The 2017 NHL Awards and Expansion Draft had hockey fans glued to their television sets on Wednesday night. Not only were favorite players receiving the League’s most coveted awards, but the Vegas Golden Knights’ roster was finally drafted.
If that wasn’t enough, EA Sport used the spotlight to unveil the newest edition of their hockey video game franchise: NHL 18.
Cover: Connor McDavid
The cover of EA Sports’ NHL video game is often reserved for the League’s best players. Past players include Martin Brodeur, Patrice Bergeron, Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Toews. This year is no different with Hart, Art Ross, and Ted Lindsay Trophy winner Connor McDavid featured on the cover.
McDavid is one of the youngest players to receive the honour, but he is deserving. With 148 points in just 127 career NHL games, McDavid has become one of the NHL’s most popular young players. He is also responsible for leading the Edmonton Oilers to the postseason for the first time since 2005.
Oilers fans don’t need to worry, however. Unlike EA Sports’ Madden NFL series, the covers of the NHL video games are not prone to bad luck. The first overall pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft will be just fine.
Trailer: ‘Built For the New NHL’
NHL 18’s trailer gave a lot of information about the game. With the slogan “Built for the new NHL” the trailer starts out with phrases a hockey player might hear from his coach on the bench: “Work hard out there,” “Act like a gentleman,” “Keep it simple…”
Next, the words “Welcome to the New Generation of Tradition” appear on the screen. Fans witness that new generation of tradition throughout the remainder of the trailer.
— EA SPORTS NHL (@EASPORTSNHL) June 22, 2017
The trailer boasts that the game is “built for” various hockey attributes such as “creativity,” “speed,” and “skill.” The visuals seem to support these claims as flashes of insane dekes, passes and goals are keyed in on.
Defense is also a major theme in the NHL 18 trailer. Sweeping stick checks, outstanding positioning and hitting are all featured.
Another game mode seems to have been revamped according to the trailer. This arcade-style, 3-on-3 play seems to be polished with new jerseys as well as a futuristic stadium with boards that light up and fire shooting towards the rafters after a goal.
New NHL 18 Features
New features of NHL 18 have been announced on EA Sports’ website.
Deking, as it was in the trailer, seems to be the focus of the new video game. In past editions, players were left with only a handful of moves at their disposal to undress the League’s top defensemen. According to the website, players will be able to chain together moves as well as complete between-the-leg shots and one-handed dekes.
A brand-new feature showcased in NHL 18 is the “defensive skill stick.” Players were limited to simple poke checks in past editions of the video game series. Not anymore. The defensive skill stick allows players to disrupt forwards by sweeping the stick to cover passing lanes. This is similar to what holding the poke-check button has done in past games, but should give gamers more control over their player and be more user-friendly.
“Creative A.I.” is another feature highlighted on the website. The makers claim that the game’s computer-controlled players will be using the new dekes and defensive mechanisms available against the game’s human players. The A.I. will also be better at positioning themselves during a breakout and will have improved passing skills. For example, A.I. players will more accurately lead their teammates when making a pass based on positioning, speed and direction.
New Game Modes
EA Sports also announced that the series’ most popular game mode, the EA Sports Hockey League, will be receiving an update. After being completely renovated in past editions, the EASHL will feature a 3-on-3 option.
While you were forced to play with the A.I. on your team if you didn’t have a five-player squad in past games, NHL 18 will allow you to jump into a 3-on-3 game for clubs with less human players. This will give players more space to showcase some of the game’s newest features like the deking and defensive mechanics.
NHL 18 will also feature a hockey training camp. The website claims that this mode will allow you to be successful upon purchasing the game and will feature real-life videos from pros.
These videos will be available in the game’s On-Ice trainer and the game’s Coaching Feedback featured throughout game modes such as Be-A-Pro and Franchise mode. After the pros teach you some new skills, you can put them to the test through a series of challenges.
Lastly, NHL 18 will feature an Expansion Draft mode. This feature will be available in the Franchise game mode and will allow you to create and draft the NHL’s 32nd team.
You can pick up EA Sports NHL 18 in stores on September 15th for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.