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From Olympics to video game cover boy: Canucks forward Kesler enjoys the ride

Ryan Kesler has been on quite a roll of late.

At the recent Olympics, he scored in the men's hockey final and emerged with a silver medal as part of an impressive young U.S. team. Since returning to the Vancouver Canucks, he has three goals in four games - with two of those goals coming in Detroit near where he grew up in Livonia.

And now the 25-year-old can celebrate being the cover athlete for the NHL 2K11 video game, following in the footsteps of Alexander Ovechkin, Rick Nash, Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, Marty Turco, Martin St. Louis, Jeremy Roenick, Chris Drury and Brendan Shanahan.

Kesler calls it the "icing on the cake" after his Olympic experience.

"Everything just keeps getting better for me," he told The Canadian Press. "I'm very excited."

Kesler admits the only way he thought he'd ever be on a video game box was "if I put my own picture on there."

"It's a dream come true for me. ... I grew up playing and to be on the cover of 2K is unbelievable," he said.

Once known for his defensive skills - he was a finalist last year for the Selke Trophy - Kesler is enjoying a career year on offence with 19 goals and 40 assists in 65 games this season.

"I expected to maybe crash after the Olympics a little bit," he said. "Playing in front of my friends and family the first couple of games helped with that. I'm still, I think, on that Olympic high. I've been feeling good out there, I've been skating and using my strengths."

Kesler was involved with the game last year, taking part in an outdoor Las Vegas motion capture session with Ovechkin, who was the face of NHL 2K10.

"Obviously he's the best of the best," Kesler said of the Washington Capitals sniper.

But the Canucks forward takes pride in his game.

"I'm not a flashy scorer like Ovechkin by any means but I think I'm exciting in my own right," he said. "I think my performance in the Olympics is why 2K picked me to be on the cover."

That was confirmed by 2K Sports, which is engaged in an annual battle with EA Sports' NHL title. The EA game is made in Burnaby, B.C.

"Ryan is one of the most talented and exciting players to watch in the NHL today and his popularity has grown exponentially since the recent success of Team USA at the Olympics," Greg Thomas, senior vice-president of sports development for 2K, said in a statement.

Kesler is also a keen gamer, playing everything from sports titles to first-person shooters. But there has been little time to settle down in front of a console recently.

As the cover boy for this year's game, available this fall for the Nintendo Wii, Kesler jokingly says he wouldn't mind having his player attributes bumped up a little bit.

"Usually they're true to form, they're very accurate - their attributes," he said. "I expect no special treatment this time."

Kesler probably won't need any. He was a plus-8 last season, when he had 26 goals and 33 assists in 82 games. He won 54 per cent of his faceoffs and ranked seventh among league forwards with 70 blocked shots.

NHL 2K11 is developed by California-based Visual Concepts.


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