What’s new in NHL 21? A primer for this year’s game

by on October 19, 2020

EA Sports’ NHL series is easily one of the most complete packages when it comes to ice hockey, and last year’s had plenty to offer for fans of the sport. NHL 21 adds some nice touches to a franchise ready to make the leap to the next generation of gaming. Whilst some changes are small, others improve aspects of the game to make this year’s entry an absolute joy to play. We take a look at these changes, and detail just why you should jump on the ice and get involved in EA’s superb ice hockey simulation.

Tell your story in Be A Pro

This year, EA Sports have provided a huge update to the Be A Pro mode, offering fans a chance to create a player and take them through a career where you make your own choices, become the kind of star you want, and decide exactly how your life as a pro ice hockey player pans out. Cinematic cutscenes help to flesh out the personality of your player, and conversations with everyone from your agent, the media, and your team’s GM give you the opportunity to create your own journey from the leagues of Canada and Europe to the bright lights of the NHL. Being a great teammate will mean the rapport with fellow players improves your on-ice relationships, and building your brand through endorsements and such means your salary and brand opportunities will improve.

A wide range of new skill moves

EA Sports has continually improved the on-ice gameplay, and this year there are new skill moves which will make you stand out against the opposition. Most of the new attacking dekes are relatively easy to pull off, but some require plenty of practice, such as the Lacrosse Move, also known as ‘The Michigan.’ These moves offer another layer on the attack. Anyone who has played recent NHL games know that successful breaks come from sharp passes and quick thinking, but taking advantage of the varied range of dekes not only look great, but also help to break away from the opposition and provide a clear shot on goal.

Improved AI on both sides

AI is much better this year. Players on your team get into the passing lanes and hold position, whilst the opposition are much more reactive and stick to you like glue. All computer controlled players feel smarter, helping to bring a more authentic feel to each game, and how they play to their specific stats. Goalies are on fine form in NHL 21, making quick decisions after a save, and getting into better suited positions when facing a shot. All in all, the changes in player AI is noticeable, and it is comforting knowing you don’t feel alone when breaking on the offence.

HUT Rush is a welcome addition to Ultimate Team

The new HUT Rush mode makes use of the new skill moves and rewards you for style instead of scoring. Linking together skill moves before scoring multiplies your score, so it really helps to make the most of your deke knowledge. EA has also said there will be challenges added weekly for performing well in the mode, so there’s plenty of reason to dive into this mode and show off your skills as opposed to just whacking the puck into the net.

Some cool tweaks to Franchise Mode

I have always enjoyed the detail that EA has put into its Franchise mode. Whilst other games like NBA 2K21 do a better job, NHL 21 has added some new tweaks to certain aspects of your career that are better for it. For example, they’ve taken a similar approach to transfer deadline day in FIFA, adding a level of pressure when approaching the trade deadline. On the final day, player values may change, and they may even disappear off the trade block depending on other trades that have happened within the league. Other additions include the ability to look back at your NHL career through the record books, and change the quality of the draft class,