Tag Archive: NHL 17


We here at Hockey Achievements started our own EASHL team shortly after NHL 17 was released in September. Following up on our 6-week update from last month, we’re now taking a look at the mode and our own team in an EASHL 2016 Year in Review. We’ve put quite a bit more time into the mode over the last quarter calendar year, and here are our thoughts on the mode and how better to improve your game if you’re struggling.

POSITIONING: Since Hockey Achievements intern Travis joined the team; one important aspect of hockey has become startlingly clear and that is the aspect of positioning your players on the ice. Sure, the computer and human opponents will usually tend towards chasing the puck, but if your defenseman decides he’s going to pinch in on every play, your opponents will learn from this and often take advantage of it. Travis loves pinching as a defenseman because Hockey Achievements isn’t really known as an offensive powerhouse, winning most of our games by narrow 1-0, or 2-1 margins. Getting caught behind enemy forwards via some clever passing, however, can often lead to odd-man rushes back the other way. Luckily, we’ve been bailed out a few times via patch improvements made to our next observation.

GOALTENDING: November’s NHL 17 patch helped boost the goaltending AI and this has been critical to providing a more realistic sim experience on the ice. A deke master can still find the opening on the short side, but an elite goaltender won’t be caught out of position as often. Of course, nothing is perfect and neither are goalies, as Hockey Achievements has also been burned by soft goals on slapshots taken from outside the faceoff circles in our defensive zone. While these softies are few and far between, this makes them all the more backbreaking when they do occur. Smoother animations and movements in the crease for human players playing as goalies have also been added, but the only person to have braved stepping between the pipes thus far has been Ryan Sheehy and he’s still a bit shellshocked from the overall experience.

CUSTOMIZATION: The final aspect that has become evident as Hockey Achievements have clawed their way up the online standings and we have turned our team into a little beer-league level powerhouse has been the customization. More fonts, team colors, jersey designs, and arena additions have become available as we level our team up and that personal touch has helped the sense that we’re actually playing for something more than just your amusement dear readers. More options in these categories have also been added since NHL 17’s last patch. Although EA will likely never allow full graphic design options to help keep the game family friendly (and its ESRB rating at just E10+ for everyone 10 and older), more options to help each team define themselves and their personalities is always appreciated and is a just reward for those clutch victories you obtain online.

Hockey Achievements is nowhere near done with the EASHL, but we are more than confident in saying the changes and additions made to the mode since the game’s launch have provided a more realistic experience and a more enjoyable one. To see all of these features in action, be sure to tune in every Tuesday night at 6 PM PT/9 PM ET to watch Hockey Achievements’ weekly Tuesday Night Hockey as Ray Carsillo goes online and broadcasts games live on Twitch at twitch.tv/hockeyachievements.

Also, be sure to stay tuned for opportunities to try and join Ray, Ryan, Travis, and the rest of the Hockey Achievements crew in the EASHL as Hockey Achievements looks to fill some slots on their team as the season progresses, or face them in head-to-head competitions. Until next time, be sure to keep it tuned to HockeyAchievements.com and The Gaming Zone in particular for you all your NHL 17 needs, and we’ll see you on the digital ice.

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The EASHL (EA Sports Hockey League) has long been one of the NHL series’ fan favorite modes. With multiplayer having become an integral part of video games since the advent of online, the mode allows NHL to offer a feature that puts it on the same level as other multiplayer powerhouses on the market. For those unfamiliar, EASHL allows player to build their own team from scratch and create their own uniforms and arenas. Instead of one player controlling the entire team, however, each player is locked into a position, with the others either filled by the CPU, or by inviting friends for some fast paced, six versus six (yes, you can play as the goaltender as well) action online.

We here at Hockey Achievements have started our own EASHL team, and after spending a few weeks online, here are our early observations on this year’s version of the mode and some pointers for players trying to get involved with a team.

PASSING: Whether in the digital realm or reality, passing is critical to any offensive play in hockey. We’ve found that even when playing with or against CPU players, NHL 17 has done a better job than in years past of forcing players to make more realistic plays in order to get to the net and score. This isn’t to say there aren’t players out there who can stickhandle their opponents into submission and drive to the net, but smart passing—knowing when to give the puck up as well as call for it from the CPU or your buddies—is often the difference maker online.

ONLINE STABILITY: For the most part, we’ve had minimal issues in terms of glitches actually in the game. Sure, some soft goals are maddening whether it’s a computer or a human in net, but latency has been almost non-existent even two months post-launch. The servers will occasionally still have a hiccup, however, and its particularly unfortunate if this happens while in game. Hockey Achievements currently posts a 3-3-3 record in online, but two of those regulation losses came when the servers crashed on a particularly rough Tuesday night.

NEW CLASSES: Part of finding success is striking a balance in terms of your team’s roles. New classes this year like Jumbo Playmaker and Hitting Sniper add some extra nuance to pre-existing classes like Power Forward or Offensive Defenseman. Having a team that can both be physical as well as fire the puck with pinpoint accuracy towards the corners of the net is necessary if you’re to find success. Per our experience, Hockey Achievements has started to find recent success since our own online play-by-play man Ray Carsillo switched from Jumbo Playmaker to a more traditional Power Forward, and Ryan Sheehy switched from Power Forward to Hitting Sniper. Ray has a knack for taking the puck deep and drawing defenders towards him, often leaving Sheehy open in the slot. Ray will then attempt to pass the puck to Ryan. Not every pass makes it through the traffic, but when it does, Ryan will have a prime opportunity to score, and his odds have improved as a Sniper. Ryan’s unselfish nature, however, sometimes leads to hesitation, and Ray switching from announcer to fan mode and screaming SHOOT! #ShootThePuckSheehy

This is just the start of Hockey Achievements’ time with the EASHL mode, and we can’t wait to continue to report on it as our time with the game continues. Be sure to tune in every Tuesday night at 6 PM PT/9 PM ET to watch Hockey Achievements’ weekly Tuesday Night Hockey as Ray Carsillo goes online and broadcasts games live on Twitch at twitch.tv/hockeyachievements and see the game in action.

Also, be sure to stay tuned for opportunities to try and join Ray and Ryan in the EASHL as Hockey Achievements looks to fill some slots on their team as the season progresses, or face them in head-to-head competitions. Until next time, be sure to keep it tuned to HockeyAchievements.com and The Gaming Zone in particular for you all your NHL 17 needs, and we’ll see you on the digital ice.

Another roster update from EA Canada came down just in time for the holiday season and saw the most changes yet for players in NHL 17. Here are some of the most interesting numbers after this late December patch.

Rookie sensation Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs saw a one-point bump up to an 86 overall, and Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid got a four-point bump up to an 92 after helping lead Edmonton to a comfortable position right now in third-place in the Pacific Division. Vancouver Canucks rookie defenseman Troy Stecher saw the biggest change in stats, though, going from a 72 overall to an 80 overall, a full eight-point boost in this patch. Stecher has 10 points in 29 games this season and notched his first career goal back on November 13th against the Dallas Stars. He’s seen a steady increase in ice time and all of these factors have led to a higher ranking.

On the other side of the puck, Auston Matthews’ boost up in Toronto was counteracted by defenseman Roman Polak’s slashing of his rating from an 85 to an 81, by far the biggest drop of any player hit with a negative to their rating this go around.

In terms of overall changes, the Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Winnipeg Jets saw the most players have changes with seven each. After seeing Columbus’s 16-game winning streak and Toronto’s terrific Centennial Classic play, it’s no wonder these teams got a lot of boosts spread around. The Buffalo Sabers, Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, and San Jose Sharks saw the least changes of teams that had changes, with only two players being adjusted, included both Sharks and Senators players receiving only negative changes.

Overall, this update saw 122 players having their numbers adjusted, with 66 (54.1%) of those players getting a positive boost. The St. Louis Blues were the only team not to have a single player’s stats change, but we expect that to change in the next update after an epic 4-1 victory in the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium. If you’re curious to see how specific teams have changed before you head online with your favorite squad, check out the link.

EA SPORTS DECEMBER UPDATE

And speaking of playing online, be sure to tune in every Tuesday at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT for more of Hockey Achievements’ Tuesday Night Hockey. Our own play-by-play savant Ray Carsillo takes on all comers in both head-to-head and EASHL matchups. Winners will receive 2000 points that can be put towards pucks here at Hockey Achievements, and everyone gets 500 just for participating. If you’d rather just watch, stay tuned to Hockey Achievements or twitch.tv/hockeyachievements.

I do a weekly NHL 17 Twitch stream on Tuesday nights (9PM ET/6 PM PT) for a website called HockeyAchievements.com. Here is one of the highlights from Tuesday, November 15, 2016.

With the 2016-17 NHL season ready to start next Wednesday, October 12, EA Sports used NHL 17 to simulate the entirety of the season and predict major awards, including who will in it all.

Starting in the Eastern Conference, six of last year’s eight playoff teams return, including the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins after a second place Metropolitan Division finish. Only the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings are predicted to miss the playoffs. It’s the first time the Red Wings would miss the playoffs in a quarter century. NHL 17 also says the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs will take their place. The Tampa Bay Lightning get the number one seed in the east, but their Atlantic Division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, will win the conference.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, seven of eight teams return to the playoffs, with only the Anaheim Ducks missing out this year after a slow start. They are replaced by the Edmonton Oilers. The Nashville Predators are expected to take the one seed in the west, along with the franchise’s first ever Presidents’ Trophy with 110 points, and also the conference championship.

This means EA Sports is calling the Montreal Canadiens versus the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final, marking a match-up between two teams that conducted one of the most head-scratching off-season trades we’ve seen in some time, when Montreal exchanged PK Subban for Nashville’s Shea Weber. Even more surprising, though, is the prediction that Nashville will win the Cup in six games, with Filip Forsberg taking home the Conn Smythe trophy.

Other notable predictions is Carey Price of Montreal getting the Vezina for best goaltender, and Vladimir Tarasenko of St. Louis getting the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals from an individual over the season.

While those individual awards are definitely possible, and you never know what can happen in the playoffs, Nashville over Montreal in the Final sounds ridiculous in my mind. I think EA Sports needs to go back to the drawing board with these simulations.

NHL 17 is available now for Xbox One and PS4.

Like most annual sports games, EA Sports’ NHL franchise has gone through some growing pains over the past couple of years as it transitioned onto new hardware. With each new iteration, however, the series has taken huge strides forward—and this year is no different. With EA Canada looking to their sports game cousins over at EA Tiburon and Madden for a little extra inspiration, NHL 17 adds a ton of new features, and by continuing to iterate on their own systems, EA Canada has produced the most authentic on-ice experience to date.

The most obvious element taken directly from the gridiron guys at EA Tiburon is the fact that NHL 17 now boasts its own version of Draft Champions. Instead of picking coaches and schemes, though, your first major decision here involves selecting a general pool of players. Do you want perennial all-stars? Or maybe only players that were born north of the border? How about just Stanley Cup winners? Each choice will net you an impressive base team no matter what, but will also dictate the players and legends available to you according to the theme. For example, no one would argue picking Hall of Famer Mike Modano early on to center your first line—but if you choose the Canadian-born player pool, you’ll never see him come up.

The actual draft part of the mode is shorter—down to 12 rounds instead of 15—due to the fact that there’s far less players on a hockey team than a football team, but it’s still enough that every gamer should have an outstanding group. There are also four player choices each round instead of three, making each pick more painful as you get deeper and deeper into the draft.

I found myself enjoying NHL 17’s version of the mode more than Madden’s. Here, each team is chock full of superstars, unlike the Madden side where each team has myriad scrubs filling holes at too many positions. My only issue with the mode lies in the fact that Madden allows you to have both an offline gauntlet against the computer for practice and an online one against other players going on at the same time. With NHL 17, you can only pick one or the other, which sucks if, say, you were playing online and your internet goes out. You either have to re-draft and forfeit the remaining gauntlet, or wait until you get back online.

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The other new mode NHL 17 touts this year is World Cup of Hockey. Replacing the old tournament mode, the World Cup of Hockey pits the eight authentic teams from this year’s international tournament against each other in round robin, and then elimination play. It’s not the longest or most intense mode, but it’s a nice way to try out players you might not normally use in other modes. For those of us who live and breathe the sport, you can’t help but try to take your home team all the way—and, yes, I took Team USA to the final where I swept Team Sweden.

New modes are always fun to mess around with, but the core four pre-existing modes—Franchise, Be a Pro, Hockey Ultimate Team, and EA Sports Hockey League—have seen such major renovations that you’d almost think they were brand new, too.

EASHL has added a plethora of customization options for building your own arena and team in order to give yourself the truest home ice advantage possible online. As your arena evolves and levels up over five different tiers, you’ll unlock everything from being able to mix up what color seats you have on each bowl level, to customized scoreboard and entrance effects when your team takes the ice for the first time. In terms of gameplay, the mode also adds new player classes for your skater, like hitting sniper and jumbo forward, so you can have a more refined role when you actually do take the ice.

Hockey Ultimate Team has seen more drastic changes than just some customization features. When you start, no longer will you be saddled with a team full of scrubs. They won’t be superstars either, to be clear, but you don’t have to worry about minor leaguers from the OHL mixing with pros at the NHL level anymore, as you’ll be given a roster full of NHL-level talent. You can always improve your squad through skill boosts or finding better players in packs or the auction house, but you’ll be competitive as soon as you start now, which is great if you’re like me and don’t consider grinding for online currency part of a quality play experience.

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HUT also boosts several new systems borrowed from the Madden franchise. A new metagame for you to focus on in NHL 17 is the completion of sets. Collecting every player from a team and placing them in a HUT set will net you one of that franchise’s legendary players. There’s also a new Synergy system borrowed from Madden, which replaces the old Chemistry meter. This means you no longer have to hope for finding a “change team” card when opening packs so you can get all of one team on a line. Instead, each player will fall into certain categories, and when a team has enough of those players, they’ll all receive a boost. As one example, Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash of the New York Rangers have the “Wicked Wristers” ability; put them on a team with two others with that ability, and all four will have a plus-three rating to their wrist shot. It’s a big boost, and trying to mix and match Synergies adds a welcome level of strategy to putting your ideal online team together.

If online play isn’t your cup of tea, Franchise has you covered. This year’s Franchise mode not only allows players to control every facet of the team, but also the front office. I’m not just talking about contract negotiations like in previous years, but also having to meet certain owner goals to keep your job. You’ll have to decide on a marketing budget (who wants a Derek Stepan bobblehead the first time the Penguins come to MSG on November 23rd?) and stadium upgrades (hell yes we need more ice cream stands at the Garden). These moves permeate the mode so much that even the commentary from the returning Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Ray Ferraro reflects these changes to the arena (those three guys do another fantastic job calling the games as part of possibly the best presentation package in sports games, by the way). It’s not the first time we’ve seen this level of team management detail in a sports game, but how it affects you staying in control of your favorite team is a nice added detail if you love to micromanage your team like I do.

If the idea of actually playing on an NHL team is your dream, Be a Pro mode also returns. There are two major changes here, with the first being that there are now three timing options to speed up the process of being a pro. Whereas it used to take upwards of 30 real-world minutes to play each game with authentic 20-minute periods (that’s with skipping to your next shift), the new 10-minute and 5-minute period options speeds up each game experience considerably—but come at the sacrifice of playing time for your pro. This double-edged sword really came back to haunt me, because your coach—who offers points on how he wants you to play between shifts—is also a lot more harsh this year.

While I appreciate the solution to speed the game up, I really felt my player was screwed when he didn’t make the team, and was sent down to the AHL to start the season. My rookie had eight points—three goals, five assists, and a plus-five rating to boot—in seven games and you couldn’t even stick me on the fourth line? It’s called Be a Pro, not Be a Minor Leaguer. With that kind of production and that end result to my pre-season, it still seems this mode is very unclear on what exactly it wants from you to be successful, leaving this still as one of the series’ weaker modes.

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Of course, these new bells and whistles in the modes are all well and good (mostly), but the thing that brings it all together is the gameplay. Some major changes to the all-around AI make this experience more realistic than ever before, and yet it feels completely different from years past. As impressive as puck physics and player movement always were, there were always moves and soft spots in the defense that you could find and take advantage of. Whether it was skating in a large circle from behind the net, taking slapshot bombs from the point with defensemen, or even just camping at the top of the slot, these strategies always worked because the AI players and goalies didn’t react in a way that actual NHL players do.

That’s changed, starting with the goaltenders. AI goalies will now more realistically play the puck, with shoulder shrugs and smaller, more nuanced movements. They’ll deflect a puck purposefully into the corner, headbutt it out of the sky, and scramble like never before if a puck starts to slowly trickle in behind them. They are also more susceptible to screens, deflections, and dekes on breakaways, though, to give them that sense of realism. Of course, should you decide to play as one of them in exhibition, Be a Pro, or EASHL, it’s still near impossible to be effective. I feel there needs to be a deep goalie tutorial mode, because as great as the visual trainer is—especially after this year’s upgrades will now teach skaters more pro-level moves like windmill dekes and spin-o-ramas—it doesn’t do enough for goaltenders. I often feel lost in the crease, that movement is sluggish, and that I’m always out of position.

The AI improvements also extend outward from the goalie, with defensemen now getting into battles with forwards in front of the net, and forwards moving into positions to better get rebounds and score those critical ugly goals down low, or block passing lanes on defense. Those soft spots I mentioned before are now gone for the most part; while they will occasionally pop up because a blown coverage will always happen here or there and a goalie will have to bail out his team, they are a rarity. The AI takes better angles and covers passes more aggressively now—instead of every AI player just blindly chasing the puck, often pulling themselves out of position.

This change, more than anything, has made NHL 17 feel like a brand new game. While it may be frustrating at first for long time players who have gotten used to how the game used to handle (admittedly, myself included), know that it’s better for the authenticity of the game in the long haul. And, if it really bothers you that much that you’re not scoring half-a-dozen goals every single game, you can always dumb down your opponents via the options menu.

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NHL 17 is another step forward in the hockey sim’s ever-continuing evolution. Better gameplay serves as a shining star in this year’s product, bolstered by new modes and important tweaks to existing ones. And, even if some of those are borrowed from other EA Sports games, NHL makes them all its own. Not every change was for the better, and there are still a few snags that hold it back, but overall it’s harder to get a better hockey experience than this outside of lacing up a pair of skates and gliding across a frozen pond.

Publisher: EA Sports • Developer: EA Canada • ESRB Date: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 09.13.16
8.5
NHL 17 takes a step forward with the series in terms of more authentic gameplay, but has lost its edge in a couple of its long-standing modes.
The Good New goalie and defensive AI makes the on-ice product feel more realistic than ever before.
The Bad Playing as the goalie is still a nightmare. Be a Pro mode needs to be sent down to the minors.
The Ugly It was a bad idea to put my controller in the freezer overnight to “enhance my simulation experience” the next day.
NHL 17 is available on Xbox One and PS4. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by EA Sports for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.