Electronic Arts is basically the Monsanto of the video gaming world. They’re ubiquitous and seemingly run by a covenant of dark lords who subsist off of the pain and frustration of video gamers. They frequently top the lists for ‘worst companies in the gaming industry’ for a multitude of reasons; the way they treat their employees, the unnecessary proliferation of DLC and post-purchase paid content, and the way they gobble up and rip apart smaller independent developers to acquire their talent.
All that being said, I know that I personally will drop at least $200-$300 on their games every year, and that’s not even counting any individually acclaimed games that they release through a subsidiary (it happens from time-to-time). The reason, as all sports fans know, is that EA has the rights to produce and sell video games for virtually all of the major sports leagues. The NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, UFC, and all European soccer leagues have signed away their digital rights to EA – in exchange for mad stacks of cash, no doubt.
That puts people like myself, who despise EA, in a bit of a bind. It’s a lot like shopping at Wal-Mart, all the while knowing that they are a soulless entity that literally survives by draining the economic life of the towns it establishes itself in. In Wal-Mart’s case, the ridiculously cheap prices leave you with no other rational choice but to occasionally shop there when money is tight. For EA, it’s because that, with a few exceptions (Pro Evolution Soccer, I’m looking at you, god speed), they’re the only game in town. As a sports fan and a video gamer, I need to get each year’s updated version of the game. I’ll undoubtedly dump hundreds of hours into it, especially the EA Sports NHL series. As a Canadian, and with a nod to Rob Ford, it’s basically my crack-cocaine. NHL 15 may have disappointed a lot of fans because of the content from previous incarnations that was removed – EASHL and GM Connected mode to specify some notable ones – but the actual gameplay mechanics are just as enticing and addictive as they always have been.
So now on to the big question; whose ranking went up from last year and whose went down? Everyone knows the players with high rankings can just do things the others can’t in the game, and everyone wants them on their team in GM mode. These are the 15 best players in NHL 15.
#15 Ryan Suter – Overall 92
29-year-old Ryan Suter plays for the Minnesota Wild in the NHL’s central division. He joined the Wild in the 2012-2013 season, and since then has been widely regarded as their best player. In the league, Suter is the consummate defenseman, putting in hard defensive work and also making himself available to assist the offense when needed. In the game, Suter’s defensive play is given 5 stars, his puck shots, senses and skating 4 ½ stars, and his shooting and physical skills 4 stars. His highest individual skill is his defensive awareness at 93, allowing him to be in the right places at the right time when you need him.
#14 Duncan Keith – Overall 92
Duncan Keith plays for the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL’s central division, where he’s spent his entire professional career. He was drafted by the Hawks as the 54th pick in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft, but has gone one to become one of the elite players in the game today. Keith is a 2-way defenseman, renowned for being able to shut down opposition and simultaneously put in effective offensive play. In NHL 15, Keith has 5 stars in puck skills, senses, defense and skating and 4 stars in shooting, although his physical play has an average rating of 3 ½.
#13 Tuukka Rask – Overall 92
Boston’s star goalie Tuukka Rask is widely regarded as one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL. The Finn was drafted to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2005, but was traded to the Boston Bruins in 2006. Since coming to Boston he’s flourished, leading the Bruins to 2 Stanley Cups and winning the Vezina Trophy in 2013 – 2014. In the game, Rask has 5 stars in reflexes, puck control, and athleticism. His strongest individual skill is his endurance. Rask is an elite goaltender, and one of the best in the game on the ice today.
#12 Evgeni Malkin – Overall 92
Sidney Crosby’s right-hand man on the Pittsburgh Penguins is one of the best players in the NHL in his own right. Malkin joined the Penguins in 2004, when he was drafted 2nd in the very 1st round. He’s been a highly touted talent from the very beginning of his career, and for the most part he’s lived up to virtually all those expectations. Malkin is an offensively minded playmaker that plays center, capable of creating magic moments out of thin air. In the game, Malkin has 5 stars in puck skills, senses, shooting, and skating, and his physical play has 4 ½ stars. His only weak point is his defensive play, which still has a strong 4-star rating. His greatest individual skill is his hand-eye coordination at 94.
#11 Carey Price – Overall 92
The Montreal Canadiens have a long history of star goaltenders stretching back to the 1960s. The latest incarnation in this chain is 27-year-old Carey Price, who currently sits between the posts for the Habs. Price was drafted 5th overall in the very 1st round by the Canadiens in 2005, and since then he’s become one of the faces of the team. In the game, Price has 5 stars in all major goaltending skill groups; reflexes, puck control and athleticism. His single highest rated individual skill is his endurance at 95. He’s widely regarded as one of the best goalies in the league, and with the Canadiens riding high thus far in the season he could be a likely candidate for the Vezina.
#10 Corey Perry – Overall 92
Corey Perry is a 29-year-old right-winger that plays on the Anaheim Ducks, the team he’s spent his entire career with. He was drafted as the 28th pick in the 1st round back in 2003, and throughout his career has been known as a lethal and effective sniper. In NHL 15, he has 5 star stats in puck skills, senses, shooting, and physical play, and 4 ½ in defense and skating. His strongest individual trait is his hand-eye coordination at 93, and his weakest is his faceoff ability at 70.
#9 Ryan Getzlaf – Overall 92
Ryan Getzlaf is a team mate of Corey Perry on the Anaheim Ducks, where he plays center and is classified as a power forward. Getzlaf joined the Ducks in 2003, where he was drafted as the 19th pick in the very first round. Getzlaf (with Perry) was part of the 2007 Ducks squad that won the Stanley Cup, and since then he’s been a key member of the team, and is now the captain, and one of the most effective players in the league. As far as in-game statistics go, Getzlaf has 5 stars in puck skills, senses, shooting, skating and physical play, with 4 ½ stars in defense. It really doesn’t get much better than that. His strongest individual trait is a 4-way tie between hand-eye coordination, puck control, passing and offensive awareness, all at 92. His weakest trait is his faceoff taking ability at 80.
#8 Jonathan Quick – Overall 93
Arguably the hero of last year’s Stanely Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings squad, Jonathan Quick has established himself as one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL since joining the Kings in 2005. Quick was picked 72nd in the 3rd round, but defied virtually all expectations to blossom into exactly the kind of goaltender you want to have between the posts. The 28-year-old American recently became the Los Angeles Kings’ all-time leader in shutouts, recording his 33rd in a Kings jersey on October 23, surpassing the previous record held by Rogie Vachon. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012 – a year the Kings also won the Stanely Cup – as the most valuable player in the post-season. In the game, Quick has 5-star abilities in athleticism, reflexes and puck control. His strongest individual trait is his endurance at 95, and his weakest is his passing at 85.
#7 Henrik Lundqvist – Overall 93
The debate for best goalie in the NHL is often between Jonathan Quick, Tuukka Rask, Carey Price, and this man, Henrik Lundqvist. ‘King Henrik’ as his New York fans have dubbed him, has been the driving force behind the Rangers’ success in recent years. He finally won the Vezina trophy in 2012 after being nominated for 3 years in a row, and last year spearheaded the New York Rangers’ run to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to eventual winners the Los Angeles Kings. In-game, Lundqvist has similar elite goaltending stats to the other 3 goalies on the list. His reflexes, puck control and athleticism are all at 5 stars. His strongest individual trait is his endurance at 95, while his weakest is his puck passing frequency at 80.
#6 Pavel Datsyuk – Overall 93
Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk is widely regarded as the very best player in Detroit, as well as one of the best in the entire NHL. Datsyuk has maintained an incredibly high level of play since joining the Red Wings back in 1998 as the 171st pick in the 6th round. Datsyuk was essentially an afterthought at the beginning of his career, but earned his place on the 1st team and today, at 36-years-of age, is the highest caliber player of his age bracket in the NHL. In NHL 15 he has 5-star senses, puck skills, defense and skating, and 4 ½ stars for his shooting and physical play. His highest individual trait is his discipline at 95, and his lowest is his fighting skill at 70 – accurate stats when considering Datsyuk is a 4-time Lady Byng trophy winner, the award for sportsmanship and good conduct in the NHL season.
#5 Shea Weber – Overall 93
Shea Weber is widely regarded as the very best defenseman in the league, so much so that his team, the Nashville Predators, have more or less built the franchise around him. Weber is signed to the most expensive contract in the league, a $110 million, 14-year contract (with $68 million of it being a signing bonus). Even with those astronomical sums, it can’t be argued that he isn’t worth the money. In NHL 15, he has 5 stars in shooting, defense, and physical play, and 4 ½ stars in puck skills, senses, and skating. His highest individual trait is his slap shot power at 95, and his lowest is his faceoff taking ability at 55 – although it must be said that defensemen don’t take faceoffs anyway.
#4 Alexander Ovechkin – Overall 93
The Russian sensation, Alexander Ovechkin, joined the Washington Capitals as the 1st overall pick way back in 2004. Since then he’s been Washington’s go-to guy, and he hasn’t disappointed. Year in and year out, he’s become the heart and soul of the Washington Capitals, and has won the Maurice Richard trophy for most goals scored in the league an impressive 4 times (2008, 2009, 2012, 2014). Ovechkin’s NHL 15 stats reflect his dominant on-ice abilities. The left-winger has 5 stars in every category, except for defense where he has 4. His strongest trait is his hand-eye coordination at 95, and his weakest is his faceoff-taking ability at 65.
#3 Jonathan Toews – Overall 93
Jonathan Toews is a 2-way forward who plays as center for the Chicago Blackhawks, where he’s slowly but surely become the face of the franchise. The 26-year-old was drafted to the Blackhawks back in 2006, where he was the 3rd pick in the very 1st round. After making his first-team start in 2007-2008, Toews won the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year. He was made captain the following year at the age of 20, the 3rd youngest in NHL history. Toews led his team to the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010. He has 5 stars in senses, puck skills, defense and skating, and 4 ½ stars in shooting and physical play. His strongest trait is his faceoff at 95, and his weakest is his fighting skill at 75.
#2 Steven Stamkos – Overall 93
Tampa Bay’s talisman, Steven Stamkos is one of the most lethal goal scorers in the league. He was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2008 as the first overall pick that year. When team mate and long-time captain Martin St-Louis was traded to the New York Rangers early last year, Stamkos became the new captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning at 24 years of age. He’s won the Maurice Richard trophy for being the league’s highest scorer twice, once in 2010 (when he was 20-years-old!) and again in 2012. His NHL 15 stats reflect his status as an elite player; 5-star puck skills, senses, shooting, and skating all contribute towards the center’s status as one of the elite snipers in the game. He has 4 ½ stars in defense and 4 stars for physical play, with his strongest individual trait being a 5-way tie between hand-eye, passing, puck control, wrist shot accuracy and offensive awareness, all at 94. His weakest skill is faceoffs at 75.
#1 Sidney Crosby – Overall 96
It’s difficult coming up into the NHL being called ‘The Next One’ before ever stepping onto the ice, but that’s just what Sidney Crosby has had to deal with. Because of all the hype, many NHL fans simply expected to watch Crosby blossom into the greatest player in the league, and one of the best of all time. Because of that, Crosby gets a lot of flak that other players don’t. Whether his 96 rating is warranted is certainly up for debate; is he really that much better than anyone else? Maybe not, but there’s no doubt that he deserves to be up there with the elite of the elite, and right now he’s probably the best all-around player in the NHL. His in-game stats are 5-star puck skills, senses, shooting, defense and skating, and he has 4-stars in physical play. His highest individual trait is 5-way tie between deking, puck control, hand-eye, passing and offensive awareness at 95. His weakest traits are his fighting skills and durability at 75.