Panini will be making hockey cards for the first time in five years, but the player checklist will be a short one.
Upper Deck still holds the exclusive NHL trading card license but over the summer Panini grabbed Finnish star Kaapo Kakko away with an exclusive contract. On Monday, the company announced it had also signed Kakko’s New York Rangers teammate, Vitali Kravtsov. Now, Panini has created a card product centered on just those two players.
Branded 2019-20 Score Hockey, it’ll be a direct-to-consumer product available only on the company’s website. With Upper Deck holding the license to use league and team trademarks and logos, Panini will have to get creative with its imaging, much like it does with its baseball card releases.
Each two-card pack of 2019-20 Score Hockey, will include one rookie card of either Kakko or Kravtsov and one autograph or parallel of the other. Dual autograph cards will also be randomly inserted. Parallel autograph cards include unnumbered Black, Red Line (# to 99); Blue Line (# to 49); Goal Line (# to 25); Artist’s Proof (# to 5) and 1/1 Cracked Ice Master Proofs. The players’ signatures appear to be on stickers.
In addition to including autograph cards of both players, there are also limited dual autographs. Parallel versions include Black (not numbered), Red Line (numbered to 99), Blue Line (numbered to 49), Goal Line (numbered to 25), Artist’s Proof (numbered to five) and Cracked Ice Master Proofs numbered to only one.
Additional Panini hockey releases focused on Kakko and Kravtsov will be added during the season. Both will also be featured on Panini’s Instant platform. You can probably bank on a card of each based on their first NHL games.
“Our return to hockey is quite an exciting time for all of us internally but also for hockey collectors who have asked for years when we would return,” said Mark Warsop, Panini America CEO. “That demand only increases given that our products will be the only place to obtain autographs and autograph rookie cards of these two players who represent the future of hockey.
“Score is a flagship product with a strong heritage in trading cards and provides the perfect platform for our first re-entry into the hockey card market. This is going to be a strong year for our hockey releases.”
Kakko, 18, was the No. 2 overall pick by Rangers in the 2019 NHL Draft and Kravtsov was the ninth pick in the 2018 draft. The 19-year-old Kravtsov was sent to Hartford of the AHL on Monday but remains a top prospect and is expected to be called up to join Kakko at some point.