Admitted gamer Steven Stamkos will be the cover star for NHL ’12

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EA Sports announced that Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos will be the cover star for their next hockey video game NHL ’12. This breaks the run of Chicago Blackhawks stars who graced the series’ covers in the last two years (Jonathan Toews for NHL ’11; Patrick Kane for NHL ’10).

One of the appealing by-products of the post-lockout era’s surge in young stars is their familiarity with video games. Most of them have probably grown up playing hockey video games; one can only imagine the ribbing a player might get for having a pitiful speed rating. (Toews, Kane and Stamkos aren’t much older than the seminal NHL ’94 title , after all.)

Stamkos ranks as one of those guys who played hockey video games growing up. In fact, he admitted that it was often on his wish list at Christmas time and he excitedly bought the first NHL title that featured his likeness.

“I was a big gamer, especially as a kid,” Stamkos said. “I asked for it every Christmas. You dream of playing in the NHL one day but you never really dream of being on the cover of the NHL video games, especially the most popular one. My friends are just as excited.”

Stamkos said that he doesn’t know his player rating just yet, but noticed some flaws in the game of his polygonal counterpart.

“My faceoffs weren’t very good in the game, so maybe I’ll take a hint to get better [in that area],” Stamkos said. “I haven’t checked out the ratings system yet, but usually when you’re on the cover you get a good one.”

Every now and then, a cover player doesn’t have an outstanding rating in a hockey video game, but you usually have to be at an elite level to grace a game cover in the first place.

The cover art might bring a surprise for fans who haven’t been paying attention to uniform-related news: he’s wearing the new blue and white getup that the Lightning will wear in the 2011-12 season. The game is expected to be released on September 13, giving hockey-starved fans a needed distraction a few weeks before the beginning of next season.