Sidney Crosby on cover of EA Sports NHL
(Photo Credit: @NHL/ Twitter)

Whether you enjoy video games or not, making it on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL is an accomplishment.

Every year, EA Sports carefully chooses a relevant and talented player to put on the cover of its popular NHL video game series. Since 1999, EA Sports has released an edition of the NHL video game each year.

Over the last decade, the EA Sports NHL franchise has seen superstars like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Alex Ovechkin grace its video game cover.

Given how long EA Sports has been consistently releasing its NHL game, it’s surprising the number of NHL superstars who have never graced the cover. Some deserving players have legitimately been snubbed, while others have reportedly declined the offer.

Which NHL players have never been on the cover of the EA Sports NHL video game? Among the players snubbed for the EA Sports NHL cover are a generational talent, a controversial forward and a world-class playmaker.

Here are 10 current NHL superstars who have never been on the EA Sports NHL cover:

Anze Kopitar 

Los Angeles Kings’ franchise center Anze Kopitar has surprisingly never been on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL video game. Kopitar is one of the NHL’s best two-way forwards, winning the Selke twice in his career. Perhaps his elite defensive game has worked against him when it comes to the EA Sports NHL cover. Kopitar’s resume speaks for itself, however.

The veteran led the Kings in scoring for nine straight seasons between 2007-2015. He also played a crucial role in LA’s two Stanley Cup runs in 2012 and 2014. In fact, since entering the league in 2006-07, Kopitar ranks fifth in NHL scoring with 1,042 points in 1,176 games. When it comes to EA Sports’ NHL cover snubs, they don’t get much bigger than Anze Kopitar.

Artemi Panarin 

Many New York Rangers fans got excited when it was leaked that superstar Artemi Panarin would be on the cover of NHL 22. That excitement turned to frustration when the leaked Panarin cover turned out to be a case of bad information. The positive is that Panarin could very well end up on EA Sports’ NHL video game cover in the near future.

The Russian star has made a huge impact since coming over from the KHL in 2015. In fact, over the last five years, Connor McDavid is the only NHL player with more points than Panarin (257). The sniper was overshadowed by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in Chicago but is becoming a star in the Big Apple. Panarin’s incredible skill and fun personality make him a leading future candidate for the EA Sports’ NHL cover.

Artemi Panarin EA NHL Cover
(Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

Brad Marchand 

It’s both surprising and unsurprising that Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has never been on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL video game. On one hand, Marchand has developed into one of the best left-wingers in the NHL. On the other hand, Marchand has a reputation for being one of the league’s dirtiest players. If EA put him on the cover of their video game, there would be major backlash.

Marchand has been suspended eight times and received over $1M in fines since entering the league in 2009. It’s too bad Marchand continues to cross the line, as he has the skills to be an EA Sports NHL cover athlete. Over the last five years, only two NHL players have more points than Marchand (475).

Evgeni Malkin

Just like his teammate further down this list, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin has never been on the cover of the EA Sports NHL video game. Malkin came into the league the same year as fellow Russian Ovechkin, so he faced a challenge from the beginning. What Malkin has accomplished throughout his NHL career, though, has been remarkable.

Geno’s won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Hart Trophy. Not to mention, he surpassed 100 points in a season three separate times. How in the world did Malkin never get an EA Sports’ NHL cover? There’s no logical explanation other than he probably declined EA. Injuries did cut a few of Geno’s seasons short, but there were a few years in which you could argue Malkin was the NHL’s most electric player.

John Tavares 

Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares has somehow never found himself on the cover of the EA Sports’ NHL video game. Tavares was selected first overall by New York in 2009 and became a superstar during nine seasons with the Islanders. He signed a massive seven-year contract with the Maple Leafs in 2018. Considering Tavares’ prime years came on Long Island, it’s somewhat easy to comprehend why he never got the EA NHL cover.

Despite tremendous individual success, Tavares never made it past the second round of the playoffs with the Isles. New York had some of the NHL’s worst attendance numbers during Tavares’ best years, which also hurt his chances. Since arriving in Toronto, Tavares has been overshadowed by rising stars Mitch Marner and two-time EA cover athlete Auston Matthews.

Nathan MacKinnon 

It’s only a matter of time before Colorado Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon finds himself on the cover of EA Sports NHL. The explosive forward has yet to grace the video game cover since being drafted 1st overall by Colorado in 2013. Why hasn’t MacKinnon been on the EA Sports NHL’ cover? The three-time NHL All-Star certainly doesn’t seek attention and is very humble about his accomplishments.

MacKinnon seemed like the ideal candidate for the cover of EA Sports’ NHL 22, but EA gave it to Alex Ovechkin for the second time. While nothing is confirmed, MacKinnon has likely declined EA. MacKinnon has the explosiveness and player ratings to be the perfect cover athlete for EA NHL. We’ll either see MacKinnon on the cover of NHL 23/24 or simply never in our lifetime.

Nicklas Backstrom 

One of the NHL’s greatest all-time playmakers has never graced the cover of the EA Sports’ NHL. Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has never been on the cover of the popular NHL video game franchise. Backstrom is often overshadowed by his linemate Alex Ovechkin, who has graced the EA Sports’ NHL cover twice already. While Ovechkin gets most of the attention, Backstrom is undoubtedly deserving of a cover himself.

The veteran center is Washington’s all-time assist leader, with over 700 helpers in his 15-year NHL career. While Backstrom is an elite passer, he isn’t the type of flashy star EA seeks in its cover athlete. His numbers are declining, so it’s unlikely he will earn a cover late in his career. Numbers don’t lie, however, and Backstrom could’ve easily gotten an EA Sports NHL cover during his prime.

Nikita Kucherov

It remains a mystery how one of the NHL’s most consistently productive stars has never been on the cover of the EA Sports’ video game. Nikita Kucherov is a three-time NHL All-Star who led the Bolts in scoring during back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 2019-20 and 2020-21. He’s scored 40 goals twice and won the Hart Trophy in 2018.

It’s hard to find any good reasons why Kucherov has never been on the cover of the EA Sports NHL video game. Many considered him a lock for either the cover of NHL 21 or NHL 22 given his success in the postseason those two years. It’s especially puzzling when you consider Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews got back-to-back covers plus a shared cover during the Blackhawks’ dynasty run between 2010 and 2015.

Sidney Crosby 

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has never been on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL despite being one of the greatest hockey players of all time. Since coming into the NHL in 2005-06, “Sid the Kid” has produced at over a point-per-game rate while leading the Pens to three Stanley Cups. You’ll have a hard time finding anyone who says Crosby wasn’t the NHL’s best player during the 2010’s.

Although it’s not official, there’s long been a credible rumor Crosby has declined to be on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL. Crosby doesn’t seek attention and has a very private personal life, so it makes sense why he’s turned down EA Sports. He’s also very superstitious, so that could also play into it. A video game cover is nice, but Crosby will take three Stanley Cup rings in real life any day.

Victor Hedman 

NHL defensemen don’t get much love when it comes to the cover of the EA Sports NHL video game franchise. Only four blueliners have ever occupied the EA Sports NHL cover by themself. Tampa Bay Lightning legendary defenseman Victor Hedman is surprisingly not one of them. Since getting drafted No. 2 overall in Tampa Bay in 2009, Hedman has consistently been one of the NHL’s best blueliners.

The Swedish rearguard has been a Norris Trophy finalist five times, finally winning in 2018. He also played a vital role in the Bolts’ back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021. With PK Subban being the last defenseman to grace the NHL cover in 2019, we’re due for another blueliner to get the nod. Victor Hedman is as deserving as it gets when it comes to NHL defenseman without an EA Sports NHL’ cover.