For many hockey enthusiasts, video games have played a huge role in their upbringing as fans. Whether it be NHL 94, NHL Slapshot or other more recent games, fans have always enjoyed repping their favorite players on the ice.
These games, usually released on a yearly basis, have seen their fair share of athletes on their covers. Ranging from a Scott Stevens and Steve Yzerman duo in 1996 to Dion Phaneuf in 2009 to Connor McDavid in 2019, they serve as a way for games to be remembered. But it’s also a way to generate hype and show the direction in which developers and the league want to take with the game.
An example is the cover for NHL 23, which features Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras alongside Sarah Nurse, who was the first woman to appear on an NHL game cover. This coincides with NHL 23 also being the edition women’s leagues were first (and finally) introduced. Their intentions with this cover appearance were to encourage the growth of the game and show the NHL’s intentions to diversify.
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For NHL 24, Electronic Arts (EA) can take many directions when it comes to the cover athlete. They could go with a veteran, a young gun or another unexpected candidate. After this season, who are some players that should have the chance to be the face of the gaming franchise? Here are four different scenarios that would be interesting for EA ー and for the league.
The first candidate on this list had a breakout season for the New Jersey Devils, finishing with 43 goals and 99 points. Not only did he beat the single-season scoring record on the team, but he also led the Devils to the playoffs for the first time since the 2017-18 season and past the first round since 2011-12.
Apart from his on-ice accolades, the league could really capitalize from adding Jack Hughes on the cover. Not only is he a marketable player, but he’s also young and offensively dynamic, with spectacular plays often happening when the puck is on his stick.
If the league wants to continue with the trend of young players, as has been the case with Zegras on the cover last year and Auston Matthews making his second-ever appearance on the NHL 22 cover, this is the way to go. And who knows, maybe they’ll want to add some brothers to the mix.
One of the league’s most marketable players happens to have hit the 60-goal mark for the first time in his career this season. He also happens to play video games, most notably Fortnite, which he played alongside teammate Jake DeBrusk (from ‘Pastrnak and DeBrusk: Boston’s dynamic video game duo’, BruinsDaily, 11/11/19) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly to having Hughes on the cover, the league would benefit from having a younger but more established player such as Pastrnak. This would make him the third Boston Bruin to appear on a cover. The others include Patrice Bergeron’s NHL 15 appearance and Andy Moog’s appearance with Tomas Sandstrom of the Los Angeles Kings on the NHL 94 cover.
With Pastrnak slowly becoming the face of one of the Original Six teams, it would make sense to have him represent the league altogether.
Matthew and Brady Tkachuk
This third cover idea would include one of the NHL’s most notorious pair of brothers. A cover including both Matthew and Brady Tkachuk would be a step in a different direction from the previous candidates. Rather than having sneaky and dynamic players, EA could go with character.
Both brothers continue to become better, as they are both coming off career-high seasons on their respective teams. Brady, who is the captain of a young Ottawa Senators team, suited up for all his team’s games this season and hit 35 goals and 83 points. Matthew, whose Florida Panthers are still standing in the playoffs after defeating both Boston and Toronto, hit 40 goals and 109 points in the regular season.
Having two brothers of this caliber on the cover could show that despite the hard-fought battles and rivalries on the ice, hockey is a game and there is much respect between the two opponents. Plus, this would be a unique approach.
The final name on this list may be a stretch. But at the same time, it could be very enticing for many reasons. The Regina Pats forward has had much hype built around him for the past two years. Bedard clearly has a passion for the game, and fans already have his name on their minds.
Why not capitalize on the hype that is already built up and introduce him on the cover before he even played an NHL game?
Perhaps EA could use an action shot of his goal against Slovakia in the quarterfinals of the World Juniors. Otherwise, maybe a picture of Bedard when his name gets called on draft day, which will presumably happen with the Chicago Blackhawks and the first overall pick.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Lottery: Chicago Blackhawks Win First Overall Pick
Regardless of what they decide, Bedard would represent the new generation of players that future fans will watch while growing up.
Writer’s Choice for the Cover
The list of candidates for cover athlete is always an extensive one. But after this season, I think the league should have Hughes on the cover. He truly broke out as an elite player and will likely continue to do so on a strong Devils team.
On the other hand, the most realistic and logical option I could see is Pastrnak. He’s already an established yet young player who was part of a historic Bruins team.
In the end, there are no wrong choices on the cover. It mostly depends on the direction the gaming franchise and the league want to take.