The first decade of the 2000s saw lots of changes in the hockey card market, particularly when it came to rookie cards. Like other sports, products continued to shift towards short prints, smaller print runs and high-end products.
This culminated in 2005-06 with the debut of The Cup. The set has rookie cards numbered to 99 coming with both an on-card autograph and a patch swatch. The market hasn't looked back since. The brand continued to dominated the second-half of the decade, becoming the go-to rookie card for high-end collectors.
The first part of the 2000s also established Upper Deck Young Guns as one of the most potent rookie cards in the hobby. Carried largely by brand loyalty, the short printed rookie cards enticed player and team collectors, prospectors and set builders. While there are rookies that sell for more money, none are as widely bought and sold among hockey card collectors as Upper Deck's flagship line.
Here's a look at the ten best rookie cards released during between 2000 and 2009, the first ten years of the new millennium. Value plays a big part in the list, but we also wanted to highlight cards that have a lasting appeal.
Rick Nash has been that great player that always played for terrible teams. Despite him putting up great numbers since he came into the league, the Blue Jackets could never turn that into wins until their first playoff appearance in 2009. Nash does not have many rookie cards. His short-printed 2002-03 Upper Deck Young Guns has seen big prices from collectors. Now a key piece on a strong Rangers team could lead to price spikes in the near future.
The Hurricanes needed a franchise star after moving to Carolina, and they got one with Eric Staal. After a mediocre rookie season, he dazzled fans in his sophomore season, tallying 100 points and leading Carolina to their only Stanley Cup title. The 2003-04 Upper Deck Premier Eric Staal is his most valuable rookie card. The combination of an on-card autograph, patch and low numbering have helped make it one of the top rookie cards of the 2000s.
The 2005-06 Upper Deck Sidney Crosby may not be the most valuable card on this list, but there is no doubt that it is the most highly collected and recognized rookie card of the decade. This Crosby helped fuel the massive popularity of 2005-06 hockey products.
The 22nd pick in the 2006 draft, Claude Giroux came into the league without much fanfare. His rookie season wasn't spectacular, but his sophomore season showcased what kind of talent the Flyers had hoped he would turn into. Giroux has since blossomed into an NHL superstar and made his rookie cards some of the most valuable of the decade.
The highest ranking American on this list, Patrick Kane came into the league winning the Calder Trophy and hasn't stopped scoring. He has put up great numbers in every season he's been in the league. Despite Kane's troubles off the ice, this former top pick still commands strong values on the secondary market. His Stanley Cup-winning goal has also forever etched him into Blackhawks lore.
Back-to-back Blackhawks? Jonathan Toews and Kane formed a duo that helped lead the Blackhawks a Stanley Cup Championship. Toews had a tremendous rookie season in which he was battling with Kane for the rookie scoring title until an injury shortened Toews' season. He has followed that up with a string of strong seasons, captaining the Blackhawks to continued success.
Despite Stamkos playing in a city not traditionally known as a hockey hot-bed, Stamkos' numbers have made him one of the most dangerous players in the NHL. Even though his team has not been finding much success thus far in his career, collectors continue to show their love for this young Canadian star. Having two 50 goal seasons before turning 23 is a good reason why.
Evgeni Malkin came into the league and immediately started showcasing his large skill set. Over his first five season, Geno won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP and two the Art Ross Trophies for leading the NHL in points. Malkin and Sidney Crosby are already one of the best pairs to ever grace the ice. Card collectors have taken notice, making his rookie card from The Cup one of the decade’s most valuable.
Ovie has always played second fiddle to Sidney Crosby when it comes to trading cards. He came into the league with just as much acclaim as any other player in recent memory and followed that up by beating Crosby for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the top rookie. His play hasn't dwindled and neither has his popularity with collectors. Just like his on-ice rivalry with Crosby, the fact his rookie can be found in the same sets as Crosby's make them both stronger.
The 2005-06 Upper Deck The Cup Sidney Crosby rookie card is not only considered the best and most valuable rookie card of the 2000s, but also one of the highest selling hockey cards of all-time, especially in the modern era. With prices that have reached in upwards of $10,000, this piece of cardboard is in rare company. As Crosby continues through a Hall of Fame career, can this card reach even higher heights?