TORONTO — An emotional Vladimir Tarasenko, in mid-scream with his stick raised in celebration, will grace the cover the upcoming “NHL 17” video game.
It’s an impressive image, even if this particular goal celebration turned out to be a bit premature.
“I’m sure this is a game against (the) Rangers. Home opener last year,” the St. Louis Blues forward said from Las Vegas on Wednesday. “When Paul Stastny scored a goal and I thought I scored a goal.”
Tarasenko was originally awarded the tying goal in the Blues’ 2014-15 season opener against New York before it was determined Stastny tipped the Russian’s wrist shot past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Regardless of who scored, the image makes the perfect cover for the upcoming Canadian-developed hockey simulator from EA Sports after Tarasenko was the winner of a fan-selected cover vote. More than six million votes were cast on Twitter and on NHL.com.
Going up against such stars as Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, Tarasenko beat Tampa Bay defenceman Victor Hedman in the first round of head-to-head voting, then took out Benn in the second round and toppled San Jose star Joe Pavelski in the final.
“Over six million votes means the fans believe in me and believe in my game,” Tarasenko said. “It makes me work more and improve every time I can to make sure my fans aren’t disappointed.”
Tarasenko is the first St. Louis player to grace the cover of one of EA Sports’ “NHL” games since defenceman Chris Pronger in 2000, and the first Russian player since Washington captain Alex Ovechkin in 2007.
The 24-year-old from Yaroslavl has had plenty of other opportunities to work on his goal celebrations since joining the NHL from St. Petersburg of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Tarasenko has scored 125 times, including playoffs, over four seasons with the Blues and last season easily led the team with 40 goals. The next closest was David Backes with 21.
“You can’t control your emotions,” he said. “So many times when you score a goal you can’t even remember how you celebrate, because emotions go out.”
Tarasenko said he’s had a chance to play the video game.
“It’s almost impossible to duplicate (the real NHL experience) but EA Sports every year makes it closer and closer,” he said. “I like the realistic parts with puck control, all the shots and goalie saves.”
“It’s good,” Tarasenko added with a laugh when asked about how he looks in the game. “Couple of questionable points, but…”
“NHL 17” will release worldwide on Sept. 13 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Lead producer Sean Ramjagsingh said new features include the World Cup of Hockey as a playable event, as well as the inclusion of owners in the franchise mode that will expect you to turn a profit as well as pile up wins and can invoke the spectre of relocation of things don’t work out.