NHL 12: Ranking the Top 10 Potential Cover Athletes

Aaron MillerContributor IIIFebruary 9, 2011

NHL 12: Ranking the Top 10 Potential Cover Athletes

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    Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby
    Steven Stamkos and Sidney CrosbyJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The EA Sports NHL series is a highly successful sports game franchise. Each year, a well known player is selected to be on the front cover, in order to generate publicity and enthusiasm for the game.

    I have decided to rank the top 10 candidates for NHL 12, based on how well known a player is, how skilled they are and who I think would make a respectable cover athlete.

    Any player who has been on the cover of either an EA Sports or 2K in any region in previous years will be ineligible for this list.

    This is of course purely my opinion and I welcome any suggestions or constructive criticism.

10. Patrick Marleau

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26:  Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks skates through the neutral zone against the Los Angeles Kings during their NHL game at Staples Center on January 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings defeated the Sharks 3
    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    Despite having a down season, Patrick Marleau has been a consistent point-producer ever since being drafted second overall in 1997.

    He is the Sharks' all time leader in goals, points and shots and helped Canada win gold in Vancouver.

    His linemates, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, have both graced covers previously.

    As an added bonus he also wears number 12.

    Definitely a solid candidate. 

9. Danny Briere

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 03:  Danny Briere #48 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates during an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators at the Wells Fargo Center on February 3, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Imag
    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    This could be a bit of a homer pick, but I think Danny Briere is definitely worthy.

    Since forming a line with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, Briere's game has gone from strength to strength. Last season he was the leading scorer in the playoffs, and this season he sits at an equal sixth in the league in goals with 26, at an impressive +14.

    He also performed well in the recent all-star game, and will be expected to perform once again in this year's playoffs.

    There are a few Flyers that could have been put here, such as Claude Giroux or Mike Richards, but I think right now Briere is the pick of the bunch. 

8. Ryan Miller

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    UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 23: Radek Martinek #24 of the New York Islanders celebrates a third period goal by teammate Jack Hillen #38 (not shown) against Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum on January 23, 2011 in Uniondale, New York
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    After last season, I would have had Ryan Miller in my number one spot. In addition to having an awesome last name, he won the Vezina trophy and almost single-handedly won the U.S.A a gold medal against the powerhouse Canadian outfit.

    At this point his stocks have decreased somewhat. He hasn't been terrible, but certainly hasn't demonstrated his superstar abilities.

    However, he is still the heart of the Buffalo Sabres, and would make a great candidate.

7. Dustin Byfuglien

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    TORONTO, CAN - FEBRUARY 7:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers skates in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 7, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Thrashers 5-4. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Gett
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Big Buff really broke out during last years playoffs, helping the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup since 1961. It seemed as though moving him from defense to the wing was just the spark he needed to lift his game to another level.

    During the Blackhawks clearout, he was then sent to Atlanta where he started the season playing defense, a move that baffled many.

    It seems that move has been a masterstroke. Byfuglien is having a tremendous season that could very well land him the Norris Trophy. He leads all defensemen with 17 goals (second is 14) and 232 shots (second is 181).

    After being selected for the all-star game, I definitely think he is a worthy candidate.

6. Tim Thomas

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 26:  Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins clears the puck in the second period against Florida Panthers on January 26, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Tim Thomas is almost the complete opposite of what I wrote about Ryan Miller.

    At the end of last season, if you had suggested Tim Thomas deserves to be a cover athlete, I would have laughed in your face. Boy have things changed.

    With 25 wins from only 38 games, a Sv% of .945 and a GAA of 1.80, Thomas is a certain Vezina nominee, and the favourite to win the coveted trophy.

    Plus, a goalie hasn't been on the cover since Marty Turco was on 2K6 and John Vanbiesbrouck was on NHL 97.

5. Zdeno Chara

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    RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 29:  Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins is congratulated by Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29, 2011 in Raleigh, N
    Harry How/Getty Images

    I don't think anyone would debate the fact that Chara isn't having his best season, or that he is outperforming Tim Thomas at the Bruins.

    Chara is this high on the list because he has the X-Factor. He's a massive big-hitting, big-shooting man mountain that the NHL should be working its butt off to promote.

    Plus, a Boston player hasn't graced a cover since Andy Moog was on NHL 94.

4. Brad Richards

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 05: Andrej Meszaros #41 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates against Brad Richards #91  of the Dallas Stars on February 5, 2011 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    When Brad Richards isn't plagued by injury, he is undoubtedly one of the best playmakers in the game.

    After putting up 91 points last season, he is on pace for a similar total this season, and has been the clear MVP on the division leading Dallas Stars.

    If he isn't re-signed by Dallas, he will likely command at least $8 million on the free agent market, and I think it will be money well spent.

    The former Conn Smythe winner has definitely earned his place on a cover in the near future. 

3. Nicklas Lidstrom

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    DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 4:  Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates away from the checking Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings in a game on February 4, 2011 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The Blue Jackets defeated the Wings
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    It's hard to believe that after 18 seasons, four Stanley Cups, six Norris Trophies and 11 All-Star Games, not to mention a Conn Smythe and an Olympic Gold Medal, that Nicklas Lidstrom is yet to be the poster boy for video game hockey.

    Not even just a Sweden only cover.

    Lidstrom, who slowed down somewhat last year, has regained his abilities and is once again putting up a season that has the potential to claim a Norris Trophy.

    He may never grace a cover but I'm sure his certain entry into the hall of fame will make up for that.

2. Steven Stamkos

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    RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 29:  Martin St. Louis #26 and Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning look on during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Ph
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Currently leading the Rocket Richard and Art Ross trophies, it's only a matter of time until Stamkos is hailed as the best in the game.

    He is only in his third season and his point totals are only going up. The sky is the limit for this guy.

    Who on earth could be a better candidate?

1. Sidney Crosby

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 05:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates during warmups prior to taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 5, 2011 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Who better to be the poster boy for an NHL game than the poster boy of the NHL?

    The fact that Alexander Ovechkin has appeared on covers for both EA and 2K sports and Crosby is yet to receive such an honour astounds me.

    Before his unfortunate concussion, Crosby was putting up points faster than Garfield eats lasagna. He has the same amount of points as last year's Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner, Henrik Sedin, despite playing 13 less games.

    As a Flyers fan, it pains me to say that Sidney Crosby is the best player in the NHL. Some dislike his overpromotion but I think it is good for the game. It gives people who aren't huge fans of the NHL someone to identify, and his attitude and demeanour make him very marketable.

    Sidney Crosby on the cover of NHL 12? We will just have to wait and see.