It’s been 19 years since a Penguins player has graced the cover of an EA Sports NHL video game when Mario Lemieux was chosen for the cover of NHL 2002. Every year Penguins fans hope this will be the year that one of their hometown superstars will be selected, but each and every time they are left disappointed.
For the past few years, EA Sports used the NHL Awards ceremony to reveal the cover athlete for the latest installment of the company’s long running NHL simulation game series that releases annually. Generally, the Awards ceremony is held on the third Thursday in June (which would be June 18th), but for obvious reasons, there will be no ceremony this season, meaning EA will have to announce its NHL 21 cover athlete on its own.
While everyone waits patiently for EA to announce the NHL 21 cover star, fans can speculate on who may be chosen by the video game giant to grace the cover of hockey’s flagship video game series.
From a Penguins perspective, there are a litany of options for the decision makers at EA Sports to choose from. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang stand out as obvious choices but there is another option that people may gloss over.
Before succumbing to injury back in January, Jake Guentzel was on a tour de force and on pace to eclipse the 40 goal plateau for the second time in as many seasons. On top of that, he was doing much of his damage without the help of Sidney Crosby as his center and had just been selected to his first NHL All-Star Game.
In what was supposed to be just his third full season in the NHL, it was becoming clear Guentzel is no fluke as a player and is more than just a product of Sidney Crosby. Jake is a becoming a bonafide superstar in the NHL and deserves league wide recognition for his play.
What better way to get him some of that much deserved praise than to make his the cover athlete of the game’s most prominent video game? Sure, Guentzel may not have all the accolades of previous cover athletes like Matthews or Connor McDavid, but he has shown during his brief time in the NHL that he is an elite player deserving of praise.
Despite the lack of individual awards on his shelf, Guentzel does have a Stanley Cup under his belt and his performance come playoff time has already earned him legendary status among Penguins fans.
Playing in one of the biggest hockey markets in the world alongside some of the biggest names in the game has helped elevate Guentzel throughout the hockey world. Even though he sometimes may be overshadowed by the like of Crosby and Malkin, Guentzel has carved out his own legacy and earned any accolades he receives from fans, players, and media alike.
Perhaps it is a rather long shot that Guentzel is chosen as the cover athlete for NHL 21, for one, there are plenty of other deserving players, including some on his own team. With that said, given rising star status and what he has accomplished during his short time in the NHL, Guentzel makes a nice fit if EA should choose to lean that direction.