NHL 20: Do That Hockey Thing

by | Sep 13, 2019

It’s that most wonderful time of the year again, the time when every NHL team holds out hope that this will be the year that they raise Lord Stanley’s cherished chalice. And as the Cup-winning St. Louis Blues were literally in last place in the entire league on the morning of January 3rd, none of those teams’ fans’ hopes are completely unreasonable. Of course, it’s also time for the latest edition of EA Sports’ NHL video game. In recent years, EA’s NHL video games have consistently been amongst the best sports games available, giving significant competition to the likes of MaddenFIFA and even the venerable NBA2K. So how does this year’s game compare to NHL 19?

First and foremost, there have been some very notable improvements to the skating and shooting. Player movement is notably improved, and they glide on the ice with meaningfully-enhanced realism. In particular, it’s clear that the players are much more able to pick up the puck in motion, and the game’s flow is truly fantastic. NHL 20 also demonstrates a wide range of NHL stars’ unique shooting styles via the inclusion of 45 new contextual shot animations, and the result is a far more realistic visual experience

The AI is much improved this year, and in particular, it’s far more difficult to set up easy one-timer goals than it was with NHL 19. More often than not, AI defenders are well-positioned, and more strategic skating and passing is required in order to generate quality scoring chances. Goalies are also improved quite a bit, with a larger range of movements and more realistic AI. Of particular importance, rebounds are often strategically redirected as opposed to caroming off randomly (and often directly onto the stick of an opposing player). At the higher skill levels, goals will clearly be much more difficult to come by, and that’s a good thing.

The hugely popular THREES mode is back, and there are some terrific new arena options, including a frozen canal that evokes Canada’s lovely capital city. Much more “arcade” than “simulation,” THREES is a terrific pick-up-and play mode that’s particularly popular with younger gamers (especially when playing using the NHL teams’ mascots… yes, Gritty’s “In the Game”).

I have a love-hate relationship with Hockey Ultimate Team. It’s a fantastically entertaining game mode, enabling me to construct a team comprised of the same players who are on my fantasy hockey team, and to see how well they play together… But it is immensely frustrating to build up a terrific team only to have to start from square one with the next edition. It would be nice to have some continuity, perhaps giving HUT owners the opportunity to choose a certain number of “keepers”. This year’s mode offers a wide range of challenges that enable you to earn the coins needed to purchase packs (of players, coaches, uniforms, contracts, healing, etc.) and/or to purchase players directly from other HUT participants via the online auction.

The safe bet is that I will once again dive deep into HUT, but it’s possible that I will instead redirect my attention to Franchise Mode for the first time. Here’s an extended look at all that Franchise Mode has to offer.

And finally, there’s the CHEL mode, where you can create a player and then experience that player’s rise from pond hockey scrub to international superstar. With a huge assortment of gear and attire and multiple game modes (ONES ELIMINATOR, THREES, Pro-Am), this mode will definitely appeal to gamers old enough to remember the Tony Hawk and SSX games.

It’s no easy feat to have to consistently build upon a great game and make it worth the annual $60 investment, but EA Sports has definitely accomplished that with NHL 20. While there is plenty to be familiar with, including the intuitive Skill Stick controls, NHL 20 delivers plenty of “new” and “improved.” Far more than just a “roster update,” NHL 20 represents a substantial leap forward. Some improvements are pronounced and others more subtle, but the holistic result is a fantastic game that perfectly captures hockey’s energy and spirit. Game On!

Rating: 5 Pucks (Out of Five)


K’Andre Miller on the Verge of Stardom

K’Andre Miller on the Verge of Stardom

The New York Rangers have assembled a very talented, young roster, highlighted by a former Norris Trophy winner (Adam Fox), a defending Vezina Trophy winner (Igor Shesterkin), a recent first overall pick (Alexis Lafreniere) and a recent second overall draft pick (Kappo Kakko). But though all of those players are critical to the Blueshirts’ future, K’Andre Miller could turn out be the most important of all.

read more
NHL Future Power Rankings: Predicting best, worst teams for the next three seasons

Are the Avs and Lightning set up for long-term success? Which teams could shoot up the standings soon? How do teams with young stars fit in? [...]

Toronto out and Detroit in? Teams most likely to rise and fall in the playoff race

We identify the most vulnerable candidates in each division -- plus the non-playoff teams from last season that are ready to take their place. [...]

How NHL players would change the Stanley Cup playoffs

A move back to 1-8 conference seeding? Best-of-3 in early rounds? We checked in with more than a dozen stars for their opinions. [...]

Canadiens sign goalie Allen to 2-year extension

The Montreal Canadiens signed goaltender Jake Allen to a two-year, $7.7 million contract extension on Saturday. [...]

Ducks' Vaakanainen taken off ice on stretcher

Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim's preseason game against… [...]

Lightning, Magic donate to Hurricane Ian relief

The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts while the Orlando Magic are donating $1 million. [...]

Rasmus Sandin signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday. [...]

Flyers' Couturier dodges surgery as season nears

Despite not participating in any preseason games yet, Philadelphia veteran forward Sean Couturier will not need surgery on an upper-body injury, the Flyers said Wednesday, though he remains week-to-week. [...]

Leafs captain Tavares to miss beginning of season

John Tavares will be out at least three weeks with an oblique injury, Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said Tuesday. [...]

Sharks', Preds' Russian players a go for Prague

Russian players will be allowed to play in Prague when the Sharks and Predators meet. [...]

Ever wonder what it would be like if your everyday car was a ZAMBONI?!?!?

Wonder no longer…

Check out The Zambonis' latest hit, "Slow Whip"!