First, let me say that despite all of the criticism I throw at the NHL series every post, I am not simply just trying to bury this series and the development team that works on it. I am totally willing — and I actually do want to — highlight praise when warranted. However, I am hard on the series because I think it generally misses the mark when it comes to listening to its fans and what they desire in most respects. Unfortunately, I don’t think the news this past week totally changes that narrative either.
In preparation for the upcoming release of NHL 21, the development team over at EA Sports has begun to share — through Instagram @easportsnhl — player ratings, attributes and news for the upcoming NHL 21. These NHL 21 information announcements have generated a ton of reactions — including a high level of criticism from fans and critics of the series. I like many others have found myself in disbelief over some of the ratings reveals.
Below, in no particular order, are a few things that stood out to me.
NHL 21 Ratings Reactions — Top 10 Speed
So, to start with the easy and obvious, Connor McDavid at number one is not an issue at all. Furthermore, I don’t even believe that the three point separation between McDavid and number two is incorrect either. However, that is arguably about the only thing that isn’t an issue with this list. At number five on this list is Mathew Barzal and Barzal recently just dethroned McDavid in the NHL’s fastest skater competition this past season. Now, I don’t believe Barzal should be higher than McDavid because it’s a result from just one competition on one night, but Barzal’s 93 speed rating is a bit too low.
Additionally, speaking of too low, how about a guy who somehow is not even on this list in Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel — who also hilariously voiced his displeasure with not making this list. Also, there is EA going too far the opposite way in ranking players much too high, Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene being ranked the second fastest skater on this list has generated a unyielding amount of criticism. Furthermore, the criticism and displeasure for this list didn’t stop there. More fuel was added to the fire seeing New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes — who just finished a disappointing rookie season — finishing off the list at number 10.
Another player of interest — at number seven — is Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin. In 2016, Larkin won the NHL’s fastest skater competition with a score of 13.172 seconds. Larkin’s recorded time is faster than any of McDavid’s three winning times, as well as Mathew Barzal’s time. Unfortunately, 2016 was the last time Larkin competed at All-Star Saturday night, perhaps leaving EA to downplay his speed.
For what it is worth, my top three would look like:
- Connor McDavid – 97
- Nathan MacKinnon – 96
- Mathew Barzal – 95
I would also remove Johnny Gaudreau and Jack Hughes, and add the aforementioned Jack Eichel and Brayden Point into the top 10.
NHL 21 Ratings Reactions — Top 10 Slap Shot Power
Okay, the “fastest skater” could somewhat be subjective I suppose, but the hardest shot is almost as straight forward as a stat/attribute could be. This top 10 list is basically as horribly wrong as a list could get!
I’ll start with number one, Alex Ovechkin. He’s an all-time goal scorer, but just because he is a phenomenal goal scorer doesn’t mean he has the hardest slap shot in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin did win the NHL’s hardest shot competition in 2018 with a score of 101.3 mph but that score is lower than all five of Shea Weber’s wins in the competition. I think even casual NHL fans would say Shea Weber has the hardest shot in the NHL.
Speaking of players who have won the Hardest Shot competition five times, how about the tallest player in the league in Zdeno Chara, who also happens to own the NHL record for hardest shot at 108.8 mph. Yes, Chara is now 43 years of age and probably has lost a few mph off of his shot, but to me there is no doubt he would still be in the top 10 in the NHL.
Furthermore, there are a couple other players who are conspicuously missing from this list. New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock has started to garner a reputation for having one of the hardest shots in the NHL. In 2015, Pulock recorded a shot of 105 mph in an Islanders prospect camp. Another player, who perhaps is lesser known, is Los Angeles Kings forward Martin Frk. Frk only appeared in 17 games this season for the Kings, but he did set the record for hardest shot recorded in professional hockey at 109.2 mph during All-Star weekend in the AHL.
Now, on to the players — almost half — who shouldn’t be on this list. First, I’ll start with 14-year veteran Phil Kessel who has probably only taken 14 slap shots in his entire career. Who is responsible for this? Less egregious but still inexcusable is Jakub Voracek being ranked right behind Kessel at number seven. Now, Voracek definitely deploys his slap shot more frequently than Kessel, but it is seriously questionable to have Voracek on this list.
Nathan MacKinnon and Tyler Seguin, from the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars respectively, are also two very gifted goal scorers but are not known for their slap shot power.
NHL 21 Reactions — Be A Pro Trailer
So, for a change, there are no negative comments here. Admittedly, I am not someone who really cares that much about Be A Pro modes, but it is nice to finally see the NHL game getting a upgrade in that department. Yes, I would rather see focus elsewhere, but in 2020 this should be a standard in-depth feature in sports games so I get why EA went this route.
The mode looks like it should be short and sweet, but with real-time expectations, season stories and monumental moments that could make the mode’s depth pretty silky. My main hesitation will be seeing if your players decisions actually do carry the necessary weight.
As NHL 21 gets closer to release, I am certain there will be more reactions and lists to discuss. For now, what things have you noticed or been frustrated by? What would your lists look like?