Steven Stamkos went out and bought the last edition of EA Sports' NHL video game. This year he's on the cover.
Electronic Arts announced Wednesday that the 21-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning centre will be the face of "NHL 12."
"I remember playing the NHL game as a kid growing up, always asking for it for Christmas from my parents," Stamkos said Wednesday from Las Vegas prior to the NHL awards show. "Even last year I went out and bought the game, played against the guys on my team when we get a chance.
"It's just something I've grown up playing my whole life. And to be on the cover is a pretty cool honour. ... You dream as a kid (of) playing in the NHL and now you're on the cover of the most popular NHL sports game out there. It's definitely icing on the cake, it's something I could never have imagined.
"You see the players who have been on it (the cover) before and what they accomplished in order to be chosen by EA Sports. It's a tremendous honour."
The six-foot-one 190-pounder from Markham, Ont., joins Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Dion Phaneuf, Eric Staal, Alex Ovechkin, Vincent Lecavalier, Markus Naslund, Dany Heatley, Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla, Mario Lemieux, Owen Nolan, Chris Pronger, Eric Lindros, Peter Forsberg and John Vanbiesbrouck as the faces of the EA hockey game, which is developed in Burnaby, B.C.
EA's "NHL Slapshot game" for the Nintendo Wii features Wayne Gretzky on the cover.
Stamkos was a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award this season, along with Anaheim's Corey Perry and Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, who won the award. It is presented annually to the league's most outstanding player, as voted on by members of the of the NHL Players' Association.
Last season, Stamkos had 45 goals and 46 assists in 82 games.
In just three NHL seasons, he has collected 119 goals and 113 assists for the Lightning. His 96 goals over the last two seasons led the NHL.
Stamkos, the first overall pick in the 2008 NHL draft, says he has never been more excited buying a video game than when he was a rookie -- "just to check myself out."
Players aren't eligible to be in the game until they make their NHL debut.
"I haven't seen my rating in this game but last year I was pretty happy with it," Stamkos said. "It's just amazing how much they go into detail with every aspect of each player's game."
Stamkos says he plays with teammates Steve Downie and Mike Smith, among others.
"When playoffs start, you don't really get to play as much but it's something that if there's nothing to do on a rainy day, we'll definitely throw it in the Xbox or PlayStation and play it. It's something I've done my whole life."
While Stamkos is an enthusiastic gamer, he says he does better on the ice than in front of a console.
"I'd say I'm an average (video game) player," he said.
The "Call of Duty" franchise is also popular among the Lightning and friends, Stamkos said.
"But I'm a real sports fanatic," he added of his gaming tastes.
Stamkos, who made US$875,000 this season in the last year of his rookie deal, becomes a restricted free agent July 1.
GM Steve Yzerman says he is confident of re-signing his young star.