*UPDATED* NHL 21: Release date revealed, price, editions, pre-order, early access, trailer, updates, news, next-gen, franchise mode, HUT, World of Chel & more

EA dominate the ice, but will their next title improve on last year’s offering and raise the bar?

Nick Farrell by Nick Farrell
NHL 21 potential cover star Nathan Mackinnon

The NHL is on ice thanks to COVID-19, but NHL 21 is still on the way.

We didn’t get what we expected at EA Play, but a recent development update gave us plenty of hope for the next entry to the EA NHL franchise.

Here’s everything you need to know about NHL 21.

Release Date

NHL 21 will be released in October! This was confirmed in a new development update.

READ MORE: NHL 21 pre-order now live!

An Amazon page has gone live in some areas, giving a release date of 16 October. This is unconfirmed, but probably accurate.

Price & editions

NHL 21 is listed with a price of $59.99, however, that is just for the Standard Edition.

The other edition available is the Ultimate Edition, listed at $99.99.

Both come with good pre-order bonuses, and the Ultimate Edition has three days early access too.

No Next-Gen Version

NHL 21 will be the first of EA’s major sports titles not to be designed for next-gen consoles, as revealed in the latest development update.

ALL IN ON CURRENT-GEN: EA’s focus is on playability this year

In the update it’s explained that this is to free up the team to add plenty of new gameplay features to the game for release on Xbox One and PS4.

READ MORE: NBA 2K21: How other games may adapt The Park – Madden 21, FIFA 21, The Yard, NHL 21

NHL 21 will still be playable on next-gen consoles thanks to forward-compatibility, but it will not be receiving PS5 and Xbox Series X releases with next-gen exclusive features. This should emphasize the game’s quality on initial release for current-gen consoles.

Who will be the cover star?

Last year’s cover star was the electric forward from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews.

EURO REPPING: Patrik Laine and Elias Pettersson donned the cover in Scandinavia

This upcoming year it is hard to say who will get the nod for the cover.

Keep your eyes on Nathan Mackinnon as the frontrunner. Having never been on the cover before, he has been sensational this season and is in with a good chance of making the cover.

READ MORE: Absolutely everything you need to know about Madden 21

One of the common trends EA has done over recent years is to select regional cover stars for certain countries.

As pictured above, Finland’s cover featured Patrik Laine and Sweden’s cover featured Elias Pettersson.

That should continue this year, with notable players such as Germany’s Leon Draisaitl and the Czech Republic’s David Pastrnak as solid contenders for covers outside of the US.

New Gameplay Features

This year the team is more focused than ever to deliver new gameplay features after announcing the game won’t have a next-gen edition or exclusive next-gen features.

LEVELING UP: What new features we will see in NHL 20?

Look for new features in the skating, defensive, shooting and AI departments this year to be available right on release day!

Trailer

There is no official trailer yet, but be sure to bookmark this tab and check back when one releases – because we’re sure one is coming soon.

The first trailer last year was the cover star reveal – which was announced in June, 2019.

This was followed by the above gameplay trailer on 16 July.

These dates have come and gone, so we are expecting trailers any day now!

World of Chel

The World of Chel game mode is one of the more unique in the NHL series, and allows players to build up their very own created characters.

GROWTH: Build up your created character in World of Chel to dominate the ice in more personal games

World of Chel has plenty of different ways to play, most involving small team games like 3v3 – which helps separate gameplay from the other modes.

READ MORE: NHL 21’s focus on innovation over next-gen features will be a huge boost

This is also where many players will be online, so be sure to jump in come NHL 21!

Be a Pro Mode

NHL’s take on the classic career mode has received a lot of criticism over the last two years. The mode has you create your own player, and then it prompts you to either pick an NHL team or pick one of the countless Junior teams.

OVERHAUL PENDING?: NHL 20’s Be a Pro mode needs an improvement

Other than that, it is one of the weaker career modes we have seen in sports titles.

Fans have been begging EA to adjust the mode similar to what 2K Games has done with the NBA franchise. Perhaps, using a different storyline with some dialogue to make you connect to your NHL player more.

Franchise Mode

Franchise mode received the biggest overhaul during NHL 20; EA implemented coaches, dynamic line chemistry, in-depth scouting reports, and conversations between you and the players.

Although NHL 20 introduced an ample amount of new features, some of these should be fine-tuned for the next game.

Having an overall better system in place for the player conversations is a must for fans. Coaches and line chemistry was one of the best features introduced in NHL 20, and fans are hoping EA can propel these additions into some of the best the series has.

Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT)

One of the new features introduced last year was Squad Battles, a take on the classic FIFA game mode. The mode is still on-going and refreshing challengers every day or week.

Going forward to this year’s title, it is hard to say what additions HUT needs. As of now, there are over 400 Hockey collectible players and it would not hurt to see even more additions.

With both FIFA and Madden boasting in-depth and regularly updated Ultimate Team content we expect to see EA lift some ideas from those titles and bring them into NHL 21.

Ratings

Like any sports game, ratings are one of the core components for each year’s iteration. NHL 21 should offer some upgrades and downgrades to numerous players going into the new game.

Here’s our predictions for the top five players for NHL 21.

  • Connor McDavid
  • Sidney Crosby
  • Alex Ovechkin
  • Nathan Mackinnon
  • Nikita Kucherov

READ MORE: Madden 21 – Release date, gameplay, news, & more

Demo/Beta

No official news on the demo/beta yet for NHL 21. Last year, everyone was given a chance to check out the new game from July 26-31, so be on the lookout for sometime around then too!

Nick Farrell

Full-time student studying Communications with a minor in Business at the Memorial University. Contact: [email protected]