Even if the Montreal Canadiens’ magical Zamboni may soon turn back into a pumpkin, there is no doubt that their playoff run has captured the imaginations of hockey fans everywhere. The Canadiens were the New York Yankees of hockey, and they were just as polarizing.
But the Canadiens have not hoisted the Stanley Cup since 1993. Most of the 35,000 fans jammed into the streets outside the Bell Centre had not yet been born. Being in the Stanley Cup finals is something new for the predominantly millennial crowd.
If hockey fans in Montreal and much of Canada enjoyed the team’s playoff run, the hobby is even more excited. One of their marquee players down the stretch and throughout the playoffs has been Cole Caufield. The former first round pick and 2021 Hockey Baker Award winner at the University of Wisconsin is already the most anticipated rookie card of the 2021-22 NHL season.
While you can find autographed Caufield merchandise thanks to a deal he has with Fanatics (and it’s surprisingly inexpensive), Caufield entered the NHL with no cards from a major manufacturer.
He was included in a 2018-19 USA National Team Development Program 19-card team issue set. You can also find him on a 2020 IIHF World Junior U20 Hockey Championships card produced by European manufacturer BY.
That card still remains virtually unknown in the hobby and is just starting to hit the radar, selling in the $100 range. Topps has a Rainbow Relics digital hockey card of Caufield, but that’s not a piece of cardboard that you can send to PSA or Beckett Grading, once they are caught up.
The closest thing Cole Caufield has to rookie cards are the Upper Deck Game Dated Moments cards. There have been two made available for pre-sale. Card #48 features Caufield’s first NHL goal, which was an overtime winner against the Ottawa Senators on May 1, 2021. The goal was huge for Caufield and the Canadiens, as Montreal, at the time, was fighting off the Calgary Flames to grab the last playoff spot in the all-Canadian North Division.
The second Caufield card, #70, was a photo of his top shelf where-mama-keeps-the-peanut-butter highlight reel goal he scored in the playoffs against Marc Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights.
The pre-sold cards are numbered to 499, with a gold variation numbered to 100. Secondary market presales of card #48 are selling in the $150 US neighborhood, while card #70 is slightly below that, ranging from $100 to $125. For the gold variation, the prices are all over the map for both cards, ranging from $200 to $600 on eBay.
Blue Chip Hobby Prospect
As a player, Caufield checks all the boxes for a player to be considered an elite prospect in the hobby. He puts up huge numbers, he has a dynamic offensive skill set, and he is in one of the most influential hockey markets in the world. During the 2017-18 season, he played for the USA National Development team and scored 54 goals. He was one off the team record of 55, set by Auston Matthews.
In 2019, he scored six goals in one game against the Green Bay Gamblers. In that game, he set a new career goal-scoring record by netting his 105th, overtaking Phil Kessel’s record. He shattered Matthews’ record that year by scoring 72 goals.
As a freshman at Wisconsin, Caufield scored 36 points in 36 games. As a sophomore, he scored a remarkable 30 goals in 31 games, adding 22 assists to finish with 52 points.
After his Hobey Baker-winning season ended, he signed with the Canadiens. To years ago, Montreal had drafted him 15th overall. Caufield is already the steal of the 2019 NHL Draft. At 5’7”, 165, many teams shied away from Caufield because of his diminutive stature, allowing him to fall to Montreal. In his brief time in the NHL, he has become Jean-Gabriel Pageau but with an elite offensive skill set that Pageau does not have.
Throughout the playoffs, Caufield has been one of the NHL’s top offensive performers. Even in last Friday’s Game 3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, he was creating offensive chances. He beat Andrei Vasilevskiy cleanly on one chance but clanged a laser beam of a shot off the post. He did, however, pick up an assist in the game. Looking in the announced crowd of 3,500 fans in Montreal – it looked like there were a lot more fans than that at the Bell Centre – there were hundreds of fans with #22 Caufield jerseys. This is a market where fans wear #31 Carey Price jerseys, and you might see a smattering of others. The bandwagon has only been rolling for two months, but it’s already fully loaded.
Caufield Already Driving 2021-22 Hockey Card Market
Excluding Wayne Gretzky, for collectors in Montreal, there are only three times there has ever been this month anticipation for a rookie card. Rookie goalie Patrick Roy led the Montreal Canadiens to the 1985-86 Stanley Cup but collectors had to wait until the 1986-87 O-Pee-Chee hockey card set was released the following season to get a Roy rookie card.
The year before, Montreal went crazy for 1985-86 O-Pee-Chee rookie cards of hometown hero Mario Lemieux, who had scored 100 points as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Lemieux rookie and the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card remain in a class by themselves in that era.
But for the best comparison to Caufield’s emergence in his first playoff year that created a frenzy among collectors the following year, you have to go back to the early 1970’s. Older, veteran collectors who are north of 60 will fully remember the hysteria in Montreal around the arrival of Ken Dryden. The rookie from Cornell University joined the Canadiens for the final six games of the 1970-71 regular season and then bumped Rogie Vachon as Montreal’s starting goalie for the playoffs. He led the Canadiens past the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals. The following year, after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup playoffs MVP, his rookie card appeared in the 1971-72 O-Pee-Chee hockey card set. That season, he also became the first player to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year after having won a Smythe.
During the 2021 Spring Expo virtual show, Upper Deck unveiled the image for the Caufield 2021-22 Young Guns rookie card.
While the 2020-21 Alexis Lafreniere rookie card sold for $300 ungraded immediately after its release, online speculation in hobby chat rooms was that the Caufield rookie card would hit the market at $400 immediately upon release. Upper Deck traditionally releases its UD Series 1 Hockey product at the Fall Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo in Toronto. The anticipation of Caufield’s rookie card, as well as growing excitement over the Young Guns rookie card of Toronto-area native Quinton Byfield, who already has a memorabilia deal with Upper Deck, could make the Fall Expo one of the largest shows Canada has seen since the hockey card boom of the early 1990s.
About Jeff Morris
Jeff Morris is a hobby veteran who has been a collector for more than 50 years. Originally a hobby journalist, he became brand manager at Pinnacle, and then was an executive for Collector’s Edge and Shop at Home before joining Pacific Trading Cards as VP Marketing. He is the former editor and publisher of Canadian Sports Collector magazine, and he was also a columnist for ESPN.com.