NHL 18 has been out for over two months now and we’re also almost two months into the 2017-18 NHL regular season. As such, poor player ratings by EA Sports are becoming increasingly clear, whether it’s overrated stars or underappreciated young talent. We get player ratings aren’t an exact science, but EA Sports has been attempting to perfect its ratings system for over 20 years and it still seems as if they don’t have a clue what they’re doing; or, at the very least, they don’t have a system in place to develop fair and accurate ratings. You would think they would have some sort of complex system, but it appears year after year that they just look at statistics and toss out a random number. Although, there’s also a case to be made that they might even ignore statistics in some years and just hand a player a high rating based on reputation alone.
It’s not even just the overall rating that is flawed – it’s the individual attribute ratings. For instance, Ryan Suter is a top-ten defenseman in the game with an 89 overall rating, and while that’s not that egregious, it’s a little strange to see he has ratings of 88 for speed and 82 for deking. His defensive numbers should be off the charts, as should his shot and maybe even playmaking, but the 32 year old doesn’t quite have the speed or offensive creativity his ratings suggest.
15. Low Ball: Jeff Skinner (84)
Maybe it’s because of where he plays, but Jeff Skinner doesn’t get much love from EA Sports; in fact, he’s criminally underrated among media members and fans as well. The 25 year old is one of the fastest skaters in the league and has been a consistent offensive force since joining the league as an 18 year old rookie in 2010. However, he plays in Carolina so he is often overlooked.
The Toronto native scored 31 goals as a rookie and, save for an 18-goal season in 2014-15, has continued to produce at that rate throughout his career. In fact, he scored a career-high 37 goals in 2016-17, which was only five less than league-leader Sidney Crosby, and already has nine goals through 21 games this year. His combination of skill and speed should have him at least a few points higher.
14. Overrate: Shea Weber (89)
Let’s begin this not by discussing Shea Weber’s rating, but the player he was traded for over a year ago – P.K. Subban. The Nashville Predators defenseman has an overall rating of 87, which is probably pretty accurate if not a point too low. Meanwhile, Weber has an 89 overall rating, which is one of the highest among defenseman in the game. For starters, Subban is a better all-around defenseman than Weber, so there’s a glaring mistake already.
Diving further into the numbers, Weber had a down year in 2016-17, his first with the Canadiens, posting 42 points as opposed to the 52 he registered the year prior. He’s been slowing down over the past few seasons, yet still has an 85 speed and acceleration rating. He’s still a solid defenseman, but speed should be weighted more significantly given the pace of today’s game – and Weber’s speed rating should be below 80.
13. Low Ball: Sebastian Aho (82)
Is Carolina a great hockey team and market? Not exactly. But that shouldn’t excuse EA Sports from completely missing the mark when it comes to evaluating the team’s roster. They pretty badly on Jeff Skinner and did the same with second-year player Sebastian Aho, who received an 82 overall rating after scoring 24 goals and adding 25 assists as a rookie. It wouldn’t have been hard to expect Aho was going to continue to improve (he has 18 points in 21 games this season) as he is the catalyst for the team’s offense and has had success on the international stage.
But even taking only his rookie season into account, Aho should have at least been given an 84 overall. He’s clearly one of the most skilled young players in the game and that much is evident if you watch a single Hurricanes games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as if any of EA Sports’ developers did that.
12. Overrate: Henrik Lundqvist (88)
Evaluating Henrik Lundqvist is a tricky task because he’s been so inconsistent over the past few seasons. Once one of the most dominating goaltenders in the league, the former Vezina Trophy winner posted a career-worst 2.48 goals against average in 2015-16. If that wasn’t a sign for EA Sports to lower his overall rating, the 2.74 goals against average he posted in 2016-17 should have been. Beyond that, he had a career-worst .910 save percentage last season.
He had a disastrous start to the season and only kept his numbers looking semi-respectable with a strong finish. He hasn’t shown much improvement through 20 games this season, which isn’t a surprise. Yet, he still owns an 88 overall rating in NHL 18, which makes him the sixth best goalie in the game.
11. Low Ball: Vincent Trocheck (83)
Are you beginning to notice a trend? Like Carolina, Florida isn’t exactly a prime hockey market, so it’s reasonable for the average fan to overlook the team’s talented players. However, EA Sports should obviously be held more accountable than the average fan, especially in regard to Vincent Trocheck’s rating.
A 24 year old native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Trocheck has 22 points through 22 games this season and has easily been one of the Panthers’ best players, which makes his 83 overall rating seem incredibly low at this point. He’s certainly on pace for a deserving ratings bump in NHL 19, but he should have easily been an 84 or 85 in NHL 18 after posting back-to-back 50-plus point seasons for a terrible Panthers team. In fact, he was somehow an 85 overall in NHL 17, but saw his rating drop two points despite scoring at the same pace in 2016-17.
10. Overrate: Patrice Bergeron (89)
We can’t stress enough how great Patrice Bergeron is at playing a complete, 200-foot game. He’s one of the league’s best players in the face off circle and is a dominating defensive presence with his ability to read the play and stay tight to his man in the defensive zone – he is, after all, a four-time winner of the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. However, his 2016-17 season didn’t warrant an 89 overall.
EA Sports at least dropped him from a 90 overall the year prior, but regardless of how good he is defensively, a 53-point season doesn’t earn one an 89 overall. Vincent Trocheck, who we previously discussed, received an 83 rating for a 54-point season. Does being a strong defensive player (which hardly translates to video games) deserve one a six-point increase in overall rating? We don’t think so.
9. Low Ball: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (87)
Again, it’s the team in the poor hockey market that suffers from poor player ratings. On the surface, the 87 overall rating for Oliver Ekman-Larsson isn’t that far off. He could certainly be one or two overall points higher, but it’s not one of EA Sports’ worst marks. What makes it terrible, however, is his rating compared to other defensemen in the game.
OEL falls outside of the top-ten ranked blueliners in the game, despite the fact most analysts and experts would rank him as a potential Norris Trophy candidate each year if he played on a capable team. Instead, he’s rated below the likes of Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Ryan Suter, and Duncan Keith, who are all on the back-nine of their career. OEL, meanwhile, is a 26 year old offensive-minded blueliner who has scored over 20 goals twice in his career. Put him on any other team in the league besides the disaster that is Arizona and he’s a regular Norris candidate.
8. Overrate: Gabriel Landeskog (85)
This is another example of a player continuing to thrive in regard to EA Sports player ratings based on past performances. A former Calder Trophy winner, Gabriel Landeskog is the captain of the Colorado Avalanche and was on an impressive career trajectory after producing 65 points in 81 games as a 22 year old in the 2013-14 season, but it has been downhill ever since. The Swede followed that up with 59 points in 2014-15; 53 points in 2015-16; and a career-worst (in a full 82-game season) 33 points in 2016-17.
Yet, Landeskog has an 85 overall rating in NHL 18, making him better than the likes of previously-mentioned forwards who recorded 50-plus points. Unlike OEL, who also plays on an awful team, Landeskog wasn’t simply along for the ride last season – he was one of the biggest disappointments in regard to overall team success.
7. Low Ball: Johnny Gaudreau (87)
This one might be a bit unexpected, but hear us out. Player ratings in NHL 18 – and subsequent releases by EA Sports – should be all about speed and offensive skill. How many times have you been playing and noticed a player like Patrice Bergeron making remarkable defensive plays? In a three-on-three game, how many of you would select Bergeron over someone as fast and talented as Johnny Gaudreau? Yet, Gaudreau, who is one of the most talented offensive players in the league, isn’t even one of the top ten ranked wingers in NHL 18.
Two seasons ago, Gaudreau had 78 points in 79 games. His numbers dipped to 61 points in 72 games last season, but he was still just as dangerous every time he stepped on the ice. You can expect his rating to possibly reach 90 by NHL 19 if he continues the pace he is on this season; through 23 games, the Salem, New Jersey native has 34 points.
6. Overrate: Alex Ovechkin (92)
This one might be the most egregious of all player ratings, at least entering the 2017-18 season. If Ovechkin continues his current pace in goal scoring this season (he has 18 goals through 25 games) it might be a case of EA Sports holding firm in its belief that Ovechkin is still one of the best goal scorers of the game, and we would have to applaud them for thinking that, especially as most analysts essentially wrote him off after a 33-goal season in 2016-17, which was down significantly after three consecutive 50-goal seasons.
However, past season performance should matter, and Ovechkin’s wasn’t even close to deserving of a 92 overall rating, which, by the way, makes him one of the best players in the game. Beyond the drop in scoring, he was noticeably slower last season and much easier to defend. A strong off-season workout regiment seems to have changed that early in the 2017-18 season, but we’ll have to see if that holds up throughout the year.
5. Low Ball: John Klingberg (85)
John Klingberg is among the highest-scoring defenseman in the league this season, and while that alone isn’t enough to earn him better than the 85 overall rating he was given, it’s safe to say his past history should have made him at least an 87 or 88 overall. As we’ve stressed, offensive creativity should hold more weight than physicality or defensive positioning, and Klingberg has been one of the league’s best puck-moving and offensive defenseman for the past three seasons.
The 25 year old Swede recorded 40 points in 65 games as a rookie in 2014-15 and followed that up with seasons of 58 and 49 points. Additionally, despite playing on a poor defensive team in Dallas, he has had a positive plus/minus rating every season.
4. Overrate: Jonathan Toews (89)
Jonathan Toews falls into the same category as Patrice Bergeron in that he is overrated based on his reputation and past accomplishments. And don’t get us wrong, Toews is still quite a valuable player but, not taking anything away from his carer, there’s no way he’s an 89 overall, especially when players with far more speed and skill such as Johnny Gaudreau and Jeff Skinner are rated considerably lower. Toews is one of the best leaders in the game, but leadership doesn’t translate to video games.
In regard to offensive skill, Toews recorded 58 points in each of the past two seasons. Last year, he scored only 21 goals, which was the lowest mark of his ten-year career. He’s on pace for a similar goal total this season, proving the 29 year old’s best days are well behind him.
3. Low Ball: Brad Marchand (87)
Proving the inconsistencies in EA Sports’ rating system is the difference between Brad Marchand and players like Jonathan Toews and Shea Weber, who earn ratings increases based on physical play, defensive ability, and perceived leadership qualities. By all accounts, Marchand is a quality defensive player and arguably one of the hardest (or most annoying) players to play against. He’s constantly in the opposition’s face and, if there was a chirping attribute in NHL, it’s clear he would have a rating of 99.
And, unlike Toews, who has failed to crack 60 points in each of the past two seasons, Marchand is continually improving his offensive game. He recorded 61 points in 2015-16 and was one of the league’s leading scorers in 2016-17 with 85 points. It makes absolutely zero sense that he’s two overall points behind Toews.
2. Overrate: Jack Eichel (87)
Honest question: if you had to pick one player in a one-game situation to give your team a better chance to win would you select Brad Marchand or Jack Eichel? Chances are you didn’t hesitate in selecting Marchand, yet you might be surprised to believe the players share the same overall rating in NHL 18. In fact, as grossly overrated as Toews is, you can still make the argument he should be rated higher than Eichel.
Aside from his off-ice concerns and perceived label as a coach killer, Eichel has failed to meet expectations on the ice through two-and-a-half seasons in the league. He appeared on pace to break out last season as he thrived down the stretch and finished with 57 points in 61 games, but is struggling so far in 2016-17 and was even recently demoted to the third line.
1. Low Ball: Jaden Schwartz (84)
We’ll admit, this one is mostly in hindsight given Jaden Schwartz’ unbelievable start to the 2017-18 season, but there was already a strong case to be made that the 25 year old Wilcox, Saskatchewan native could have been rated a few points higher. The former 14th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft has topped 55 points in three of the past four seasons and the one season in which he didn’t was only because he was limited to 33 games. Beyond that, he has had strong showings in each of the past two years in the playoffs.
Perhaps taking offense to the 84 overall rating, Schwartz has been one of the best players in the league this season. Playing on a dominant line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn, he has 32 points through 24 games.
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