A topic of controversy when it comes to the NHL video game series is player ratings. Some are too high, some are too low, or the system for rating players is simply broken and inept. In the general game modes (offline, Online Versus, GM mode, etc.) there were 23 players who were given a rating or 90 or higher.
However, EA released the ratings for a handful of full-time NHLers last week, and for some, the ratings are just numbers. For others, they could be seen as direct shots at a players skill — or apparent lack thereof. Here’s a list of the ones that have been released so far.
Robert Thomas: 80 OVR
Thomas was a rookie last season and inserted himself nicely in the St. Louis Blues bottom-six. He had 33 points in 70 games — not a bad rookie year, but definitely not anything more than a third- or fourth-line rating. EA gave him an 80 overall; a fair rating for a player heading into his age-20 season.
Thomas, however, did not agree with his rating. In a moment of humorous discontent, Thomas said on Twitter, “At least they got my hair colour right.” I’m sure if Thomas has a breakout season his rating will increase, but for now, it’s the right mark.
It’s also worth noting EA used a graphic of his player hoisting the Stanley Cup. Not bad for a 20-year-old.
Kaapo Kakko: 81 OVR
Kakko was this year’s second-overall pick in the Entry Draft and his mark is based more on what’s he has done before playing in the NHL. He was nearly a point-per-game player in the SM-Liiga, or Finnish Elite League, which is nothing to sneeze at for someone who’s still just a kid.
If he lives up to the hype, his rating will go up with each new roster update. Expect his rating to go up to at least the mid-80s by the end of 2019.
Jack Hughes: 82 OVR
Had Kakko gone first overall, he and Hughes would have had their ratings flipped, but it also helps that Hughes, in general, has had more exposure than Kakko. However, 82 is still about right. It was the same rating Rasmus Dahlin — the No. 1-overall pick in 2019 — received when NHL 19 was released.
Although the rating system has changed over the last few installments, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews were each given 77 overalls for NHL 15 and 16, respectively. It seems EA is consistent with the ratings they give to first-overall picks — high enough to reward where they were drafted, but low enough so that it’s not blown out of proportion and leaves room for growth.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi: 82 OVR
Again, no funny reaction on Twitter, but another pretty accurate rating from EA. Kotkaniemi had 34 points in 79 games last season, which was his age-18 and rookie year. He was a third-overall pick in 2018, and it was a polarizing selection for Habs fans.
Kotkaniemi’s numbers are comparable to Thomas’, and I would have given the Canadiens center an 81 overall. But, an 82 is still fair because he was on a statistically worse team and still producing a touch above Thomas, and both were on the third line for their respective teams. Like the previous players, their ratings will increase as they figure out the speed and style of the NHL game.
Mats Zuccarello: 84 OVR
Now it’s down to the nitty-gritty. EA gave Zuccarello an 84 overall, one point less than he was given when NHL 19 was released. In 2017-18, he had 53 points in 80 games and was a top-six forward with the New York Rangers. However, he missed time last year due to injury and still had 40 points in 48 games between his time with the Rangers and Dallas Stars. He added 11 points in 13 Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Stars as well.
Zuccarello tweeted about the rating and took a hilarious shot at former teammate Mika Zibanejad in the process.
Zibanejad just replied with some laughing face emojis, but I tend to agree with Zuccarello. He was on pace to set a career-high in scoring — right around 70 points — and was a highly touted trade chip at the deadline. The 32-year-old was given a five-year, $30 million contract with the Minnesota Wild this offseason, and he deserved a higher rating. An 85 overall seems to be more in Zuccarello’s range, or even an 86, but that’s having a lot of expectations for a player on a new team. EA didn’t completely miss the mark, but he could be rated higher.
Brendan Gallagher: 84 OVR
When his rating was released, Gallagher simply asked the fans on Twitter what they thought. Most agreed that it was a low rating for a 30-goal scorer — even a Bruins fan said so. He’s had back-to-back 30-goal and 50-point seasons, but he’s never had more than 54 points in a season.
An 84 overall might be one number too low. However, I would hesitate to go any higher than an 85 because he has yet to put up a big point-producing season. He’s comparable to Zuccarello, and if he can be one of the Canadiens top three in scoring, he should see an increase to an 86 or even an 87 if he really finds his own.
Nazem Kadri: 84 OVR
Here is another case of EA going on the lower end so the player has room to grow throughout the season. Kadri had 44 points in 73 games last season, but he finds himself a new home in Colorado with the Avalanche. He has consistently put up at least 40 points for most of his career, and he’s even scored 30 goals twice.
Statistically, EA seems to give players who haven’t eclipsed 55 points an 84 overall rating and the opportunity to increase their player’s rating as their season develops. It’s a good mix of rewarding players like Kadri for what he has done, while leaving room for his player to increase their overall rating if they get better. EA hit the mark with Kadri.
Rasmus Dahlin: 85 OVR
Dahlin was the only defenseman who had his rating released, and for an 18-year-old kid in his first NHL season, he didn’t disappoint offensively. He posted nine goals and 35 assists for 44 points while playing over 21 minutes per game.
An 85 might actually be a point too low for Dahlin. He was one of 30 defensemen with 40 or more points while on a Buffalo Sabres team who had a very up and down 2018-19 season. So far, he’s proven to be a well-rounded defenseman in the NHL, and even fellow Swede Erik Karlsson said Dahlin was better than him at that age. An 86 overall might be more accurate because it puts him in an above-average category and he has elite potential as a franchise cornerstone.
Pierre-Luc Dubois: 85 OVR
As a 20-year-old last season, Dubois put up 27 goals and 34 assists for 61 points in 82 games. He also had 5 points in 10 playoff games, and based on the numbers, an 85 overall seems like a perfect number.
He also had one of the best tweets regarding his rating that I’ve seen.
Just to be clear, Dubois, EA isn’t underestimating you. They’re giving you a rating for your performance last season and will adjust accordingly if you play better this season. It will be interesting to see how the Columbus Blue Jackets do without Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, but there shouldn’t be any questions about Dubois. He should be right around 60 points again, and if he has a big year, he could potentially be a point-per-game player which, in my opinion, would warrant an 87 or 88 overall rating.
Gabriel Landeskog: 87 OVR
The Avalanche captain put up 75 points in 73 games last season and has had at least 50 points in six of his eight NHL seasons. Last year was his first 30-goal season, and all signs are pointing up for the team going into the 2019-20 season.
With this in mind, an 87 seems about right. Eighty points or 40 goals likely would have gotten him an 88 overall, and if he is on pace to hit those numbers this year, his rating could increase around the All-Star break.
As a whole, EA was pretty accurate with these ratings. There weren’t any outlandish marks for players — not yet, at least — but it seems EA is sticking to what their system was last year. Most of the ratings for younger players will be lower so the potential to increase their rating is available, whereas the ratings for established players are a mix of previous accomplishments and potential. It will be interesting to see the rest of the ratings when the full game is released on Sept. 13, or Sept. 10 for those who pre-ordered.