If you’re going to succeed in EA’s all-conquering hockey series, NHL 20 tips are as essential as knowing your team line-ups and individual players. Where do you start? How do you get the most out of it all? What’s the key to winning NHL 20 (opens in new tab) games with consistency? First up, don’t panic. Second: take heed of our top ten hints, which will fast-track you in the ways of all things virtual hockey. Master these NHL 20 tips and you’ll be yelling ‘nice ice baby’ while raising the Stanley Cup in no time at all.
1. Master the art of one-timers
There are loads of improvements to shooting in NHL 20, and one-timers benefit most. You can pull off highly creative pass-and-shoot maneuvers in the offensive zone, including rapid slapshots and devastating cross-crease plays.
To perform these effectively, you want to pass sideways or diagonally to an open teammate, and then shoot before the puck reaches their stick. Try to use the right stick rather than hybrid shooting controls to give you more control of the shot, and widen your passing angles to reduce the goalie’s chances of making a show-stopping save.
2. Rely on patience in Ones Eliminator
This enhanced World of Chel mode challenges you to win four consecutive games of 1v1v1 pond hockey to be crowned champion, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. To succeed, you need to blend outstanding puck control skills with a serious degree of patience.
Try to avoid going for big hits too often. Instead, use smart stick-checking to force players away from the net, and when in control of the puck, focus on quick turns to fool opponents and create a path to goal. Bide your time and wait for the perfect opportunity, and when a path emerges, perform close-up dekes against the goalie for the best chance of scoring.
3. Resist the urge to spam poke checks
When retreating into the defensive zone, players often resort to spamming the poke check button, but like last year, doing so often results in taking tripping penalties. Instead, it’s best to focus on getting a good balance of accurate timing and composed defense.
Analyse the situation before going for the poke check. Is the puck within reach? Are you at significant risk of a trip? If the latter seems likely, it’s best to resort to simply playing your position and forcing the player to release the puck. A slight nudge or well-positioned block can do as effective a job as a poke check, and you avoid the penalty box in the process.
4. Pay attention to coaches in Franchise Mode
Coaches are the biggest new addition to Franchise Mode and they alter your team in a variety of ways. Their inclusion means you can no longer just focus on players with the highest overalls, but how effectively they fit into your strategies too.
You want to check your current coaches’ profiles to see how well your players mesh with their schemes and specialities. It’s also important to see how your team’s line chemistries are affected, which can be identified in the Edit Lines screen. When signing new players, make sure they align with these requirements, or you might need to think about hiring new staff.
5. Focus on your defensive positioning
The new shooting enhancements in NHL 20 make defensive positioning more important than ever. Both CPU and online teams regularly look to play quick one-timers and let off deadly wristers, and if you’re not in position, you’re likely to concede.
As a result, try to avoid over-committing on your hits, as this quickly becomes predictable and easy to avoid for skilled players. Instead, stay with forwards and encourage them into being forced out wide, or releasing the puck prematurely. It’s important to identify and cut out lethal passing lanes too, particularly in the case of cross-crease opportunities.
6. Log into Ultimate Team daily for free rewards
There are lots of ways to play Hockey Ultimate Team this year, from Competitive Seasons to the new Squad Battles mode. But even if you don’t have time to play many games, it’s still worth logging into the mode once per-day for free pack rewards.
These goodies can be collected as soon as you enter into HUT, and include things like coins, players, and consumables. You’ll also find collectables in them, and these can be traded in for sizable rewards in the Sets menu. For example, the current September collectibles offer heaps of different prizes based on how many you collect throughout the month.
7. Avoid asking for the pass too often
If there’s one thing people too often abuse in online drop-in games, it’s asking CPU-controlled players for the puck. You can do this by tapping the pass button when out of possession, but overusing it can prove detrimental to your chances of success.
For the most part, the CPU tries to pass to human players if they’re in a good position, so asking for the puck often leads to intercepted plays. You might also be surprised by how effective the computer can prove when allowed to play freely, regularly contributing with goals. Play a more team-oriented game, and you benefit in the long run.
8. Retain your stamina in Be a Pro and EASHL
When playing as a single player in the likes of Be a Pro and the popular EA Sports Hockey League, keep an eye on your stamina. Using the hustle button (L3/LS) too often sees it deplete entirely, resulting in negative effects for your player.
You’ll notice your stamina meter in the bottom-left corner of the screen, indicated by a green bar (when full). While the obvious downside to depleting it is a loss of speed, you also temporarily lose out on any traits you’ve applied in World of Chel. As a result, try to limit your use of the hustle feature, and only activate it when you need an extra burst of pace.
9. Use quick puck movement on power plays
It’s easier to take advantage of power plays this year due to the improved shooting tools at your disposal. To make full use of them, you need to set up in the offensive zone and cycle the puck, helping to create space and drag defensive players out of position.
You’ll find that a lot of online players lack patience on the penalty kill, playing aggressively to try and win back the puck. Use this to your advantage by releasing quick passes to open team-mates, and you soon benefit with goal scoring chances. Also, online players often commit too many bodies forward on the PK, so be ready to counter with fast breaks down the ice.
10. Don’t forget World of Chel Challenges
There are heaps of new cosmetic items to collect in World of Chel, and by completing set challenges, you also get your hands on time-exclusive gear. The tasks and rewards differ from week-to-week, so it’s worth keeping a regular eye on them.
The new challenges menu appears when you first jump into the mode, and includes tasks for Pro-AM, Ones Eliminator, Threes Eliminator, EASHL drop-ins, and EASHL clubs. You get specific rewards for completing certain challenges - such as XP for scoring multiple goals in Ones - and there’s a unique reward available to those who finish them all.
NHL 20 is out now. Prefer your sports to involve balls rather than pucks? Then you need our NBA 2K20 tips (opens in new tab), covering 7 essential things to know before you play.