Hot off the presses of EA Sports’ Finnish Instagram account (@easportssuomi) we have our first look at some of the ratings of women’s national team players in NHL 23. The account posted the Top-10 Players, Top-10 Goalies, Top-10 Forwards, and Top-10 Defenders before any other account did, giving us an early look at what women’s hockey fans can expect in the next NHL title.
It’s important to note that the NHL 23 cover will feature Sarah Nurse along with Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks. This marks the first time a women’s player has been featured on the cover of the go-to hockey video game franchise. For that reason alone, more fans of women’s hockey may be picking up or returning to the NHL franchise than ever before.
NHL 23’s Top 10 Women
- Marie-Philip Poulin | Rating: 94
- Kendall Coyne-Schofield | Rating: 93
- Hilary Knight | Rating: 93
- Brianne Jenner | Rating: 92
- Sarah Fillier | Rating: 92
- Jenni Hiirikoski | Rating: 92
- Ann-Renee Desbiens | Rating: 92
- Sarah Nurse | Rating: 91
- Natalie Spooner | Rating: 91
- Taylor Heise | Rating: 91
As was the case last year when women’s hockey made its debut in NHL 22, Marie-Philip Poulin is the top-rated player in the world — she stayed at 94 overall. Finland’s Jenni Hiirikoski, the top-rated defender in the world, went down from a 93 to a 92 overall, giving us a clear Top-3 of Poulin, Hilary Knight, and Kendall Coyne Schofield. As expected, the five players with the highest ratings are all from Team Canada or Team USA. In fact, Hiirikoski is the only European inside of the Top-10.
Last year, cover player Sarah Nurse had an 87 overall — this year she’s up to a 91, putting her level with Natalie Spooner and Taylor Heise and making her a Top-10 forward (and player) in the game. It’s nice to see Nurse get a bit more respect than she had last year — though, she wasn’t the only player who was underrated.
EA SPORTS NHL 23 Women's Hockey Player Ratings Top 10s.— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) September 25, 2022
Highest rated F: Poulin, 94
Highest rated D: Hiirikoski, 92
Highest rated G: Desbiens, 92
Let the debates begin. pic.twitter.com/xXY0Bsph0z
In NHL 25, 19 of the Top-25 players were from Team Canada or Team USA and the remaining 6 of the Top-25 were all Finns. Team Czechia captain Alena Mills was the highest-rated non-Finn European at 86 overall, but the Top-10 lists from NHL 23 show us that things could look at least a little different in NHL 23. Klára Peslarová, an 84 overall last year, is now the fifth highest-rated goalie in the world at 88 overall. Switzerland’s (and BU’s) Andrea Brändli isn’t far behind at 87 overall — up from a ridiculous 76 overall in NHL 23.
Of course, we’re just talking about ratings in a video game here. These ratings serve as a poor guide to determining who the best players in the world are and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Anyone who has worked with hockey data can tell you that there is no great way to summarize how good any player is with a single number. But all of this does spark conversation and, more importantly, thousands of gamers are introduced to the women’s game and many of its brightest stars while they have a controller in their hands. That’s why we should be invested and vocal about women’s hockey in the NHL franchise being done right.
That means asking for more from EA Sports than what we saw last year — and that goes well beyond having Nurse on the cover. When women’s hockey was added to NHL 22 last year, goalies didn’t have helmets. How does something like this slip past testing? Perhaps because it wasn’t tested enough or given enough attention in the first place.
In the future, I hope that licensing deals get hammered out between the PHF and PWHPA and the NHL franchise. But we shouldn’t hold our breath on that one. Until then, I hope we see more of the little things get done right in NHL 23. I hope we see less favoritism in ratings for North American players, more ways to play with the national teams, and a better overall experience with women’s hockey in NHL 23.
I’m cautiously optimistic about women’s hockey in the NHL franchise. This can be an impactful vehicle for growing the game and bringing it to an entirely new audience if this is done right. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for new features related to national teams in NHL 23 and we hope to hear your thoughts and reviews on the game right here at The Ice Garden.