As the calendar crawls through the month of August and into September, hockey fans begin to feel the itch that hockey season is nearly here. One of the signifying events that, yes indeed, hockey season is back is the annual release of EA Sports’ NHL franchise. This year’s installment drops on Sept. 15 and looks to, as it always seems, be the series’ best year yet.
Boasting a deeper franchise mode, expansion elements, a more in-depth Be A Pro mode, new game-play physics, and of course the EASHL community getting more attention, NHL 18 will again be a can’t miss for any hockey gamer.
NHL 18 Ratings Overhaul
One of the things that EA does well with the NHL franchise is get people hyped for it through ratings reveals. Whether it is on purpose or just coincidence, the ratings reveals seem to happen at the same time as the always popular NHL Network player rankings lists that every hockey fan loves in the dog days of summer. We have all died on those NHL Network hills at least once, be honest.
In previous seasons, the EA NHL franchise has been pretty generous with their ratings system. While it doesn’t get the attention that a Madden or FIFA does, the NHL franchise does their best to give a fair representation of the world’s players with the tools they are given. In NHL 18, the game developers made it a point to re-vamp the ratings system to make it feel more realistic.
As a whole, player overalls will be lower and more spread out than they have been in previous years. There are a few reasons for this change happening.
First, it spreads out the talent from first liners to fourth liners to improve Franchise Mode logic. This means that there is a more defined gap between a player’s value in Franchise Mode and will affect any player transaction from trades to waivers.
Since talent is more spread out throughout the league, it also allows the superstars like Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby to be even more valuable to have on your team. The top stars provide you with an advantage, so you will want to do your best to have a superstar player on your team.
Finally, top prospects like Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier will be ready to step into the NHL straight out of the NHL Entry Draft. This will allow for more authentic drafting as generally the top picks out of every NHL Entry Draft class are able to step in and make an impact in the NHL.
With the new ratings system, NHL 18 looks to eliminate the over-saturation of elite-level talent around the league and make the “real” elite talent shine. Additionally, having top-end prospects be more NHL-ready in the game makes franchise mode drafting more important for teams with picks outside of the top 10-15 selections. The ratings overhaul should make for a more interesting dynamic in NHL 18 when selecting teams to beat your buddies with or when building a franchise.
Four Blackhawks make the top 50
With all this said, what are the Chicago Blackhawks ratings in the newest installment of the NHL franchise?
First, with the revamp of the ratings, every player in the game took a hit to their overall ratings. Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby lead the top players in the game, both rated 93 overall. In contrast, last season Jonathan Toews was rated 94 overall and was behind Crosby for the top center in NHL 17. So yes, every player has been rated lower than in previous games. For the Blackhawks, there is representation from four top players: Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford.
Top Players: Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby (93 OVR)
Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews (89 OVR)
The Blackhawks still have one of the best players at the center position with captain Jonathan Toews. As mentioned before, last season Toews was the second-highest rated player at the Center position in NHL 17 but in NHL 18, Toews falls to fifth place. Obviously EA Sports has noticed the dip in production from Toews, but as they are a sensible bunch, still believe he is one of the best in the league.
Top Player: Alex Ovechkin (92 OVR)
Not surprising here that the Blackhawks only position with no top-10 representation is the left wing. The Blackhawks traded Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad over the Summer and lost their top player at the position. Panarin, now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, ranked 7th overall at the position with an 86 overall rating. 10th on the list was Colorado Avalanche Captain Gabriel Landeskog at 85 overall, so it would seem that Saad either didn’t make the top-10 as an 85 overall or is rated lower than that. The full ratings list is still yet to be released.
Top Player: Patrick Kane (91 OVR)
Blackhawks: Patrick Kane (91 OVR)
THAT’S HOCKEY BABY! Patrick Kane comes in at numero uno for right wingers in NHL 18 and doubles as Chicago’s highest rated player in the game. Kane also topped the right wing position in NHL 17. He remains one of the best players in the league and should stay that way for the foreseeable future. With the loss of Marian Hossa, who cracked NHL 17’s top-10 last season, Kane is the only wing the Blackhawks have in the top-20. He beat out NHL 17 cover athlete Vladimir Tarasenko for the top spot at the position by 1 overall rating. Subsequently, with the NHL Network’s rankings of the top-20 wingers in the league right now, Kane topped that list too.
Top Players: Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty (91 OVR)
Blackhawks: Duncan Keith (90 OVR)
One of the most talent-heavy positions along with Center, Defensemen are again at a premium in NHL 18. The Blackhawks blue-line this season is thin on depth, but leading the way is two-time Norris Trophy winner, Duncan Keith. At 90 overall, Keith missed out on top spot honors by just 1 overall point. He is one of only five defenders rated at 90 or better along with Karlsson, Doughty, Brent Burns, and Victor Hedman. The 5th ranking is a small drop from 3rd in NHL 17 for Keith. He’ll be leaned on heavily by the Blackhawks this season and his rating in NHL 18 reflects how important he is to the franchise.
Top Player: Carey Price (92 OVR)
Blackhawks: Corey Crawford (87 OVR)
While not a part of the NHL Network’s top-10 goalies list, Corey Crawford lands at 9th in NHL 18 for goalies at 87 overall. A fair value for two-time Stanley Cup Champion Crawford, he’ll once again be the lead in net for the Blackhawks after the departure of Scott Darling leaves no offseason questions in net. It is a slight drop from being the 7th highest rated goalie in NHL 17 for Crawford. NHL 18 log-jammed the mid-level starting goalies with only two players rated 90 or better with Braden Holtby at 90 overall and Carey Price, the highest rated goalie in the game, at 92 overall.
The Blackhawks will undoubtedly be one of the favorite teams to play with in NHL 18, again, with the top-end talent on their roster. When EA Sports revealed their Top-50 players in the game overall, all four Blackhawks mentioned above landed on the list with Crawford 44th, Toews 23rd, Keith 16th, and Kane 7th.
NHL 18 hits the shelves on Sept. 15. The Blackhawks host Training Camp Fest on the same day at the United Center and play their first preseason game on Sept. 19 in Columbus. Hockey season is right around the corner. It has been way too long.