While this season’s NHL Playoffs are currently in full swing, EA Sports is already looking ahead to next year’s season. The sports gaming giant released the first screenshot from NHL 12 on their Facebook page, and even though it’s a single screenshot it tells a lot.

The screenshot features Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich and Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. What’s most intriguing about our first look at NHL 12 is where it takes place…

The first major addition that fans will notice is that the game in the screenshot is being played outside. While 2K Sports‘ NHL 2K series has had the exclusive rights to include the ‘NHL Winter Classic’ the past two years, it looks like that deal is done. EA hasn’t released any information as to whether former or future Winter Classic stadiums will be included in the game, but the 2K series has the exclusive rights to Major League Baseball through 2012 so former sites like Wrigley Field in Chicago are likely unavailable for use by EA Sports.

On the gameplay side of things, this first look at NHL 12 shows some additions to gameplay physics that fans have been calling for; Players will now be able to run into goalies and knock them out of position and they’ll even be able to knock the goalie’s mask off. In previous NHL games, the goalies seemed as if they had a protective force field around them, but it appears that now they’ll be susceptible to the same ‘big hits’ as every other player on the ice. The other new gameplay feature shown in the screenshot is the ability to knock the goalposts of its moorings.  Both of these additions will greatly heighten the realism of plays in front of the net.

What are your thoughts sports gamers? Do you see anything else in the screenshot that hints at new features? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter. If you want to learn more about the EA Sports NHL series check out our review of NHL 11. EA Sports is planning to release an NHL 12 feature video next week, we’ll have all of that information for you when it comes out.

NHL 12 will be available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this September.

Source: Operation Sports

tags: EA Sports, NHL 12, PS3