The suspense has finally ended, and the NHL franchise has its first cover athlete determined by fan vote. The brackets have run their course, and Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux has taken his place on the cover of NHL 13.

With the announcement comes new screenshots showing off the improved graphics in and facial modeling EA Sports has in store – all the more reason to pre-order a copy of NHL 13 today. And that’s not even considering the host of bonus perks coming to those who do.

The winner was named by last year’s winner Steven Stamkos at the 2012 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, where a humble Giroux explained what an honor it was to win the title over Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. The vote was decided by less than 1%, proving once again that no shortage of worthy candidates put up career seasons this past year.

The cover title was one of the only awards not┬átaken home by Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin – winner of the Hart, Art Ross and Ted Lindsay – but the distinction of cover athlete was added to the Russian center’s repertoire a long time ago. This was Giroux’s year, posting 93 points in the regular season before going on to again lead his team in the playoffs with 17 points in 10 games.

Winning the cover means starring in your very own gameplay trailer and batch of screenshots, so have a look at how well the developers have captured the star center’s scoring abilities:

More than any screenshots previously released, this batch shows the benefits of the graphical overhaul Electronic Arts has brought to their hockey franchise. The overwhelming improvement to the facial modeling and textures were one of the most pleasant surprises from our time with NHL 13 at E3 2012, and long overdue.

For those who have already been convinced that the new skating engine is worth buying a copy alone, pre-orders can be placed for the standard version, or the first special edition in the series’ history. The Stanley Cup Collector’s Edition costs $79.99, and brings bonus goodies both real and digital for the hardcore players out there:

NHL 13 Pre-Order Bonuses

  • Exclusive collectible Stanley Cup tin.
  • Exclusive Stanley Cup┬« themed Hockey Ultimate Team packs featuring a selection of five randomly-picked player items from the Western and Eastern Conference Champions.
  • Gold Jumbo Hockey Ultimate Team Pack featuring an exclusive Wayne Gretzky Hockey Ultimate Team legend item.
  • CCM Boost Pack featuring the all-new CCM RBZ hockey stick.
  • 10% discount on a one-time purchase at

It’s safe to assume that plenty of NHL fans already have a yearly purchase planned, making this Collector’s Edition and online bonuses seem far more refreshing than the standard onslaught in mainstream games.

Will you be picking up a copy of NHL 13? If so, do the bonus items convince you that the more expensive version is worth it?

NHL 13 will be released on September 11, for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

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