential to become. Wayne Gretzky recently made the iconic comparison of Bobby Orr, stating that Makar is the only other player he has seen with the ability to drive offense from his own zone into the opponents’. On top of that, Makar is capable in his own zone defending the top players on the other team. With many individual trophies in Makar’s imminent future, one has to wonder if the Stanley Cup will be his first.

A benefactor of heavy product insertion, Makar can be found with every possible autograph and memorabilia combination imaginable, but his Young Guns rookie remains his golden goat. The PSA 10 of his 2019 Young Guns is up a very strong 34% since the start of the playoffs, with completed sales even eclipsing the $1,000 mark. Expect it to steadily climb with a dominant Finals performance. Makar could end up with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, further elevating his hobby value.

Nathan MacKinnon

Despite being hampered by injuries during the first half of the regular season, “Big Mac” has returned to his relentless style of offensive hockey. While not a liability in his own zone, MacKinnon thrives on the attack and gives the Avalanche a legitimate opportunity to score any time he has the puck and enough room to generate speed. Often, when there isn’t space, he uses his size to create enough to generate scoring chances. MacKinnon will need to rely heavily on this ability if he plans to succeed against the Selke Trophy-deserving shutdown ability of Anthony Cirelli and perennial Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman. Cirelli has managed to hold both top lines of the Rangers and Panthers to only a handful of points, so expect him to factor heavily in Tampa’s plans to try and neutralize Mac.

Regarding his hobby value, MacKinnon has been a mixed bag. MacKinnon’s recent interest has begun to taper off from its highs. Perhaps there is an overabundance of MacKinnon products, or maybe Makar has stolen some of the excitement. Next year should be pivotal with charting MacKinnon’s future potential. Will he continue to deal with injuries and need to tweak his style? Could his scoring totals start to decrease as he accumulates wear on his tire tread? While people fixate on Young Guns, his 2013 Future Watch Auto PSA 10 remains the grandaddy of Big Mac cards, with the most recent comp in Market Movers at an impressive $4,377. Just like Makar, if MacKinnon soars, so could his card value. 

Steven Stamkos

Since joining the team amid the turmoil of the short-live Oren Koules/Len Barrie ownership group that almost sunk the Tampa Bay Lightning, Stamkos has firmly embraced being the face of the franchise. A member of the esteemed 60-goal club, Stamkos has had his share of amazing highs and devastating lows during a career that many assume could have been even more spectacular, had catastrophic injuries at crucial junctures of Stamkos’ career not occurred. Interestingly, this has been the first playoffs series in which Stamkos has carried the team. Previously, the grind of the season led to Stamkos being a step behind in the postseason. This year, the captain has returned to the form of his mid 20s and hammered several crucial goals for his team. If Tampa is to have any hope of outlasting an energetic Avalanche squad, it will need to continue to get timely goal scoring from its leader.

A regular member of most modern insert sets, Stamkos has remained a bit of an undervalued asset in the hockey card market. Because of his injuries, his 2008 Young Guns PSA 10 remains in the mid $500s, a steal for a player with Hall of Fame aspirations closing in on his 500th career. The likelihood of Stamkos winning the Conn Smythe is still moderately high, but only if he continues to score during this series. 

Andrei Vasilevskiy

As pundits attempt to come up with reasons that somehow discredit him from being the premier netminder in the NHL, Vasilevskiy and his “weak high blocker side” continue to stymie top NHL teams. His collection of scalps up until this point include the darlings of the hockey world (Toronto), the reigning President’s Trophy winners (Florida), and the red-hot Rangers (New York). Despite his sparkling record in clinching games, Andrei has been a slow starter in most of the Lightning’s playoff rounds, including June 15’s initial Finals game. Slow starts be damned, Vasilevskiy has performed better than any goalie in NHL history when the games have been on the line. His series-clinching numbers statistically have never been eclipsed. If the Lightning win their third consecutive Stanley Cup, there is no question that Vasilevskiy was the primary reason. 

As the goalie market can be very volatile from game to game, the big picture for value to consider for Vasilevskiy’s 2014 Young Guns is that the goaltender is still only 27 years old. The amount he has accomplished at this juncture combined with the later prime that most goalies experience means that Vas can rewrite the history books, if he so chooses. Despite not having a Canadian connection, the star Russian has the potential to become one of the most valuable goaltenders in hockey card history.

Nikita Kucherov

With long-term injuries in consecutive seasons for Kucherov recently, it’s easy for the dynamic Russian winger to get lost amid the smattering of postseason stars. Not hampered by his average size, Kucherov utilizes the same approach to his game that Patrick Kane made famous for Chicago. By employing his elite skating and nearly unparalleled hockey IQ, Kucherov is able to occupy space on the ice few would even think exist. When he’s not scoring or setting up highlight-reel goals, Kucherov can be a mixed bag. He has shown a willingness to contribute defensively, but when things don’t go his way, Kuch has been known to make egregious mistakes and even take stupid penalties. The culmination of this being a suspension for boarding during the Lightning’s historic sweeping by the Blue Jackets three years ago. Since then, Kucherov has gone on to prominently feature in Tampa’s back-to-back championships.

The card market doesn’t seem to give Kucherov the same treatment as his Avalanche counterparts, likely due to his less visible individual market. His 2013 Young Guns should be considered a value play, while others chase the Makar and MacKinnon. 

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