The Florida Panthers made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2023 and part of the credit for their success stems from second-generation star Matthew Tkachuk, who was acquired last summer in a blockbuster trade with the Calgary Flames. His rookie cards have become a hot item online and at shows across the country.
In his first season with the Miami-based club, Tkachuk recorded a career-best 109 points and ranked sixth among all NHL players. It was the second straight season where he hit the century mark and he was also named a finalist for the Hart Trophy that is given to the league’s Most Valuable Player. He’s become a star both on and off the ice.
Tkachuk’s skill and leadership abilities have come to the forefront in the playoffs as Florida orchestrated a first round upset of the first-place Boston Bruins. While facing elimination in Game 5, he assisted on a go-ahead goal by Sam Reinhart before notching the winner in overtime. The Panthers finished off the series in seven, leading to another big challenge in the Toronto Maple Leafs that was squashed in five games.
At that point, Tkachuk had been merely warming up as he took his game to yet another level in the Eastern Conference Final against the Metropolitan Division champion Carolina Hurricanes. Undaunted by the challenge ahead, the Panthers hit the ice with claws out and found themselves tied after 60 minutes in Game 1. The contest wore on into a fourth overtime period and was mere seconds away from another when Tkachuk scored the winning goal to end what was the sixth-longest game in NHL history.
With just a little rest heading into Game 2, both teams played strong defensively and extra time was needed once again. Tkachuk refused to have a repeat of quadruple overtime and scored at the 1:51 mark to generate a 2-0 lead in the series. Heading back to Miami, both goaltenders put on a defensive clinic, but Tkachuk helped set up the game’s only goal by teammate Sam Reinhart.
With a sweep looming, the Hurricanes refused to give up in Game 4. During a first period power play, Tkachuk gave Florida a 2-0 lead, but Carolina stormed back to tie things up. With the score deadlocked 3-3 with less than 10 seconds to go, the Panthers found themselves with another man-advantage with the threat of a third overtime game in the series. Tasting the team’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1996, Tkachuk lit the lamp at the 19:55 mark to seal victory.
Keeping it in the Family
The son of former pro star Keith Tkachuk, who scored over 500 goals over the course of his outstanding career, Matthew started to earn serious attention from pro scouts during his time with the OHL’s London Knights. Fittingly, his greatest moment with the club came at the 2016 Memorial Cup when he scored the tournament-winning goal in – you guessed it – overtime.
Selected sixth overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, he did not return to the junior level and debuted as Calgary visited the rival Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 12 that year. Within a few weeks, his Young Guns rookie card was popping out of packs of 2016-17 Upper Deck Series One alongside several of today’s young stars like fellow Arizona native Auston Matthews.
This card does have a few parallels to consider as well such as Exclusives (#’d to 100) and High Gloss (#’d to 10) along with an Acetate version that was a difficult pull later on that season. For those buying their Young Guns via e-Pack, a Silver Foil or Gold Foil parallel could be made by combining a few copies within your account. One-of-One printing plates exist for the Young Guns card and oversized 5” x 7” versions could be found in specially-marked blaster boxes at the retail level.
Over the course of his first season, Tkachuk would ultimately appear on 18 more pieces of cardboard which fall under the traditional definition of being a rookie card. Here’s a breakdown of what is available and how they can fit into various types of collecting budgets.
A Few Affordable Options
Due to his early-season debut, Upper Deck was able to get Tkachuk into a few sets that offered some bare-bones options. The one with the widest appeal in terms of brand power is part of the update portion of the O-Pee-Chee set (#681). Found in packs of 2016-17 Upper Deck Series Two, it’s available for less than the cost of a fast food lunch. There are a wide array of parallels which include the ever-popular Retro and Rainbow Black (#’d to 100). T
That season also marked the third year of the O-Pee-Chee Platinum brand and his basic rookie card here has the sleek and shiny look that collectors love. With this product, there is a literal rainbow of options and the king of them all is the one-of-one Golden Treasures parallel.
The 2016-17 season also marked the return of Parkhurst as a regular retail brand and was primarily found at Walmart stores. Tkachuk was part of the rookie subset here and there are only a few additional versions to collect in comparison to other products. Collectors breaking boxes at their local card store would also have had a shot at a Tkachuk rookie card in the last series of Overtime packs that were handed out at the time. Finally, we come to the MVP Rookies card which was available as part of the redemption set of freshmen from the Pacific Division. Since the target audience for MVP does include young collectors, many copies of this card could simply be sitting in binders and boxes. As a result, they do not surface as much these days.
Speaking of redemptions, the Matthew Tkachuk rookie card from 2016-17 Upper Deck Artifacts was also offered up in advance of his first NHL game – even though it was not specifically tied to him at the time. The most plentiful version was numbered out of 799, but there was also an Emerald parallel (#’d to 99).
For breakers of 2016-17 Upper Deck Trilogy, there were three different Tkachuk cards in the set – but traditional rookie card definitions see the first one chronologically as earning the designation. The first of these cards was limited to 999 copies, but the later ones in the set are more appealing as they have autographs (#’d to 275 and 49 respectively). All three of them also have tougher Rainbow Green and Black versions.
With two cards found within the 2016-17 Ultimate Collection base set, we encounter another rookie card designation issue that impacts the secondary market value of Tkachuk’s cards in that product. The basic version (#98) does not feature an autograph unlike the one coming later on (#154). Had this trend been reversed or the basic version not been included at all, the hobby’s opinion might be slightly different today.
Fleer Showcase was loaded with Tkachuk-related content in 2016-17, but only one card here, a signed card numbered out of 299, is considered a rookie card. It’s a shame, too, because there were so many intriguing options that came out of packs that were throwbacks to old school Fleer and Skybox designs. Wrapping up the mid-range rookie card options is the base rookie (#’d to 249) from 2016-17 Spx, which is a real dazzler that utilized shadowbox technology. The parallel versions of this card are even more appealing as the come with either an autograph or piece of memorabilia.
When it comes to Matthew Tkachuk rookie cards, the bigger might just be the better. The most coveted tend to be from some of Upper Deck’s more expensive brands, but there were some in mid-range releases that command a hefty premium. One of the most in-demand at the moment would be his Future Watch Autograph from 2016-17 SP Authentic and the brand has loyal collectors that aim to make the set each year, which sees a lot of them go into personal collections. The first 50 of the 999 copies signed include an inscription and the Future Watch Auto Patch (#’d to 100) is part of another hobby institution that sees strong sales when available.
If you are looking for something more limited and potentially more affordable, some consideration should be given to Tkachuk’s Lustrous Rookies card from 2016-17 Upper Deck Black. With its slick design, it’s surprising that the brand doesn’t get more love from the hobby, so this is a neat under-the-radar option.
The remaining options are where things are about to get very expensive, and Tkachuk’s hot play is helping these cards go to new heights. Key rookie issues from Black Diamond (Diamond Relic Rookie Gems #’d to 99 with two diamonds), SP Game Used (numbered to his then-jersey digits of 19 with the last copy being a one-of-one autograph), or Exquisite (ARP limited to 16 copies) – they don’t see the demand that other brands have with collectors.
Tkachuk’s Ice Premieres subset card from 2016-17 Upper Deck ICE comes from the best tier among that year’s freshman class and poses a healthy challenge for a collector since only 99 copies were made. The granddaddy of them all is the RPA from 2016-17 The Cup and there are more available in terms of quantity (#’d to 249). A similar option that can be more affordable is the 2016-17 Upper Deck Premier Rookie Auto Patch. While Premier’s hobby power may not be as great as that of The Cup, you are theoretically getting something quite similar for a lower price.
Heading into the Stanley Cup Final as one of hockey’s hottest players is sure to have a strong influence on the value of a player’s cards. In the case of Tkachuk, he is just heading into his prime years and should continue to have great seasons going forward. A prime candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy, the demand for his rookie cards is certain to rise if he gets to raise hockey’s holy grail over his head.j
Here’s a current look at the most watched Matthew Tkachuk rookie card auctions on eBay.