EA Sports released the latest edition of its annual NHL video game on September 15, which means it’s time to take a peek at its player ratings and heavily scrutinize them, which, as fans, is what we do best. Fans love NHL 18 player ratings almost as much as Trump love TV ratings! (I'll show myself out.)
As per usual, the latest ratings are full of head-scratchers, and part of today’s list will be taking a look at some of the more befuddling ratings that the good folks over at EA have made this year. The other part of the list—since we’re all about equal opportunity here—will focus of the ratings that EA nailed this time around.
We all have our built-in biases here, as since we’re all hockey fans we all have our favorite players and also our favorite whipping boys. I’m not immune to these prejudices either, but I tried to set them aside for this purpose. I may have failed here.
How did your favorite players fare in the updated NHL 18 rankings? Perhaps your guy made our list today, which is comprised of the 10 most outrageous ratings in NHL 18, and the 10 ratings that they absolutely nailed:
20. Joke: Connor McDavid/Sidney Crosby (93)
The first entry is a dual entry, and the reason I combined it into one is because I find their ratings to be outrageous for the exact same reasons. It’s not the fact that Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby rank 1st and 2nd overall, respectively, that bothers me. It’s the fact that there are 14 other players who are within three overall rating points of the world’s two best players.
McDavid and Crosby (both with 93 ratings) are the two best players on Earth right now, and it isn’t even close. I understand that Evgeni Malkin, Carey Price and Alex Ovechkin are all super good at hockey, but are they really just one measly point behind McDavid/Crosby? Since McDavid and Crosby are in a league of their own, the ratings should reflect that, and they do not.
19. Bang On: Hampus Lindholm (86)
I have an appreciation for defensemen who fly under the radar, and very few do so as well as Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm. To my pleasant surprise, EA Sports has recognized Lindholm’s understated game with a stellar rating of 86. Of all players under the age of 23, Lindholm’s rating is 9th best, and I’d say that’s pretty bang-on for the young Swede.
Lindholm earns this rating by being very competent in almost every facet of the game. His rating isn’t really elite anywhere, (his highest is 91 in Def Awareness), but he maintains a stellar overall rating thanks to over-average ratings elsewhere. Lindholm’s an excellent skater, and that’s well reflected with his 4.5 star rating in that category, and he ranges from 86-88 in all skating sub categories.
18. Joke: Anze Kopitar (89)
Anze! I actually sort of hate to call them out on this one, as I do believe that Anze Kopitar is primed for a bounce back year after such a dismal 2016-17 season. Kopitar recorded just 54 points last year, which amounts to his worst total in his career (lockout season notwithstanding, though he did manage 42 points in 47 games that year).
With all this in mind, EA still rated Kopitar as the 11th best center in the entire game, and 24th overall (his rating is 89). Did the folks at EA simply ignore the Slovenian’s most recent sample? Or are they assuming that he will bounce back to his regular form? I wouldn’t bet against Kopitar, but that said rating him so highly before the season even starts is counting your chickens before they’ve hatched.
17. Bang On: Cam Talbot (87)
With all the hoopla surrounding Connor McDavid in Edmonton, I’ve sort of believed that goaltender Cam Talbot wasn’t getting the love he deserved, especially for his exemplary play last season. The good folks at EA actually seem to agree with that assessment, as they ranked Talbot as the 10th best goalie in the league, which is very close to where I ranked him in a list of the league’s starting goalies last week.
Talbot was rated above average across the board, though not top-tier in any category in particular—his highest rating in any subcategory is 89, his lowest 84. Overall he scored a solid 87 rating, which is great, but I do question his rather low rating of 85 for durability. The guy played more games than any other goalie last year, and did so healthy and without regression in play.
2 Joke: Eric Staal (85)
Eric Staal had had a few disappointing seasons prior to 2016-17, but his last season was really great, as he posted 65 points for the Minnesota Wild. After scoring just 39 in 2015-16, that was more than the Wild could have hoped for. That said, the people at EA overcompensated for his stellar campaign, and they’ve ranked him 85 overall.
What’s curious here is that Staal is labeled as a left winger in the game, which as far as I know is inaccurate. He did spend some time on the wing last season, but he also played center and he’s been a center his entire life. If we do accept Staal as a left wing, his rating is the 9th highest among left wingers in the game. Really, EA?
15. Bang On: Corey Crawford (87)
Much like Talbot in Edmonton, Corey Crawford seems to get the Rodney Dangerfield treatment in Chicago. He’s backstopped the ‘Hawks to two Stanley Cup championships, yet all the praise seems to get heaped onto the trio of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. The good folks at EA recognized this injustice, and they gave Crawford the 9th best rating among goalies.
At 87 overall, Crawford rates just above Talbot but just below Tuukka Rask, and I’d say that’s some pretty good company to keep. Crawford manages to score elite in a few categories, specifically in the subcategory “vision,” in which the folks at EA have given Crawford a 92 rating. Of course no one really knows what these subcategories specifically mean, but I support the support for Crawford nonetheless.
14. Joke: Henrik Lundqvist (88)
I’m not here to take a crap all over the King, but I will go on to say I don’t think he’s still the 6th best goalie in the NHL, but alas that is where EA ranked him in NHL 18. With an 88 overall rating, Henrik Lundqvist has obviously been ranked with his career accomplishments in mind rather than what we can expect in 2017-18 from the 35-year-old Swede.
When I ranked all of the NHL’s starting goalies last week, I still gave Hank some love—I placed him well inside the top half as the 13th best goalie—but I feel like the people at EA HQ are a little too bullish on Lundqvist here. He’s struggled to stay healthy for the past few seasons, and his save percentage last season was .910, below league average and well below his career average of .920.
13. Bang On: John Tavares (90)
John Tavares does his thing quietly for the New York Islanders these days, but he does them effectively. The folks down at EA have recognized this, as they’ve rated him as the 5th best center in the league, tagging JT with an overall rating of 90. Despite his point totals taking a bit of a dip, Tavares is hands down still an elite center, and he’s carried the top line in NYI ever since arriving in 2009.
According to EA’s ratings of Tavares, the man is just a wizard with the puck. He scores 94 in all subcategories under the “Puck Skills” heading, and his ratings under the “Shooting” heading range from 91 to 94, so he’s elite across the board there, too. If I were creating a dynasty team in NHL 18, I’d certainly consider building it around Tavares.
1 Joke: Jonathan Toews (89)
I feel like I rag on Jonathan Toews a lot here at TheSportster. One would think I dislike the player, but that’s not true at all. He’s very good, but he’s simply overrated by the masses and I will not rest until the vast majority of the public agrees with me. The people at EA rated him as the 10th best center in the league, which is probably lower than most Toews-enthusiasts would place him, but not low enough for me. They’ve given Toews an 89 rating.
I Suppose I should find solace in the fact that there no longer seems to be public debate about who is a better leader and player between Sid and Toews. That was always a crazy debate, but Crosby’s back-to-back Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe wins have put the cork in that chatter.
11. Bang On: Leon Draisaitl (87)
Leon! The hockey world is bullish on the Deutschland Dangler, and why not? He put on a heck of a show in the second round seven-game loss to the Ducks, including a beast-like five point performance in Game 6 in Edmonton. The contract extension GM Peter Chiarelli signed the big center to this summer was a little rich for my blood, but I have no arguments with the 87 rating EA has given him for NHL 18.
Draisaitl’s rating puts him 4th among all players under the age of 23 in the game, and that’s just about right. He’d be 4th if I were to make that list as well (although the three ahead of him would differ by one player—more on that later). Draisaitl scores highest on his puck skills and his shooting skills, which is fair because the kid is a magician with the disc.
10. Outrageous: Auston Matthews (87)
Auston Matthews is no Connor McDavid, but I’d say he’s definitely worth at least a 90 rating. Unfortunately, the folks down at EA weren’t ready to take the plunge on Matthews and gave him a rating of 87, which is good, but not great. He barely cracks the top 40 overall (he sits 39th), and many players rated above him have no business being there.
As a fan up here in Canada, I find it odd that I’m actually writing about how a Toronto Maple Leaf went underrated somewhere, but here we sit. Perhaps the American hockey media isn’t gaga over every Leaf these days like they are up here—I could be wrong, but that treatment seems reserved for the Blackhawks. Anyway, the point of this all is to say that Matthews is underrated in NHL 18.
9. Bang On: Cory Schneider (89)
Another goalie who doesn’t seem to get the love he deserves is Cory Schneider. While Talbot and Crawford don’t get the love they deserve thanks to elite forwards on their teams hogging all the love, Schneider goes unloved because he is on a crappy team that can’t seem to win hockey games. EA Sports seems to recognize that fact with the 89 overall rating they gave the netminder, including five star ratings in reflexes, puck control, and athleticism.
Of all goaltenders in NHL 18, Schneider ranks fourth highest, behind Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, and Carey Price. That’s an impressive group of players to be lumped in with, and I’m sure Schneider won’t mind the accolade. Now, if only the Devils could find ways to curb the 10-bell scoring chances against and maybe even score a few goals…
8. Joke: Gabriel Landeskog (85)
I have to be honest, I must not fully understand the system in which EA uses to rate some of these players. In some cases, they seem to weigh heavy on immediacy, whereas in others they seem to completely ignore a player’s most recent sample size. Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog is fresh off the worst season of his career—by far—yet that didn’t seem to matter when it came to Landeskog’s NHL 18 rating.
It’s true that the Colorado Avalanche as a whole had a historically awful season in 2016-17, so perhaps EA is cutting Landeskog some slack here, assuming that his personal boxcars were diminished thanks to environment. Nonetheless, is that really worth an 85 rating—a rating that places him 10th overall for his left-wing position?
7. Bang On: Evgeni Malkin (92)
Playing his whole career in the shadow of Sidney Crosby, some people don’t quite understand just how good Evgeni Malkin is at the game of hockey. Those who watch him regularly understand that he’s probably the third best player in the league today behind Crosby and McDavid, and that’s exactly where EA sports has him, with a sparkling rating of 92 overall.
Seriously, Malkin’s career numbers would probably be better than they already are (832 points in 706 games) if he wasn’t always playing second fiddle to Crosby. Look no further than 2011-12 when Crosby played only 22 games and Malkin played 75, winning the Art Ross and Hart trophy in Sid’s absence. The only suspect rating for Malkin is the durability rating of 87. Seems high for a guy who plays 60 games a year like clockwork.
6. Joke: Matt Murray (88)
Alright, so if Talbot and Crawford are only great because of the team in front of them, how come Matt Murray is viewed as God’s gift to goaltending? Murray recently set an NHL record as the only goalie to ever win the Cup twice as a rookie, so that could be why. People seem to ignore the fact that Murray did so with two of the best players on the planet skating in front of him, though.
EA sports gave Murray an overall rating of 88, which means he’s apparently the 5th best goalie in the whole league. Give me a gosh-darn break. I for one am quite interested to see how 2017-18 goes for the “sophomore,” as he no longer has the Marc-Andre Fleury safety net behind him. Goalies are head cases—will this affect Murray? We’ll see, but either way this rating is too high for me.
5. Bang On: Sergei Bobrovsky (89)
Sergei Bobrovsky has had some health issues in the past, and he ended up missing most of 2015-16 with injuries. Some were unsure of how the Russian netminder would bounce back in 2017-18, but he silenced his critics with an incredible season, ultimately backstopping the Blue Jackets to their best season ever and taking home the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the NHL.
The good people at EA headquarters rewarded Bobrovsky with a shiny rating of 89, making him the third-ranked goalie in the new edition of the game. This is dead on, and I’m glad to see EA Sports recognize the great players in smaller markets, unlike the mainstream media (FAKE NEWS!). If Bobs can stay healthy, he’ll remain an elite goalie in the NHL . That’s a big “if”, though…
4. Joke: Shea Weber (89)
Okay, everybody needs to calm down on Shea Weber. At this point in his career he is a great power play quarterback, a solid even-strength defender (NOT attacker), and that’s it. His possession numbers at even strength are actually below average, but I don’t want to trigger the eye-test fan base so I won’t get into that. The point is that Weber is good at this point in his career, but not great.
So why did EA sports rank the defenseman as the 7th best D-man in the entire league (89 overall rating)? I have no idea, really. He scored very high in the “Physical” section, which could be boosting his overall average, but quite frankly I can name about 15 defensemen in the NHL I’d rather have on my squad. Heck, he’s rated higher than P.K. Subban, and most people agree that he’s better than Weber by now. Right?
3. Bang On: Taylor Hall (87)
Taylor Hall has had one constant throughout his NHL career: he’s played on terrible teams. When it comes to individual player ratings in video games, the team one plays on shouldn’t negatively affect his rating, and this is a great example of how EA hasn’t let that cloud their judgment. They gave Hall a stellar rating of 87, the third-highest handed out to a left winger.
Hall had a bit of an off year in 2016-17, but granted it was his first with the Devils. New team, new conference—things aren’t going to magically fall into place. He’ll fare better in 2016-17, hopefully shutting up all the Oilers fans who log on to claim that he was a “dressing room cancer” and that he was a selfish player. It’s always amazing to me how much these people know about a situation from which they were fully removed.
2. Joke: Ryan Suter (89)
If I was surprised to see that EA had rated Weber as the 7th best defenseman in the league, you can imagine my shock and awe when I saw they rated Ryan Suter one spot higher. Yes, Suter is a good and dare I say almost great defenseman. But top 6 in the NHL and therefore the world? I have a hard time getting there.
EA Sports rates Suter an 89 overall, which is a fair rating for Suter circa 2011. Today, giving him an 89 is a classic example of rating a player based mostly on performances from years past, and not what you can expect from the player going forward. If Suter was given a rating of just a few points lower, I would have probably accepted it and moved on. But he’s not quite a top 10 in the league anymore, so 6th is obviously too high.
1. Bang On: Erik Karlsson (91)
Erik Karlsson is a two time Norris Trophy winner (2012 and 2015), and in reality he should probably be a four time winner. He scored 82 points in 2015-16 but lost to Drew Doughty in what was more of a career recognition award than for Doughty’s performance in 2015-16 alone. Then, he lost out to Brent Burns last season, although Karlsson’s all-around game was superior to Big Foot’s by most accounts.
Karlsson was justifiably given the top rating among defensemen in NHL 18, so at least EA Sports recognizes that he’s the best player at his position in the game today. His 91 overall rating places him 6th overall in the NHL, just ahead of Patrick Kane and just behind Alex Ovechkin. I would probably flip those two players, but either way Karlsson is rated justly in the 2018 edition.