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2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Young Guns Ranked

2023-24 upper deck hockey young guns

Looking for 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Young Guns? Click here.

Look, we all know that Connor Bedard is not in that release. Bummer, man.

He is the consensus big name in this crop, which has lowered the excitement around Young Guns in the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean there are no suitable investments here. Indeed, the sure thing is that stars don’t always make it, and some players come out of nowhere and have the most value.

Who will that be this time? We will try to answer that question in the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Young Guns guide.

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The Upper Deck Young Guns cards

What can be said about Upper Deck Young Guns cards that haven’t already been said?

Indeed, our Cardlines guide to Young Guns tells you all you need to know. But we can give you the basics if you don’t want to read that (and you really should since I wrote it).

It was a typical rookie insert in the early editions of Upper Deck Hockey. Because they were overprinted, they didn’t do well and were removed. But when the cards came back in the late 1990s as a lower print rookie, they became the go-to rookie card for hockey collectors.

In today’s collecting world, they are less popular and valuable. The RPAs appearing in higher-end hockey products have begun to replace them. But they remain the standard rookie card.

Every flagship hockey product is judged primarily by the Young Guns list. The 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey will be no different.

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Tier 1 of the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Young Guns

The players in this tier are all individuals with enough talent and upside to be NHL stars. While they each have flaws and issues (who doesn’t?), none of them seem likely to derail what should be an excellent career.

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Matthew Coronato – Right Wing – Calgary Flames

This 20-year-old from Huntington, New York, looked incredible in the pre-season for Calgary. Matthew Coronato has been described as a shoot-first kind of player.

SportsNet says, “His first instinct is to direct pucks on the net when he sees an opening. It will take time, but Calgary has a solid prospect in their stable with Coronato.”

This is a good investment with his high potential for becoming a reliable scorer.

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Yaroslav Askarov – Goaltender – Nashville Predators

Yaroslav Askarov is the most promising goalie prospect out there. The young Russian is spectacular, and there is little reason to doubt he will succeed.

Sports Forecaster wrote of him: “Has prototypical NHL size for the goalkeeping position, plus outstanding athleticism and tremendous poise in the crease area. He does not give up on plays even when down and out, plus he sees plays developing and tracks the puck with excellent vision.

He is as good as it gets when it comes to his lateral movement. Will need to tack on a few more pounds for the National Hockey League, but everything about him screams “franchise goaltender.”

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William Dufour – Right Wing – New York Islanders

William was drafted 152nd in the 2020 NHL Draft and has never been considered a blue-chip prospect.

Nonetheless, he was incredibly productive in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and though he had a period of adjustment in the AHL, he showed some great sparks.

With the Islanders needing all their help, Dufour may soon get a chance to shine. We also like that he can score and excel at contributing defensively.

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William Dufour young guns hockey 2023-24 upper deck

Dustin Wolf – Goaltender – Calgary Flames

The Flames have marked Dustin Wolf as their future goalie.

His coach at the AHL Wranglers, Mitch Love, is a big fan: “He just kind of goes about his business. He’s a workhorse for us. His preparation leads to his execution out there. I’m not surprised; the numbers you read to me are outstanding. Obviously, he’s a big reason for our season turnaround here early on.”

I don’t believe his recent setbacks indicate a deeper problem.

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Dustin Wolf Young Guns 2023-24 Upper Deck Hockey

Ridly Greig – Forward – Ottawa Senators

One of the best prospects on this list. Ridly Greig can play all over the place, is a consummate playmaker, and can whoop some ass when needed.

The Senators organization looks confident that Greig is a future star.

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ridly greig young guns

Owen Beck – Center – Montreal Canadiens

Beck is nowhere near the finished article. But he is 19 years old and has a pedigree. Owen Beck was part of the 2023 Canadian team that won the 2023 World Juniors.

Because he already has a varied toolset, his ceiling is very high. But watch out. We don’t quite know what the floor is yet.

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Owen Beck 2023-2024 Upper Deck Young Guns

Luke Evangelista – Right Wing – Nashville Predators

Yeah, Luke Evangelista plays in Nashville. Not a great market. But this kid can play. Luke was the 42nd overall pick and has looked like a higher pick.

He had a ridiculous 111-point season in the OHL in 2021-22. Then, he handled promotions to the AHL and NHL with ease and aplomb. He has something you can’t teach: a first-rate hockey brain.

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luke evangelista young guns 2023-24 Upper Deck Hockey

Matthew Knies – Forward – Toronto Maple Leafs

Matthew Knies is arguably the best prospect in this crop of Young Guns. Though drafted just 57th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft, Matthew has been so freaking good for the University of Minnesota and the United States at the World Juniors that his stock has gone way up since.

According to SportsNet, “Knies is a big body, power winger, who has added an extra pace to his game this season. He’s quicker to open space and efficiently tracks up and down the ice.

Most of his offense comes from between the hash marks and around the crease in the offensive zone.” He also just has that indefinable star quality and plays in a huge market.

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Matthew Knies Young Guns 2023-24 Upper Deck

Tyson Foerster – Center / Right Wing – Philadelphia Flyers

Tyson Foerster was a highly regarded prospect going into the draft. According to Elite Prospects, “He sets up his feeds well, scanning the ice for where his target will be, looking on the pass and threatening to shoot. He’s got one of the best shots in the draft, can see the ice well, and possesses plus-defensive instincts.”

His scoring could use some polishing. But the Flyers believe in the youngster, and he should get plenty of opportunities to improve.

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Tyson Foerster 2023-24 Hockey Young Guns

Sean Farrell – Left Wing – Montreal Canadiens

Sean is one of those players that don’t get much attention, but you can’t figure out why. Sean Farrell is nothing if not effective.

He was a superstar for Harvard and played very well for the US in the World Championship. Part of the issue may be that he is a bit small.

But with the technique and skating abilities Farrell has, I see a great future for him. And he is playing in a big market as well.

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sean farrell young guns 2023-24 Young Guns Upper Deck

Devon Levi – Goaltender – Buffalo Sabres

Goalies are always wild cards if you will pardon the pun. But Devon Levi is a better bet than most. He was sensational at Northeastern and dazzled at the World Junior Championship 2020.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that Buffalo expects him to be their future goaltender. And considering how good the Sabres look, that could put Levi in the spotlight very soon. We bet he will shine there.

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Devon Levi Young Guns 2023-24 Upper Deck

Marco Kasper – Center – Detroit Red Wings

The first thing to know about Marco Kasper is that he is just 19 years old. The second is that he is way ahead of the curve in his development.

Elite Prospects says of him, “He’s physical and capable along the boards, even in terms of manipulation; he recognizes the angle of defenders coming at him and knows how to beat them and escape them. He passes to the right areas and knows the next logical play in the offensive progression. He goes to the net hard, often, and with purpose: to screen, rebound, and score. He has good first touches: takes them inside when possible and leads to next play.”

We love everything about him, and the Red Wings have already given the young Austrian his debut.

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Marco Kasper 2023 Upper Deck Young Guns

Leevi Merilainen – Goaltender – Ottawa Senators

21 is still early in the development of a goalie. But the young Finnish player has the size and reflexes that you want. There is a good chance Leevil Merilainen will put it all together and become a stellar starter.

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leevi merilainent young guns upper deck hockey 2023-24

Luke Hughes – Defense – New Jersey Devils

Luke Hughes has the potential to be an exceptional kind of player. Coming from a severe hockey family, his brother Jack plays with him for the Devils, while his brother Quinn is captain of the Canucks.

We don’t usually rate defensive players this highly regarding collectability, but this 20-year-old from New Hampshire is the exception.

According to Sports Forecaster, he “is an elite skater with projectable size and offensive skills. His edge work is terrific, and his combination of speed and skill helps him generate many controlled zone entries and exits. He has to learn to be more careful with the puck, though.”

With his skills and pedigree, Luke has arguably the lowest floor of anyone on this list.

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Tier 2 of the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Young Guns

Players in this tier have enough upside to be hockey stars. However, they either have a severe flaw or are showing worrying inconsistency. They could go either way.

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Jaxson Stauber – Goaltender – Chicago Blackhawks

Jaxson Stauber has the bloodline since his father Robb was an NHL goalie and the head coach of the US Women’s Hockey team. Though not lacking in talent, Stauber is 24 and still doesn’t look like the complete package.

But when the Blackhawks gave him time on the ice, Jaxson rewarded them well. So this guy could go either way.

Jakob Pelletier – Calgary Flames

Sadly, Jakob Pelletier had a bad injury, and we don’t know when he will return. But there is no reason to write off the talented 22-year-old.

According to Sports Forecaster, Jakob is “an extremely versatile forward, since he can play both wing and center, be used on both special teams and create offense for his teammates. Skates well has outstanding vision, and has excellent passing skills. Is also adept at defending and is a rather responsible player.”

But there are downsides: “Lacks size in a major way, so he needs to add more bulk and get much stronger to maximize his effectiveness at the highest level. Also, he needs to shoot the puck more to score more goals and to keep defenses honest.”

Samuel Bolduc – Defense – New York Islanders

Samuel has the speed and size to be a successful NHL defenseman. He is also a potent scorer and, therefore, a great player on your team. But Samuel Bolduc doesn’t have the scoring spark to make him a star.

Will Cuylle – Left Wing – New York Rangers

Will Cuylle is really on the cusp between tier 1 and 2. He is an all-action player who is always happy to jump into the mix. Cuylle can also score.

NHL director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said of Cuylle, “He brings more of that power-forward type of game, and I thought he got away from that last year…He can own the corner, battle for position at the net, and play to the strengths of his size and [use] it smartly. He’s got all the tools.”

But he hasn’t shown the chops you expect from a future star.

Brock Faber – Center – Minnesota Wild

Brock Faber was an essential part of the 2021 World Juniors winning USA team. And he is undoubtedly an excellent two-way player.

But his performances at the University of Minnesota haven’t been as offensively dazzling as one could hope. But if he can pick that up somewhat, he may be a tier 1 guy.

Cole Guttman – Center – Chicago Blackhawks

Cole Guttman wasn’t a highly touted prospect and was drafted 180th overall in 2017. But since then, the LA native has consistently punched above his weight.

In his appearances for Chicago last year, he looked great, and they seem to believe he has much to give the Organization. Still, he will likely never be a star.

Elliot Desnoyers – Left Wing – Philadelphia Flyers

An up-and-coming young player, Elliot Desnoyers, played a vital role in the recent Canadian World Juniors gold medal. He is the real deal on defense.

As for the offense, he hasn’t completely figured it out yet. But at 21, there is still time for that.

Tristen Robins – Center – San Jose Sharks

Elite Prospects is a fan of the player, noting that Tristen Robins “is a gifted puck-handler, capable of blending pass receptions into detailed maneuvers and freezing his opponents with deceptive elements. He evades defenders with ease using a variety of around and triangle dekes. The way Robins can shoot, handle, and support the puck in the offensive zone is rare for a first-time draft-eligible skater.”

But his development has been a bit slow, and the market in San Jose is suboptimal.

Simon Edvinsson – Defense – Detroit Red Wings

An elite player of his type with great hair. You have to Google him. Sports Forecaster notes the following of Simon Edvinsson:

“The Swedish defenseman has the size, skill, and mobility to become a franchise cornerstone on the blueline. He can lead the rush or make a play at the blueline and dangle his way past opponents. Though he is not a dynamic playmaker, he makes a fine first pass; defensively, he has the size and skating ability needed to close gaps and make stops.”

But while he will be a fabulous player, scoring and playmaking are not his thing.

Wyatt Kaiser – Defense – Chicago Blackhawks

Kaiser is a great name for a hockey player. Aside from that, the Blackhawks player has an excellent all-around game and will get plenty of chances this season to prove himself.

So, there is a lot to like about Wyatt Kaiser. But he has never looked like star material.

Nikita Nesterenko – Center – Anaheim Ducks

Though he has always been counted out, Nikita Nesterenko has always overperformed. I love players like that.

He won the Hockey East Association Rookie of the Year with an incredibly effective first year at Boston College.

He has had some growing pains in the pros, but at 22, that is to be expected. Of course, the market for Anaheim cards is not rewarding.

Aidan McDonough – Left Wing – Vancouver Canucks

Aidan McDonough is not remarkably polished and gets a bad rap in some scouting reports. But he does something very important.

McDonough scores goals, and he did plenty of that at Northeastern University. So, while never a blue-chip anything, there is a good chance Aidan will also get a nice haul in the NHL.

Tier 3 of the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Young Guns

Players on this level are likely good enough to be regulars in the NHL. However, they are unlikely to be stars or for their cards to have value.

Even with this, they have enough talent to make stardom possible, if not a likely one.

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Joona Koppanen – Left Wing – Boston Bruins

While Joona Koppanen has had enough offensive production to keep him in the NHL picture, he has never been considered a great talent. There is a reason for that.

Jonathan Gruden – Forward – Pittsburgh Penguins

A solid player, but you would like to see more offensive production than we have gotten from Gruden so far. Therefore, the 23-year-old will likely end up as a depth piece.

Milos Kelemen – Left Wing – Arizona Coyotes

The 24-year-old has a ton of experience, playing for the Slovakian national team, and has looked good in the AHL. But he needs the offensive firepower to be collectible.

Arnaud Durandeau – Left Wing – New York Islanders

A reasonably low draft pick, Arnaud Durandeau has been a very effective AHL player. However, his few games in the NHL could have been more impressive, and Durandeau was sent back down.

Though he will probably be back, the player is already 24 and hasn’t yet established himself.

Drew Helleson – Defense – Anaheim Ducks

Drew Helleson is that classic old story. A fine defense-first player. But he has far from the offensive flair you want to see from a hobby investment.

Vincent Iorio – Defense – Washington Capitals

A solid prospect with quite a bit to learn. The main problem with Vincent Iorio is that even his ceiling doesn’t involve much offensive production.

Egor Afanasyev – Left Wing – Nashville Predators

Selected 45th in the 2019 NHL Draft, Egor Afanasyev was expected to develop quickly. But things just haven’t set right for the young Russian.

While continuing to show promise, he seems behind in his development. The Nashville market doesn’t help Afanasyev’s odds, either.

Jiri Patera – Goaltender – Vegas Golden Knights

Jiri Patera has always been a solid but unspectacular goaltender. At 24, he hasn’t reached his potential yet, and that is fine for a goalie. But my guess is his ceiling is as a solid starter and not a premier puck-stopper.

Hunter McKown – Forward / Center – Columbus Blue Jackets

Hunter McKown has made it suitable for an undrafted player. But he still figures to be a bottom-six forward for Columbus.

Lukas Rousek – Right Wing – Buffalo Sabres

Lukas Rousek has some offensive spark. But probably not enough to make up for the fact that he is already 24 and still in the AHL. Time is running out for Rousek to put it together.

Tyler Kleven – Defense – Ottawa Senators

A solid defensive player drafted 44th in the 2020 NHL Draft, Tyler Kleven, is also a regular player for the US national team at every level. Still a real defense-first kind of player.

Henry Thrun – Defense – San Jose Sharks

Henry could not be more similar to Tyler, just above him in this list. It’s the same kind of pedigree. The same type of skills. Same sort of lack of hobby potential. The main difference? San Jose is a worse market.

Daniil Gushchin – Right Wing – San Jose Sharks

We haven’t seen anything all that inspiring from the Russian player. His AHL form has been disappointing. But since the Sharks stink, he will see ice and get a chance to impress.

Cole McWard – Defense – Vancouver Canucks

He is an undrafted player who has since punched well above his weight. McWard can contribute on both ends but not enough to merit card value. We feel he will have a good career.

Jake Livingstone – Defense – Nashville Predators

Usually, an undrafted defenseman who is still in the AHL at 24 would be a fourth-tier player. But Jake is too dynamic to be disrespected like that. Still, it’s not much of a hobby investment.

Jet Greaves – Goaltender – Columbus Blue Jackets

With a name like Jet, you would expect a speedster, but instead, we get a goaltender. He is also undrafted and not considered to have an exceptionally high ceiling. Having said that, the goaltender is an unpredictable position, and Greaves is only 22. Perhaps he could jet his way to the top? Sorry.  

Tier 4 of the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Young Guns

Though this is the lowest level, that doesn’t mean the players here are wrong. Though some certainly are.

It means their cards will not have value for one reason. Perhaps these players are too old, unlikely to break in, or very well-defined role players. Either way, avoid these players.

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Vincent Desharnais – Defense – Edmonton Oilers

A reliable and talented defensive player. But with no offense and at the advanced age of 27, there is little upside here.

David Gust – Right Wing – Chicago Blackhawks

As a 29-year-old who has yet to get his career going, this is one of the weaker names in this crop of Young Guns.

Spencer Stastny – Defense – Nashville Predators

Defensive players have questionable value at the best of times. But Stastny is not that great (sorry) and plays for a small market team.

Matthew Kessel – Defense – St. Louis Blues

Nope. No relation. And with little offensive potential, stick to collecting his non-relative.

Akito Hirose – Defense – Vancouver Canucks

Akito may have a decent career. But as an undrafted defense-first player, there is no reason to waste a topholder on his cards.

Adam Ginning – Defense – Philadelphia Flyers

Another super defensive player. Another card you don’t want.

Olle Eriksson Ek – Goaltender – Anaheim Ducks

We wish Olle well. But he may never play another NHL game again due to his substandard performances.

The final word on the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Young Guns

A perusal of this list of players shows that the general sense that this is a weak cohort is unfair. We have seen better groups than this. There aren’t too many prospects that jump out as superstars.

However, tier 1 is healthy and probably contains at least one player with legitimate hobby value. Luke Hughes and Matthew Knies stand out as the most likely stars here. But I didn’t put anyone in Tier 1 who doesn’t have what it takes to be exceptional.

So don’t get too bummed out that Connor Bedard isn’t among the Young Guns here. It gives us a chance to look at all this other talent without having one overwhelmingly highly considered prospect standing above everyone else.

There is also some good news. The 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey release has a Connor Bedard card and is selling for pretty reasonable prices.

It could become one of his best-known and beloved cards due to persistent early exposure. And second, knowing that Bedard is coming in 2023-24, Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey makes the wait much sweeter.

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Base 2023-24 Young Guns Rookies set checklist

Odds – 1:2 Hobby/ePack/Hanger; 1:2.25 Retail/Blaster/Tin; 1:50 Dollar.

PARALLEL CARDS: Outburst Silver*.

HOBBY PARALLELS: Clear Cut (1:144).

HOBBY/EPACK PARALLELS: Deluxe #/250, Exclusives #/100, Outburst Red #/25, High Gloss #/10, Outburst Gold 1/1.

*Outburst Silver odds – 1:30 Hobby/ePack; 1:90 Retail/Blaster/Tin/Hanger.

201 Matthew Coronato – Calgary Flames
202 Vincent Desharnais – Edmonton Oilers
203 Joona Koppanen – Boston Bruins
204 Yaroslav Askarov – Nashville Predators
205 Jonathan Gruden – Pittsburgh Penguins
206 William Dufour – New York Islanders
207 Jaxson Stauber – Chicago Blackhawks
208 Jakob Pelletier – Calgary Flames
209 Samuel Bolduc – New York Islanders
210 Dustin Wolf – Calgary Flames
211 Milos Kelemen – Arizona Coyotes
212 Ridly Greig – Ottawa Senators
213 Will Cuylle – New York Rangers
214 Owen Beck – Montreal Canadiens
215 Brock Faber – Minnesota Wild
216 Cole Guttman – Chicago Blackhawks
217 Arnaud Durandeau – New York Islanders
218 David Gust – Chicago Blackhawks
219 Elliot Desnoyers – Philadelphia Flyers
220 Drew Helleson – Anaheim Ducks
221 Luke Evangelista – Nashville Predators
222 Matthew Knies – Toronto Maple Leafs
223 Tristen Robins – San Jose Sharks
224 Vincent Iorio – Washington Capitals
225 Tyson Foerster – Philadelphia Flyers

226 Egor Afanasyev – Nashville Predators
227 Jiri Patera – Vegas Golden Knights
228 Simon Edvinsson – Detroit Red Wings
229 Wyatt Kaiser – Chicago Blackhawks
230 Nikita Nesterenko – Anaheim Ducks
231 Hunter McKown – Columbus Blue Jackets
232 Aidan McDonough – Vancouver Canucks
233 Lukas Rousek – Buffalo Sabres
234 Sean Farrell – Montreal Canadiens
235 Tyler Kleven – Ottawa Senators
236 Henry Thrun – San Jose Sharks
237 Devon Levi – Buffalo Sabres
238 Spencer Stastny – Nashville Predators
239 Daniil Gushchin – San Jose Sharks
240 Matthew Kessel – St. Louis Blues
241 Marco Kasper – Detroit Red Wings
242 Akito Hirose – Vancouver Canucks
243 Adam Ginning – Philadelphia Flyers
244 Cole McWard – Vancouver Canucks
245 Jake Livingstone – Nashville Predators
246 Jet Greaves – Columbus Blue Jackets
247 Leevi Merilainen – Ottawa Senators
248 Luke Hughes – New Jersey Devils
249 Olle Eriksson Ek – Anaheim Ducks
250 Luke Hughes/Matthew Knies CL

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Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is the emeritus editor of Cardlines. He continues to write for several hobby outlets, including this one and Cardbase. He collects primarily vintage baseball and soccer and has a weird obsession with 1971 Topps.

In his spare time, Shaiel is sobbing into his bourbon when the Mets lose and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a past life, Dr. Ben-Ephraim was a political science professor, journalist, and diplomat. But cards are more fun.
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