Every year, hockey fans wait anxiously to see EA’s new iteration of the NHL video game series. Among various feature changes, each new version promises one thing that’s more important than all else; roster updates. Whatever other changes are made (or not made), fans flock to see their favourite team’s new roster and most importantly, their new player ratings.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how the Calgary Flames fare in NHL 21. Note that in the following tables, an accuracy rating of “fair” doesn’t necessarily denote perfect accuracy, but a reasonably close reflection of a player’s ability.
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|Sean Monahan||86||Too High|
|Mikael Backlund||83||Too Low|
|Andrew Mangiapane||78||Too Low|
The Flames forward group is a mixed bag of underrated and overrated players.
While Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau are both rated among the top ten left wings in the game at 87 overall each, things fall off dramatically after that point on the left side. Next in the depth chart is Andrew Mangiapane at an abysmal 78 rating, followed by Milan Lucic, also listed at a 78 rating.
At this point, its fair to ask whether or not the good people at EA have ever watched a Flames game. While Gaudreau is coming off a down year, he is still recognized as an elite winger in the game. Similarly, Tkachuk is undeniably elite and on the upswing of his career, and is treated as such.
Yet Mangiapane, an integral piece on the Flames “second” line and a player who has established himself as a top six presence, is rated lowest among all Flames regular roster players. This comes after a season in which he led all Flames forwards in xGF%, while putting up 17 goals and 32 points. All stats are 5v5 and score-and-venue adjusted, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
At the exact same rating as Mangiapane, Lucic put up only 20 points, and an xGF% of 50.5%. Why these two players have the same rating is unclear. That being said, Lucic is an adequate fourth liner, and 78 is an accurate rating.
Things are also interesting at centre. Sean Monahan clocks in at an 86 rating (with elite potential), and Mikael Backlund at an 83. After a poor season by his usual standards, Monahan posted a below average xGF% of only 48.0% and scored only 22 goals. With the dominance of the Tkachuk/Backlund/Mangiapane line as weel as Backlund’s individual success last season, it’s inaccurate to have such a gap between the team’s top two centremen.
Most interestingly, Elias Lindholm’s primary position is listed as center, although its been a few years since he has consistently played that position. At an 85 rating, Lindholm is the fourth best forward on the team. Being just a shade behind Gaudreau and Tkachuk is fair for the reliable top line winger. Although he and his linemates struggled last year, he is undoubtedly among the teams best forwards.
Sam Bennett, Derek Ryan, and Dillon Dube round out the bottom of the roster at center, all with ratings of 80. While pretending these players all have the same impact is obviously a stretch, they are all useful depth players, and the player ratings more or less reflect that.
With so many Flames listed as centremen, things get quite thin on the right side. The top Flames player listed as a right wing? Buddy Robinson. He is rated a 75 overall, and Eetu Tuulola are Zac Rinaldo are both rated a 73. While these are quite low, the players are not NHL regulars, so the ratings are fair.
Overall, the forward ratings are passable. Aside from the obvious miss on Mangiapane, most players are rated well.
|Noah Hanifin||84||Too High|
|Chris Tanev||83||Too High|
|Rasmus Andersson||82||Too Low|
On the back end, Mark Giordano leads the way with an 87 overall. This ties him with Zach Werenski for tenth highest rated defenseman in the game. Giordano played huge minutes for the Flames last season, and with 31 points and an xGF% of 52.9, is very deserving of one of the games higher defensive ratings.
Following Giordano is Noah Hanifin. Although a rating of 84 may not be egregious, he is simply not the second best Flames defender. He was fourth on the team is xGF%, SCF%, and CF% last year, behind Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Rasmus Andersson.
Interestingly, Andersson is not even the third best defender on the team. Recent acquisition Chris Tanev holds that honour, with an overall of 83. Although Andersson performed better than Tanev in every major statistical category, he follows just behind at an 82 rating.
The remaining positions on the backend are filled by Oliver Kylington and Juuso Valimaki, both 79 overalls. Frankly, 79 is a typical rating for third pairing players, and its worth noting that both players have potential to grow and improve in-game.
Lastly, Alexander Petrovic has a typical rating for a top-four AHL defender, and is just that.
Like the forwards, it seems there is at least one very obvious miss. Instead of Mangiapane, on the back end it is Andersson who is well off the mark.
The Flames situation in goal is very, very, strong. Jacob Markstrom, an 88 overall, is the eighth best goalie in the game. In the backup position, David Rittich‘s strong first half of last year was rewarded with an 84 overall. Both ratings fit the players well.
Markstrom is coming off a season in which he finished fourth in Vezina voting, and truly established himself as one of the league’s elite goalies. Rittich, despite inconsistency, has also shown the ability to be an effective starting goalie, and his rating reflects this.
the new Guys
|Joakim Nordstrom||79||Too High|
With all the work the Flames did in adding new depth players, of course a few names haven’t made it to the Flames NHL 21 in-game roster yet. These include Joakim Nordstrom, Josh Leivo, Dominik Simon, and Nikita Nesterov. While Nesterov simply doesn’t exist in the EA world as the KHL itself isn’t a part of the game, Leivo is an 80 overall left wing/right wing, and Nordstrom and Simon are both 79 overall centre/left wings.
Much like Bennett, Dube, and Ryan, these were depth players on their previous teams, and their ratings show that. That being said, all depth players are not created equally. In Boston, Nordstrom put up the worst xGF%, SCF%, and CF% of any forward on the team. On the other hand, Leivo and Simon were much more successful in limited minutes with Vancouver and Pittsburgh.
As a whole, the ratings are fairly accurate. Unfortunately, it seems that if EA is going to make a mistake, they are going to really make that mistake, as seen by the numbers for both Mangiapane and Andersson.
It’ll be up to the real life Flames to determine their fate in the upcoming season, but after running several hundred simulations, the virtual Flames do come out on top… sometimes.