If you’ve been following my Twitter account for the past week or so, you will have noticed I’ve been playing Eastside Hockey Manager. I’m not the best person in the world to understand hockey, so @Ze German has kindly written this guide to explain how he plays the game. Hopefully, like me, you’ll find this guide useful if you’re new to the game or are wanting to try it but don’t really get hockey.
Cleon, Andy and I have been chatting recently about Sports Interactive’s returning ice hockey management game, EHM 1 (Eastside Hockey Manager, formerly NHL:EHM & EHM:EA). The boys are fairly fresh to the game, having picked it up 12 months ago when it was re-released by the company as an Early Access edition, so they had a few questions about bits and pieces. I’ve been an EHM player since the game was freeware and Risto Remes was still an independent (he now works at SI) and have purchased each version as they’ve come out since 2005. In fact, I was one of the original moderators and content producers at SortItOutSI (www.sortitoutsi.com) for the EHM series. So I think I know a little bit about the game!
While my twitter notifications were melting down as the three of us chatted, I realised that there was probably a need for an introduction piece to help new players get acquainted with the game. Whilst www.ehmtheblueline.com is a fantastic resource, some of their content can be quite intimidating for a beginner or someone not that familiar with hockey. In addition to my EHM experience, I’m also a hockey-tragic and actually work in the game (in a volunteer capacity) here in Australia; so I like to think I know a fair bit about the sport as well.
So this article will serve as a way to introduce new/beginner players to EHM by demonstrating how I play it. We’ll start with the initial stages of game play (ie: before I press continue), work through things like tactics, practice, scouting, drafting, trading and, ultimately, how to win. I’ll also be writing from the perspective of an NHL team. EHM has a pretty large database allowing you to manage/coach in many different countries and leagues around the world, each with their own rules & setup. The NHL is far away the most popular though so that is what the focus will be here. First though, we’ll start with some advice before we even load the game.
Just like Football Manager, EHM allows you to import face and logo packs to enhance the look of the game. There are two places to grab these:
- The Blueline (TBL) website (link above)
- Steam workshop
Whilst not critical to the game functioning, obviously, they do make it look a damn sight prettier, particularly the team logos. While you’re searching for those graphics packs, keep an eye out for the TBL Roster Update (current version: 8.1a). Again like FM, roster updates update player movements, staff, attributes, finances, career histories and promotions/relegations where applicable. TBL’s update is always effective at the start of the NHL season which I feel provides the most realistic starting point for any save. So go and download that too.
Starting a New Game
When starting a new save, make sure you have the right database loaded first off (per the previous section). If you’ve subscribed to it through the Workshop then you might need to restart the game a couple of times before it’s accessible. You’ll then be asked which competitions/nations you want to load, with two detail levels possible:
- Enhanced: this is the “high” detail setup. Games are properly simulated, players histories recorded correctly. It also allows you to manage in this league/nation.
- Standard: this is the lower detail setup. Games are quick simmed and you might find anomalies with scores, player histories etc. You can’t manage in a “standard” league so choose wisely.
My advice here is pretty straightforward. You obviously need to select USA for the NHL but also ensure the AHL and ECHL are also loaded and set to “Enhanced”. You’ll have your team’s players playing in both these leagues so the more detail they are in, the better. Furthermore, you’ll need to load the nations that will produce players for the Draft (thus allowing you to draft properly developed players with histories/statistics). In this case, load Canada (and it’s three CHL leagues), Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Rep as a minimum. Don’t worry, the game will still process pretty quickly.
You’ll be asked to create your General Manager profile; my only advice here is to select either a Canadian or USA nationality as well as a minimum of “Major League” for your reputation. I can’t really justify it but I think it makes a different to the reputation of your team.
The First Day
Congratulations, you’re the General Manager of an NHL franchise! Your parents would be so proud of you!
Before pressing continue there are a few things you should do. Jump into your “home” screen and review the salary cap and your existing salary obligations. If you’re over, you won’t be able to start the season – this could be a big problem if you don’t resolve it before the season starts. You have plenty of time before that happens so don’t be immediately concerned, but just be aware of where you are sitting.
Your squad screen is also pretty important and you should take the time to review the players currently in your team. Now there is plenty to learn about what constitutes a good player (and we’ll get to that) but for the moment we’ll have a look at positions. Hockey teams are divided into three sections: Goalies, Defensemen and Forwards. During normal periods of play, teams will have six players on the ice: 1 goalie, 2 defensemen and 3 forwards. The Defence and Forward groups are broken into “lines” of which 3 and 4 are used, respectively, in an NHL game. So what we’re looking for on our squad screen is at least 6 Defencemen (and ideally a 3/3 split of LD and RD) and at least 12 Forwards (again, an equal split of LW, C and RW). Your roster limit during the regular season is set at 23 players allowing you to carry a few reserves. It would be sensible to have an extra Defenseman (ideally a guy who can play either side) and 2 extra forwards (who are as versatile as possible). Lastly, you’ll need to have 2 goalies on your roster as well; a starter and a backup. We’ll get into the specifics on players a bit later.
Next we’ll have a look at our backroom staff, known as “personnel” on EHM. As the General Manager (GM) you’re able to hire the following:
- Up to 2 Assistant GMs (AGM)
- A Head Coach (HC)
- Up to 4 Assistant Coaches (AC)
- A Head Scout
- Multiple scouts
Each of these personnel types have their own specific role within your franchise so the attributes required do vary a little bit. Your AGMs, Head Scout and Scouts will all need highs in Judging Player Ability and Judging Player Potential (I don’t use them for anything other than analysing teams & scouting players). Your HC and ACs will be important for practice (more later) so will need highs in the three coaching attributes (at least 1 each) as well as in Determination, Level of Discipline and Motivation (just like FM).
I am going to talk about the two different ways to play the game a bit later but just quickly while we are on the HC’s attributes, if you intend on allowing him to coach game, set lines and tactics, then he’ll need good JPA and Tactical Knowledge attributes in addition. In this same case, his Preferred Tactics will be good to understand so you know how the team is going to play.
Scouts and Physios are pretty simple. High JPA & Tactical Knowledge for those scouts who will look at your opposition, high JPP for those you are assigning to scout players eligible for the draft and a mix of both for those looking at players you might be interested in trading for. A high Physiotherapy attribute for your Physio, obviously.
So take a look through all these guys and get rid of the chaff if you have any. As a general rule at the NHL level anything below a 15 is chaff. Particularly for Scouts – there are heaps of guys with 18/19/20 in JPA/JPP available.
Next place we’ll stop is the Training Camp tab within the Squad screen. Training Camp is essentially your Pre-Season; all your contracted players get together for training and scrimmages and begins to get them fit for the season. Hit “Reset Teams” firstly to balance out your two practice squads then click on “Open Camp?” and hit “no”. An open camp means that free agents can attend and try-out to get a contract. At the NHL level you are never going to get anyone worth your while trying out so selecting no means you won’t have any strange players turning up.
Quickly zip back to your main squad screen, click on “Filter” and select “Unsigned Prospects.” This will provide you a list of all players you own the rights to but are not under contract to you yet. Most teams have a mix of players playing overseas (Sweden, Russia etc), Major Junior (the Canadian junior leagues) and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association – US colleges in other words). Most of these guys you can invite to your camp and you should do so. Simply right-click on each player and select “Invite to Training Camp”. If the option doesn’t exist, then you can’t invite them. Having young players at your training camp is good for two reasons:
- You get to see them, can get a coach report and see how they do
- Their attributes are likely to get a boost by training at the better facilities your franchise has.
You can have a look at the training camp schedule if you like to get an understanding of the activities they’ll participate in but you’ll get daily updates from your staff on results etc in your inbox anyway.
Now we’re going to check out our affiliates and see if there are players in the minors that we can bring up for the training camp. I’m sure there’s an easier way, but I go back to my Squad screen, click on the “Info” tab then towards the bottom of the page the affiliates should be listed. Clicking on them will take you to their squad page. The players in orange-coloured text are the ones you own. Just like inviting prospects, players in the minors get the chance to impress you as well as improve their ability. Be cautious though: players 24y/o & older and not on a 2-way contract are eligible to waivers if you want to send them back down again after camp. I’ll talk more about contracts when we get into the players section.
Next, find the General Manager Options button. Like FM, you can divide the responsibilities between yourself and your HC. I mentioned the two different ways to play a few paragraphs ago; they are:
- The General Manager: The GM in real life has a clear delineation between his and the HC’s duties. He is concerned with roster management (contracts, trading players, calling up/sending down players to the AHL & ECHL affiliates), scouting players (both for trades and the draft eligible), hiring/firing personnel and the annual Entry Draft. The HC is then responsible for practice, setting tactics, choosing the lines (which players play together etc) and then actually coaching each game. Within GM options you would set most options to HC.
- The Everyman: Essentially a combination of all the GM jobs and the HC jobs. In this instance the HC you employ essentially becomes another AC thus his tactical attributes are less important. Within GM options, you set everything for yourself to look after.
I play the Everyman role most times because I don’t trust the AI coaches to get the best out of the team I give them. I recommend you do the same although if you are feeling overwhelmed then it might be a good idea to let your HC take the reins for a while.
We’re almost done for the first day, stick with me!
The practice screen is next. Go back to your squad then click on the “Practice” tab. You are presented with a screen that lists all your players and the various schedules that they are currently on. You’ll probably find that all your skaters (Defensemen and Forwards) are on “General” and your Goalies are on, well, “Goalies.” Firstly, ensure all skaters are on General via the drop down box next to each player. Then click on the “Schedules” drop down box and select the “General” schedule.
You’re now shown, down the bottom, the intensity level of 7 or 8 different training sections. You’ve got 4 options: None, Light, Medium and Intense. Set everything excluding “New Position” & “Goaltending” to Intense. This may not make a great deal of sense – and it shouldn’t. Practice is broken right now and I have no idea when it will be fixed up/improved. Ultimately, this new “General” schedule will bring your players’ fitness levels up, maintain them and begin to have an effect on their attributes. Looking at the rest of the screen you can see what the intent of the practice section was meant to be…but it just doesn’t work like that. Take advantage of the glitch for the time being and we’ll revisit if a patch ever makes changes.
When back on the screen that shows all schedules again we can see on the bottom left the list of our coaches and their training responsibilities. I believe the default has every coach ticked against every area; leave it as such. This is also broken for the time being. In the long run you’ll want to start specialising the types of coaches you hire based on these training areas. So a coach that has a “technique-based” style and a good “coaching forwards” attribute will be a handy “Shooting” coach and so on.
Last screen to visit is “Tactics” found once again from the “Squad” screen. I’m going to shy away from telling you how to set up your tactics as you are presented with MANY different options. Trial and error is your friend here. We can set the lines from this screen eventually though. You won’t have any players “dressed” at the moment so you won’t be able to set those lines but we’ll revisit this ahead of our first game down the line. In the meantime, have a click around and look at the various tactical options you have to choose from. Point to note: there is no “fluidity” measure within tactics so presumably the players will execute your instructions to the best of their ability from the off.
Woops, I lied. One more screen to check out: “Scouting”. The scouting screen is where we can search for both players and staff as well as set and review assignments for our scouting team. Don’t worry so much about the player search; I promise their won’t be anyone in there that would benefit your team for the moment. But we will check out the staff search screen because I’m sure you fired some scouts earlier. Make offers on those that you can (you can’t offer contracts to personnel under contract with another NHL team; you’ll work it out) and it’ll take a couple of days for them to get back to you.
Ok, now you’re ready to hit “Continue” and see what happens!
*EHM has experienced an error and must shutdown*
Seriously. That actually happened to me!
Ok, it’s time to get into the weeds of this game a bit more.
The National Hockey League
Google this. The game is thoroughly representative of all the rules and requirements of players and teams. An understanding of how the NHL works will be invaluable to assist you as you play through.
EHM has an “under the hood” system that calculates a “player role” based on some hidden, physical, technical and mental attributes. There are up to 50 of these roles that the AI uses to help allocate points to a player’s current ability. We are unable to see these roles but we do get an idea of them through the “Positions” tab – each player has a description beneath their positional information. For more information on this, I’m going to refer you to a thread on TBL (there’s no sense in re-writing it all):
www.ehmtheblueline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4920 (note that it is rather old so the examples of players might be names you don’t recognise!)
Contracts are a pretty central component of player management in the game, particularly given the salary cap that we operate under. There are plenty of minutiae to these contracts as well which can lead you to getting lost quite quickly. So first things first, you can only have up to 50 contracted players in your organisation at any one time (this includes players in the minors etc). Secondly, you cannot go over the salary cap, nor below the salary floor while playing a competitive game (the game will physically stop you). You can breach it no problem but must be compliant again before playing the next game. The salary cap does not change for the entire game (unlike in real life).
Players entering the league for the first time are required to sign an Entry Level Contract (ELC) which cannot exceed $925k/season over a maximum term of 3 years. The best young rookies will ask for this wage (think Connor McDavid) but as their talent level decreases, as do their demands. There is a minimum salary as well but I don’t recall what it is (might be around $450k). Upon completion of the ELC, a player now becomes a Restricted Free Agent (RFA). This means that his “rights” are owned by the team and he cannot be signed by anyone else (I’ll explain offer sheets shortly). At the conclusion of a player’s 2nd contact he becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) until such time that he signs a new deal. If the player rejects the deal then as long as that deal was a percentage figure higher than his previous deal, he becomes a RFA again. This system was established to assist teams in retaining their assets and to stop players just running off to the highest bidder with no compensation to the previous team.
I mentioned offer sheets just before. These apply ONLY to RFA’s and are the means by which other teams can actually offer a contract to a restricted player. The player can accept the offer sheet but the organisation that owns his rights can offer the same contract and retain the player. If the owning club does NOT offer the same contract, then the player is yours…but you’ll be required to give up compensation. This is in the form of draft picks and can range from a single 3rd rounder right up to three 1st rounders! So be careful! The game will give you a warning if compensation is a factor before you finalise the contract offer.
UFAs are a free for all. They are generally players 24y/o+ and any team can offer a contract and sign the player without compensation. Free Agency begins on July 1st each year so mark it in your calendars. It’s a great time to be alive!
This is probably the part that most people launch into without truly understanding how it works. The best thing to keep in mind when proposing a trade is “is this a good hockey trade”? A good hockey trade is essentially where a team gives up an asset they have many of and receive a player that they have few of. Importantly, the other team in this conversation is receiving the same deal (ie: giving away an asset they are flush with & getting an asset they have few of). For a real life example, look no further than the recent trade between the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets (Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones).
It is extraordinarily difficult to dupe the opposition so trying to drop your 35y/o plug for their 21y/o superstar just isn’t going to fly. Assisting you in establishing your ideal trade partner is the “team needs” section of the trade window. It will tell you what the other organisation is looking for (be it a “core left winger” or a “bluechip goal tender” etc). The star rating in the asset selection screen gives you a little more information in terms of the value the organisation awards their players (and yours).
It’s not only players you can trade; you can also trade “rights” (ie: players you’ve drafted but haven’t agreed a contract with yet) as well as draft picks themselves. If you’re trading unsigned draft picks, note the Draft Round that the player was selected – this will give you a decent idea of how good/how much potential this player has. When exchanging draft picks, take note of the other team’s position on the ladder. The Stanley Cup winner’s 1st rounder isn’t anywhere near as valuable as the team’s that finished 30th. The first overall pick can be so valuable in fact that it might well be impossible to trade for (imagine the haul the Oilers would have asked for to trade away the Connor McJesus pick last year?!).
Last word on trades – players under contract when traded retain that contract with the new team. Very important to keep in mind as this salary will count against your salary cap straight away. In fact, there is fast becoming a sub-factor of trades in the NHL where teams are trading away players because of the contract they are under (not necessarily anything to do with the player’s ability). Thankfully, the trade screen does give you an indication of the pre and post effects of a trade upon your salary cap.
My most favourite piece of the entire game; I’ve been known to sim through the season as fast as possible just to reach the Draft! The Draft is the way in which new, young players are added to the rosters of teams. Sort of like the youth intake in FM but every team takes it turn to select a new player.
Each team starts out with 7 draft picks (1 for each round) but may have more or less depending on whether they trade them or not. The Toronto Maple Leafs already have 12 for the 2016 Draft, and are expecting to receive more. The draft order is established after the Stanley Cup finals are complete through what is called the “Draft Lottery”. The lottery sees all 14 teams that did not qualify for the playoffs placed in a hat and drawn out. The team finishing 30th (last) has the highest chance of getting the 1st overall pick; the weighting reduces depending on the position of the team. For those that made the playoffs, the draft position depends on where you knocked out (ie: Stanley Cup Winner selects 30th). It does not snake so the team with the 1st overall selects first in every proceeding round (unless they’ve traded their pick). For picks that have been traded, the draft order is reflective of the original owner of the pick. Does that make sense?
Players have 3 years of draft eligibility and are generally aged between 17 and 19 although it’s not uncommon to see 16y/o as well as 20 and 21y/os. Players from all over the world are eligible but as I suggested in the opening paragraphs, they generally come from the leading hockey nations in the world. The quality of league each player has been playing in is relevant; it is widely considered that the three Canadian Major Junior leagues (OHL, WHL and QMJHL) are the best with all others from the big countries pretty much on par.
The top 200 players in the draft will be ranked by the game’s internal Scouting Bureau giving you a pretty clear idea on who is the best and who is the worst. They aren’t always right though so never blindly trust those rankings…
In addition to the ranking, you will have assigned some scouts to the draft throughout the season (see below on scouting). Scout reports will be available within a player’s profile page under “Reports” and there’ll be a drop down box to allow you to cycle between the various scouts that watched the player. Look for consistent comments from you Scouts; be cautious of those that are inconsistent!
A really handy tool to assist your selection is the ability to sort by scout’s rating. It’s one of the filter options across the top of the draft page allowing you to add up to 5 scouts and then sorting by their high/low ratings. This sort method also includes the original ranking so if you see a player ranked 1st and then all 5 of your scouts give the player 6 stars (the maximum) then you can be pretty confident in selecting him!
Now there are two methods of selecting players at the Draft: Best Player Available (BPA) and Team Need (TN).
- BPA: This is the method most teams would use unless they are picking 1-3 overall. It’s based on the assumption that a 17y/o player isn’t going to make an impact on your roster next season (or even in 2-3 seasons time). So rather than taking a lesser skilled winger because you need one, you take the talented centre because 1. In three years you might actually need a centre and 2. He becomes a valuable trade chip later to secure you the winger you needed.
- TN: If you are picking players and you genuinely believe that they are going to make an impact on your roster next season, then you probably want to pick TN. You are looking for the quick fix essentially. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing; teams picking in the top 5 regularly go for TN as these players are generally closer to being “NHL-ready” and there can be little difference between those ranked that high in terms of current ability or potential.
Also be conscious of your prospect depth as well. If you have 6 right wingers unsigned and you’re looking at a similarly skilled right winger in the draft, do you think it makes sense to draft him? Maybe; maybe not. Further, don’t select 7 right wingers with your 7 picks! If you plan on graduating all 7 to your team in the future you won’t have space for them all! So it is important to have a good understanding of your team’s future before entering the draft, regardless of where you pick.
Last point on the draft, particularly ones in the next couple of years (before newgens come through): read real life scout reports from companies such as ISS Hockey. It might give you that little extra edge you need to find the best prospect!
This has been a long debated topic over on the TBL forums – how long is too long in Junior? Is the AHL a viable development league? Can you call a player up to the NHL too soon? There are many different philosophies applicable here and I’m not actually sure that there is a right way to do it. Confusing the method further is that every player you draft is going to be different in some way so it is insensible to treat every prospect the same way. In general terms though, here is how I do it:
- Season 1 (ie: the season immediately after I’ve drafted the player): If it’s Connor McDavid, then we are probably bringing him straight up to the NHL & no further action is required. For anyone else, we are probably going to let them play out their senior year with their Junior club. In most cases, the player will be too young to play in the AHL or ECHL anyway (minimum of 20y/o) and being top-dog on their Junior team is probably a good thing.
- Season 2: Hopefully they turn 20y/o at some point during season 1 so now we are going to offer them their first ELC and bring them up to the ECHL (there might be some players that can go straight to the NHL at this point, but they’ll be rare). You might think, “hang on, ECHL? Not AHL?” No, not AHL. I want my players to take a slow approach to the NHL to ensure they are not being put in positions above their skillset. So year 1 of their ELC is with my ECHL affiliate. If the player is destined to play in the NHL then he’ll do well in this league easily.
- Season 3: Yep, you got it, AHL. However, only if he has proven himself in the ECHL. By “proven” I’m looking for a 7.00 or greater average rating. Doesn’t necessarily need to have scored 1000 points or have an unreal +/-, it’s about his average performance rating. Note this is the 2nd year of the player’s ELC.
- Season 4: Finally he’s ready to play with the big boys! Ah, but only if he has again achieved an average rating of 7.00 or higher. Depending on the depth of your system, your player may not have had a great deal of ice-time in the A, so you might have a decision to make (call-up or leave to season for another year).
Some other little things to consider regarding development:
- Ice time is key. This, along with training, is what increases a player’s attributes. If you call a player up to a level too early, and his attributes are below average for that level, you’re probably not going to give him top minutes, are you? Hence why I go for the long development cycle by trying to ensure he’s the best player at each level (thus getting 1st/2nd line minutes).
- You might find that in season 2, the player is still 19 and isn’t eligible for AHL or ECHL. In this instance, you have three options. Either leave him in with his junior team for another full season (he’d be classified as an “overager” now; teams in the CHL can have up to three of these), leave him with the junior team until he ticks over to 20y/o, then sign and send to the ECHL or sign him and keep him on your NHL squad until he comes of age. All down to personal preference here really.
- Goaltenders take the longest to mature and develop. Then Defencemen. Then Forwards. Generally.
- It’s not necessarily wrong to let a player spend an extra year at any level before the NHL. Development is a murky world. Analyse the player’s attributes and his performances. Don’t call up a player when you have someone already playing his position. Let them get the most ice time wherever possible.
- Development probably ceases around 24/25 for a Forward. Adjust up for Defencemen and Goalies.
- I mentioned prospect depth before; it’s pretty damn important as this is the future of your franchise. But you need to keep an open door here; keep cycling players in and out. Call them up to the next level, hold ‘em for a year down maybe or get rid of them if they aren’t cutting the mustard. If you draft well you should eventually be looking to graduate two prospects into your NHL squad each year.
Your AHL & ECHL affiliate
Just some quick advice on getting the best out of these two squads: When you take over the NHL squad you are ONLY in charge of the NHL team. You can send players down/call them up but you have no impact on the positions they play or the ice time they get (nor the hiring of staff or setup of practice schedules). So while you might think you’re doing the right thing by assigning Player X to the AHL, the management down there may not actually be playing the player in the role you desired (or giving him ice-time).
To counter this, simply create a new GM and add him to take over your farm team(s). In this way you can now control all the teams in the same way you control your NHL squad. It’s going to be more time-consuming but a viable option to get the most of it.
Pretty darn important if you ask me. Hockey has two types of scouting:
- Pro Scouting: This is the scouting of players and teams at the same level as you with the intent of either working out how an opposition plays or to take a look at players already in the league whom you may consider trading for.
- Amateur Scouting: As the name suggests, this is scouting players in the amateur ranks (ie: draft prospects).
You’re going to have a pretty large scouting department at the NHL level so you’ll easily be able to divide the Pro and Amateur responsibilities. In terms of Pro, you’re going to want to assign a guy to scout “Next Opposition” – just like in FM, he’ll give you a quick rundown on how the team likes to play, their record and maybe some notes on key players. Secondly, it’d be a good idea to set a few guys on a rotating schedule to scout each team individually. This will give you a report on every player in the league eventually making your trade decisions (or UFA contract offer decisions) far easier.
At the amateur level, we are talking about scouting players that are coming up in the next draft and the game allows us a few different ways to do this:
- The quickest way is to scout “NHL Entry Draft” from the drop down list within the “Scouts” tab of the “Scouting” page. You’ve got a few options to choose from here as well. I set the age maximum to 19 (as there are a few decent players older than that), the tempo to “Intensive” (so they spend the max time possible) and “No recommendation updates” (because, seriously, your inbox will be overloaded each day with emails from your scouts otherwise). This setup I think takes about 2 months to complete for each scout. I send my scouts off (5 of them, minimum) each time the new ISS rankings come out (so start, mid & end of season). 5 scouts viewing the top 200 players 3 times each should give you a pretty good read.
- The next way is to individually scout the players you are interested in. Go to the Draft screen and sort by the ISS ranking. Right click on the player you are interested in and select “Get a Scout Report.” You’ll be given a list of scouts available for the trip or just select “Any Available” if you’re happy that all the scouts there will give you an accurate report. As you “scout” a player in this way, he’ll be added to your Shortlist allowing you to easily go back and see the players with reports at any time. Now there is an argument to be made here that an “individual scout report” is more accurate/detailed than a report made via “NHL Entry Draft”. I’ve not tested the difference but I know some of the guys at TBL have noted it. So maybe throw a couple of these reports at players you want to sign to ensure you get the most data.
- Lastly, there’s another option to scout “Young Players”. This option is pretty broad and covers pretty much every Junior player in the world, depending on the nationality of your scout. This means that you’ll get reports on 14y/o’s that are still three or four years away from the NHL Draft. I’m not certain of the benefit of scouting players this young but it is an option for you if you desire. It also covers most of those eligible for the NHL Draft too.
The Opening Night
So you’ve spent the past month or so looking at all your players, having a play around with tactics during the pre-season, doing some scouting of the NHL Draft, maybe tried to swing a trade or two and have now finally made it to Opening Night! It’s an exciting time with an expectant fan-base watching on, as well as an overly expectant boardroom, the pressure will be on you early. Will you sink or swim?!
Before we can proceed to the game there are few items we need to address, not the least of which is actually picking a team! The quick and dirty way to do it is by “Ask the Coach” but he may not set it all the way you had imagined. So first things first, we need to “dress” 20 players for the roster: 6 Defencemen, 12 Forwards & 2 Goalies. You do this by clicking on the blue box next to each name. As I noted a few thousand words ago, make sure you have a balance across all the positions.
Next, jump into your tactics screen. You’ll see all your dressed players on the left hand side, the vacant line positions on the right. Start filling out your lines by clicking on the player’s number box then the relevant slot you want him to play on. A couple of brief points on player positions:
- Most players will be able to play multiple positions. Click on a player’s profile, then the “positions” tab to get a read on what positions are relevant (“Natural” is the preferred position, obviously).
- Worthy of consideration when checking the player’s position is their handedness which can be found on the same screen. A Right-Winger’s best handedness is left (so they have more of the net to shoot at); the opposite is true for a Left-Winger. Consider playing a player outside of his natural position (if he’s “Accomplished”) if his handedness is suitable.
- By the same token, you want right-handed Right-Defencemen and left-handed Left-Defencemen (this helps them trap the puck along the boards at the blueline without having to twist their body).
In terms of line combinations, there are plenty of ways to skin this and it is very much an art (as opposed to a science) to getting it right. Players have a hidden attribute which affects their “chemistry” with other players. You’ll never find this out but if you see two players consistently scoring points together, chances are their chemistry is high. I generally start by putting players in the positions they play IRL. Injuries and fitness are going to affect this pretty quickly (uncontrolled changes) but I won’t make any controlled changes until 5 games in. I feel like you need to give players time to settle into the tactics as well as playing with their line mates.
Back in the players section, I included a link to a TBL thread on player types. This becomes very useful when trying to piece your lines together. Again, there are plenty of ways to create your lines but I look for similar or complimentary playing styles. IRL coaches will recommend that you form lines based on pairings. So find two players that compliment each other and then package with a third. For example, pair a Sniper with a Playmaker then perhaps a Power Forward or a Defensive Forward to give the line some flexibility. Importantly, you still want to be dressing players with talent; don’t put a guy on a line just because he has the right description if his attributes are below par. In terms of Defencemen, an Offensive and Stay-at-Home work well together; two Offensives might be a little risky however.
For the sake of clarity – your Powerplay lines are essentially your most lethal offensive pairings (it might be a combo of your lines or just a rehash of your 1st and 2nd lines – I like to mix it up though); your Penalty Kill lines are your most effective defensive players.
I hope everyone has found some usefulness out of this guide. As I said at the start, this is basically just the way that I play the game as a fan of the NHL and of hockey in general. There are more than likely things in here that do not make sense or that others disagree with; that’s cool, each to their own!
Just like everyone else though, I’m still learning about the game and will continue to do so as Riz brings out patches and updates for us to enjoy. I thoroughly endorse the TBL forums; that’s a wicked little community that knows a heck of a lot more about EHM than I do & I strongly encourage you all to visit there and read up. Archie and his team are the centre of the EHM universe.
Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter with any questions at any time and I’ll do my best to answer them!