The next installment of the popular EA Sports NHL video game series will be released in a few weeks. In anticipation of the release, EA Sports has been revealing the top 10 highest-rated players at each position. According to EA Sports, “There are six categories when determining rating attributes: Puck Skills, Senses, Shooting, Defense, Skating, and Physicality.”
EA Sports NHL 16 is scheduled to be released on September 15.
An overview of NHL 16’s features can be found here.
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Though many of the ratings are reasonable and accurate, there are a few startling omissions and some that just seem out of place. Here is an overview of the Top 10 lists, as well as some general analysis of the ratings.
Top 10 Centers
10. Tyler Seguin=91
9. Ryan Getzlaf=91
8. Henrik Zetterberg=92
7. Anze Kopitar=92
6. Evgeni Malkin=92
5. John Tavares=92
4. Pavel Datsyuk=93
3. Steven Stamkos=93
2. Jonathan Toews=94
1. Sidney Crosby=96
Analysis: The list of top 10 highest-rated centers in NHL 16 is puzzling. While most of the players on this list deserve to be there, the omission of Claude Giroux is outrageous. EA Sports is saying that not only is Claude Giroux not one of the 10 best players in the league, but he’s not even one of the 10 best centers. Over the past four NHL seasons, NO ONE in the entire NHL has scored more points than Claude Giroux (300). The second player on that list is Evgeni Malkin with 284 points, and Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin each have 281, while John Tavares has 280. If you extend it to the last five seasons, Giroux is still at the top of the list with 376 points, 10 more than the next player on the list (Ovechkin). Maybe EA thought that Giroux didn’t have a good enough season in 2014-2015 to be considered one of the 10 best centers..? Well, unfortunately for EA, Giroux finished tenth overall in scoring last season (25-48-73), including 37 power-play points, the most power-play points of any player in the league (Ovechkin, Jakub Voracek and Nicklas Backstrom followed with 34, 33 and 33, respectively). Even if Giroux is tied with Getzlaf and Seguin and has an overall rating of 91, it would still be outrageous for him to not be on this list. There is no way that Henrik Zetterberg (who is a left winger and was categorized as such in NHL 15), and Pavel Datsyuk should have higher ratings at this point in time. Yes, Datsyuk is “the wizard,” but his numbers simply cannot compete with Giroux’s, and he is not the same player he was a few years ago. Even Getzlaf should have a higher rating than Zetterberg and Datsyuk at this point. Tavares should be fourth on this list, followed by Giroux. There is no way that Giroux should be excluded from the top 5 of this list; to be excluded from the top 10 is simply mind-boggling.
Though it is less egregious than the Giroux snub, Nicklas Backstrom deserves to be on this list after the season he had. Yes, he plays with Ovechkin, but he led the league in assists, finished sixth overall in scoring and finished third (tied with Voracek) in power-play points, all while managing to play a strong two-way game all year. But more than that, Backstrom has the fifth most points of any player in the league over the past three years. While the ratings aren’t based on stats alone, Backstrom is a solid all-around player and has performed well in all aspects of the game.
Other highly-rated centers will most likely be: Giroux, Backstrom, Patrice Bergeron, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, etc., though some of those players deserved to be in the top 10.
Top 10 Left Wingers
10. Patrick Sharp=88
9. Alex Steen=88
8. Andrew Ladd=88
7. Patrick Marleau=88
6. Gabriel Landeskog=89
5. Max Pacioretty=89
4. Zach Parise=90
3. Taylor Hall=90
2. Jamie Benn=92
1. Alexander Ovechkin=93
Analysis: It’s no surprise to see Alexander Ovechkin as the highest-rated left winger in the game. He is obviously one of the best players in the NHL and is appropriately ranked at the top of the LW list, though his rating should be 94 or 95. It is also understandable to see Jamie Benn’s name next on the list as a result of his Art Ross Trophy-winning season last year when he scored 87 points. The top 5 highest-rated left wingers from last year’s game, NHL 15, featured Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg, Zach Parise, Taylor Hall and Jamie Benn, which includes the top four from this year’s list. The only player no longer featured in the top 10 left wingers is Zetterberg, who was inexplicably moved to center even though he is a left winger. There’s no denying that Zetterberg can play and does play center from time to time, but he is predominantly a left winger and should be a left winger in this game. It is completely unnecessary that EA changed his position, especially considering that someone of Giroux’s caliber got left off the list of top 10 centers.
Gabriel Landeskog has a rating of 89; while Landeskog is a promising player with a tremendous amount of talent, this rating is unnecessarily high. Landeskog clearly has potential in real life and in the video game, so it is unnecessary to award such a high rating to a player who is 22 years old and is still developing. Putting aside what his ratings have been in previous installments of the game, 89 is simply too high for him at this point.
At first glance it is strange to see players like Andrew Ladd and Alex Steen on the top 10 list. Ladd ranks 15th on the list of left wingers with the most points over the past two seasons, whereas Steen ranks fifth overall. Steen has put together two back-to-back impressive seasons, scoring 24-40-64 this year and 33-29-62 points last year; his production has increased, but he still does not come to mind when considering the best left wingers in the game. Ladd scored 24-38-62 this year and 23-31-54 last year; though his numbers don’t jump out at you, he is a quiet leader and a very effective player for the Winnipeg Jets.
However, Daniel Sedin deserves to be on this list. Though he had a rough year in the 2013-2014 season (16-31-47 in 73 games), Sedin did put up 20-56-76 this year. Even if he is not the same player he once was, he is still one of the top left wingers in the league, and it would make more sense to see him on this list with a rating of 88 or so, rather than having Landeskog or even Ladd in the top 10.
Other highly-rated left wingers will most likely be: Daniel Sedin, Nick Foligno, Thomas Vanek, James van Riemsdyk, Milan Lucic, etc.
Top 10 Right Wingers
10. Jiri Hudler=88
9. Kyle Okposo=88
8. Blake Wheeler=89
7. Rick Nash=89
6. Phil Kessel=89
5. Marian Hossa=90
4. Jakub Voracek=90
3. Vladimir Tarasenko=91
2. Patrick Kane=92
1. Corey Perry=92
Analysis: EA Sports did a pretty decent job with the right wingers in NHL 16, especially compared to the other forward positions. The names one would expect to be on the list, like Perry, Kane, Kessel, Hossa, etc. are on there, and some top performers from the past few seasons, like Wheeler, Okposo and Hudler, make up the rest of the list. Kudos to EA Sports for recognizing Hudler’s talent since he is often overlooked. Voracek is another name that clearly belongs in the top 5, and Tarasenko has rightfully earned himself a spot in the top 10. Though the list of 10 players is reasonable, there are a few adjustments that could be made to the order of the list that would make the list a more accurate representative of the right wing talent in the league.
First, Voracek should be in the top three. He is fourth, so that’s not too far off, but his name belongs in the top three. He has scored more points in the past two seasons than any other right winger in the league, and has scored the second highest number of points over the past three seasons behind only Phil Kessel. Even though Tarasenko has become one of the young stars in the NHL, Voracek should place at least slightly higher in the rankings. While Kessel has been a better and more consistent scorer in the regular season than Hossa, Hossa’s overall play and value to his team earns him the right to rank higher than Kessel. It would be acceptable to see Rick Nash drop a few spots; he scored 42 goals last season but has been useless in the playoffs and has only reached the 40-goal mark one other time in his career (the 2008-2009 season with the Blue Jackets).
Other highly-rated right wingers will most likely be: Jordan Eberle, Nikita Kucherov, Gustav Nyquist, Radim Vrbata, Wayne Simmonds, Jarome Iginla, James Neal, Bobby Ryan, etc.
Top 10 Defensemen
10. Alex Pietrangelo=90
9. Roman Josi=90
8. Ryan McDonagh=90
7. Victor Hedman=91
6. P.K. Subban=91
5. Erik Karlsson=91
4. Ryan Suter=93
3. Drew Doughty=93
2. Duncan Keith=93
1. Shea Weber=94
Analysis: EA Sports’ list of top 10 highest-rated defensemen in NHL 16 is pretty straight-forward and accurate, with one major exception: Roman Josi. Josi is simply not one of the 10 best defensemen in the NHL. Josi is very talented and has developed nicely over the past few seasons, but he is not a better defenseman than Mark Giordano, Brent Burns, Dustin Byfuglien, Kevin Shattenkirk and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, to name a few. Most of those players will probably have very high ratings in the video game, and some may even be tied with Alex Pietrangelo, Josi and Ryan McDonagh with an overall rating of 90. However, Josi simply does not deserve to be rated and ranked so highly.
The rest of the list is a pretty accurate representation of the best defensemen in the league, though a few minor adjustments could be made to make the list even stronger. For example, it could be argued that Duncan Keith has surpassed Shea Weber as the best defenseman in the league; even Drew Doughty could be considered a better overall defenseman than Weber given his all-around play and value to his team, especially in the playoffs. Weber is clearly one of the best defensemen in the league and is a great all-around defenseman with a bullet of a shot, but at the very least those three players should all have a 94 overall rating. The rest of the order is pretty difficult to argue about. Some may put McDonagh higher on the list than Victor Hedman, some might put Erik Karlsson before Ryan Suter and some might switch Karlsson and P.K. Subban. However, the fact that these defensemen are all on the list and are all pretty close in terms of overall rating is what is most important. It is, however, surprising that no defenseman has an overall rating of 92; Suter is 93 and the next highest-rated defensemen have overall ratings of 91 and 90. It seems that at least one or two of Karlsson, Subban, Hedman and McDonagh would deserve a 92 rating. Perhaps EA did not want to separate this group of defensemen since they are all extremely talented in different ways, but it is somewhat of a cop-out to not give two of them 92 ratings and two of them 91 ratings (or some other combination).
Other highly-rated defensemen will most likely be: Mark Giordano, Brent Burns, Kevin Shattenkirk, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dustin Byfuglien, John Carlson, Brent Seabrook, etc.
Top 10 Goalies
10. Frederik Andersen=89
9. Semyon Varlamov=89
8. Cory Schneider=90
7. Sergei Bobrovsky=90
6. Braden Holtby=91
5. Pekka Rinne=92
4. Tuukka Rask=92
3. Jonathan Quick=93
2. Henrik Lundqvist=93
1. Carey Price=94
Analysis: It is when you think about ranking the top 10 best goalies in the league that you realize how difficult it must be for EA to make certain decisions. For example, do you value clutch playoff performance more than regular season performance? Do you value overall importance to your team over statistics and numbers? Do you value overall team performance over individual goalie talent or performance? These are just a few questions that come to mind, though there are many more that must be considered.
In the case of this year’s goalie ratings, it seems that regular season numbers are more valuable than clutch playoff performance and overall team success. In fact, to some extent clutch playoff performance and team success are not valued at all based on this list, as two-time Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford does not even crack the top 10, whereas other goalies who have never even reached the Conference Finals are considered to be some of the top 10 goalies in the league. While most would agree that when it comes down to it, Crawford is simply not as talented as other goalies in the league, it is still interesting to see him not make the list as the tenth highest-rated goalie. However, these goalie ratings must be based mainly on statistics from this past regular season, as Carey Price is the highest-rated goalie in the game despite not making it out of the second round of the playoffs and never reaching the Stanley Cup Final, let alone winning one. Of course, Price’s numbers were dominant last season, which earned him the Vezina Trophy and, in a season without many elite forward performances, earned him the Hart Trophy as most valuable player. Also, at times, he single-handedly kept the Montreal Canadians in the playoffs. However, it is admirable on EA’s part that Price is rated only one point higher than players like Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. Price had an amazing year, but Lundqvist has been one of the most dominant goalies in the league for many, many years, and Quick has won two Stanley Cups.
After Price, Lundqvist and Quick, the next goalies on the list are Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne and Braden Holtby, all of whom have performed admirably over the past few seasons. The bottom portion of the list is a bit surprising, though. Cory Schneider is a very good goalie who had a great year last year, but he has really only competed as the true number one starter for one full NHL season. Also, Varlamov had a very rough season this year, and Andersen doesn’t seem to fit in at all. He has played very well but has split time with his backups and has not been incredibly consistent.
The biggest problem with this list, however, is the omission of Ben Bishop; in fact, it is almost a crime that Bishop is not on this list. Bishop should rank at least seventh on this list, if not in the top five. Luongo could also make the cut, along with Crawford. Even Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been terrible on and off over the years, has done more to earn a spot in the top 10 than Andersen, especially since he played especially well in the regular season and in playoffs this past season.
Other highly-rated goalies will most likely be: Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford, Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Miller, etc.
Overall, there aren’t too many surprises in EA Sports’ player ratings for NHL 16. The most significant problem with the lists is the exclusions of Claude Giroux and Ben Bishop from the top 10 lists of centers and goalies, respectively. Both omissions seem almost careless on the part of EA Sports, as these players would be obvious candidates and both deserve to be very highly-rated. Aside from Giroux and Bishop, Roman Josi being listed as one of the top 10 defensemen seems like quite a stretch. Players like Daniel Sedin and Nicklas Backstrom should have been in the top 10 for best left wingers and centers, respectively. They will likely be in the top 15 for each of their respective categories. EA did a nice job with the right wingers and a pretty decent job with the goalies (aside from Bishop). There are some inconsistencies when you take all of the lists into consideration. For example, EA has Weber rated 94 overall but Ovechkin 93; that seems to be out of balance. There are other cases of this, but perhaps EA only compares players to other players at the same position. In any case, it should not be that Ovechkin has a lower overall rating than Weber. It will be interesting to see if any player rating updates will be made by EA during the season.
Explain in the comments section!
UPDATE: EA Sports has published a list of the Top 50 highest-rated players in NHL 16. You can find that list here.
- Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is ranked 49th with an overall rating of 89.
- Defenseman Mark Giordano is ranked 46th with an overall rating of 89.
- Center Ryan Johansen is ranked 45th with an overall rating of 89.
- Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is ranked 42nd with an overall rating of 90.
- Center Joe Pavelski is ranked 37th with an overall rating of 90.
- Center Nicklas Backstrom is ranked 32nd with an overall rating of 90.
- Center Claude Giroux is ranked 30th with an overall rating of 90.
- Center Patrice Bergeron is ranked 25th with an overall rating of 91.
- Goalie Ben Bishop is not ranked in the top 50.
- Left Winger Daniel Sedin is not ranked in the top 50.
- Goalie Corey Crawford is not ranked in the top 50.
Featured image courtesy of HockeyUnion.ru