Just as the real-world NHL post-season heats up, EA Sports has officially announced NHL 21, which promises to deliver major career mode changes, a new Ultimate Team mode, and introduce elite skill moves that have become popular in the game such as the Michigan.

NHL 21’s cover star is Alexander Ovechkin, who repeats as a cover star after first getting the honor with NHL 07. Ovechkin, also known as Ovi, is one of the NHL’s best players and has made a gigantic impact on the sport and the culture surrounding it.

The EA Sports developers say that Ovi is their “muse” for this year’s game, using his talents and personality as a a driving factor for the rest of the game.

“It’s a huge honor to be on the cover of NHL 21 for the second time in my career,” Ovechkin said in a statement. “More importantly, I’m glad I’m looking just as good on the cover this year as I did in 2007!!!”

Be A Pro Updates

In terms of the game itself, NHL 21 aims to offer a “fresh feel” for the series with its Be A Pro mode, which the team spent a lot of time and resources on this year. Starting off, you will notice that the menu screen is simplified and streamlined–all the important bits are on one screen, which should help you see and find what you need at a glance instead of needing to enter numerous different menus.

There are also more conversations and narrative choices you can make this year, bringing it more in line with EA’s Madden series. You can speak to your coach or to the , and what you say can have an impact on your character’s attributes. You can, for example, speak to the and make a bold claim about how you will perform in a given game, and you will then need to back it up during the game to keep your standing.

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EA’s developers said that there are “hundreds” of different story beats that can play out. When you are actually on the ice, there are in-game coach challenges that you can take on for a chance to increase your “likability” meter for your team, and also brands that may want to sponsor you. Additionally, if you perform especially well on your line, the commentary team will call your line by a special nickname, which is a nice touch.

Skill Moves

In terms of the on-ice gameplay, EA Sports has introduced a series of new skill moves that have awed NHL fans in real life. The famous “Michigan” move, a high-skill move made famous by Mike Legg when he was at the University of Michigan, is now in the game. For this move, the player picks up the puck with their stick and surprises the goalie by stuffing it into the top of the net. It’s also known as a lacrosse goal, and it’s one of the most challenging and impressive skill moves the sport has ever seen, and now it’s in the game.

The Michigan, in NHL 21
The Michigan, in NHL 21

Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes performed the move in an October 2019 game. The EA Sports developers say it will be a high risk high reward move in NHL 21. In an effort to make sure it doesn’t become too overpowered, the developers will look at feedback from the closed beta and make adjustements as necessary. But the team stressed that a skill move of this level will be very difficult to pull off in the game.

NHL 21 also introduces the “no move move” that was made famous by Nikita Kucherov. For this deke, Kucherov pretends as if he is going to perform a real deke, which causes the goalie to bite, and then he just lets the puck slide between his legs into the goal. Additionally, Sidney Crosby’s famous move where he banks the puck off the back of the net and passes to himself is now in the game. NHL 21 also introduces “slip dekes” and more “chip” moves to help create space in the neutral and offensive zones. There are also standstill dekes this year, and these let you begin a deke like a toe-drag, tap deke, or windmill, from a standstill.

These moves, which can be performed by any player, can all be chained together as well so players can really put the moves on defenders.

Also on the gameplay side, AI intelligence is improved to make the game feel more authentic, while goalies now have new animations and can make desperation saves more regularly. Overall, EA says players can expect a higher level of polish across the board.

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HUT Rush

There are new modes in NHL 21 as well, one of which is HUT Rush. Described as a fast-paced mode, HUT Rush aims to get players into matches faster and getting quicker esults. The core idea is to be able to rack up points faster, and you’ll now get points for things like shots, goals, and dekes across the game’s various modes. The more skilled a move is, the more points you’ll get, and these can be chained together to create multipliers. You will unlock new items with the points, and there is a new battle pass-style system that has 25 tiers to work through.

World Of Chel

NHL 21’s World of Chel mode includes ranked seasons that span all four modes–Ones, Threes, Drop-In, and Clubs. Players can compete for a chance to earn rewards and then take part in the EASHL Club Finals, which themselves pay out unique rewards too.

World of Chel also introduces a number of fan-requested options like free skate, which you can jump directly into this to test and fine-tune your player build. There is also a practice mode that you and your team can enter to practice plays with an AI goalie. Additionally, NHL 21 has a scrimmage option where you and your team can play against an AI team at a difficulty level of your choice. What’s more, World of Chel now lets you choose servers for private to help get the best network experience possible.

Don’t Be A Jerk

Ice hockey as a sport is infamous for having a diversity problem, and NHL 21 is taking steps to make sure the game’s playerbase is non-toxic. The developer said it firmly believes that hockey should be for everyone, and the company is taking a hard stance against toxic behavior. To that end, NHL 21 will have in-game reporting tools so players can report players and teams. These reports will be flagged to EA’s developers, and the company may decide to take action that bans offending players not only in NHL 21, but also all of EA’s games.

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Franchise Mode Updates

Franchise mode in NHL 21 is getting one major addition: trade deadlines. With the new trade deadline feature, EA is trying to replicate the “frenzy” of how teams are scrambling to sign players before it’s too late. NHL 21’s Franchise mode will have a mini-game, of sorts, that gives players the ability to monitor players on the block, make proposals, and see other transactions.

Release Details And Veteran Rewards

NHL 21 is scheduled for release on October 16 for PS4 and Xbox One. There is no bespoke version of the game for PS5 and Xbox Series X, but the game will be playable on those next-generation consoles through backwards compatibility.

People who bought the past three NHL games–NHL 20, NHL 19, and NHL 18–will receive a “veteran bonus” comprised of up to 10 HUT packs.

NHL 21 will be available to play from October 9, 2020 for those who subscribe to EA Play, which is the new name for EA Access.

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