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Building a winning hockey club is a tricky proposition, especially when some NHL prospects (like future Wild defensemen Jonas Brodin) aren’t even in NHL 13 at this time (and likely won't be until the pending lockout lifts). To help stock your cupboards for a Stanley Cup run, we reached out to developer EA Canada for some tips and threw in a few of our own. Sure, you could exploit the foolish AI by trading a vet for high-round draft picks and picking him back up when the team immediately places him on waivers, but what’s the fun in cheating? Follow these guidelines, and your team can play fair and still be within arms' reach of the Cup.
Fix The RostersNHL fans, be wary: In NHL 13, some of the highly rated prospects for your favorite teams many not currently be in the proper pipeline. For instance, if you’re a Chicago Blackhawks fan, be sure to jump into roster management and throw 2012 first round draft pick Teuvo Teräväinen onto your minor league roster, because he’s out there floating in free agency. No matter what team you’re managing, if you value realism we suggest evening the playing field by restoring all the prospects floating in free agency to their proper teams.
Be Patient With ProspectsWhen it comes to first-round talent, the NHL is a different beast than the NFL or NBA. While some players drafted in the top five go to the NHL immediately, most young prospects take time to develop. Don’t give up on them too soon. In my experience many of them don’t start reaching their potential until they reach the age of 25. Some players even make dramatic rating jumps from the ages of 24 to 25 regardless of ice time or statistics, so think twice before cutting the cord on a young player you think he is underachieving in the minors. If he has a prospect rating of 3.5 stars or above, give him time to flourish.
Invest Heavily In Scouting UpgradesThe experience you accrue in Be A GM allows you to improve several different facets of your organization, but none of them is more important than investing in scouting. As you level up your scouting system, you start receiving more reliable skill projections. This is essential for avoiding busts in the early rounds. When you start the draft process, be sure to target regions that have a heavy number of players being drafted in the first three rounds so you don’t end up accidentally drafting the next Benoit Pouliot when a future Bobby Ryan or Anze Kopitar is there for the taking.
Draft Diverse Player StylesEveryone is attracted to snipers and playmakers, but they alone won’t lead you to the promised land. Great teams have good arrays of player types, so make sure you are stocking the cupboards with a healthy mixture of playmakers, snipers, power forwards, grinders, tough guys, offensive defensemen, defensive defensemen, and two-way players.
Draft A Young GoalieUnless you have a hot young goaltender in your organization, chances are you will need to find a new netminder to take over the starting role within the next five years. Good, young goalies rarely become available in free agency, so unless you want to pay an over-the-hill netminder upwards of $7 million a season you need to cultivate a replacement in the minors. Since they take a while to develop, I recommend taking a highly rated goaltender early in your career as a general manager so you don’t end up paying through the nose to trade for one.
Don’t Just Draft A NameEA Canada’s hockey talent evaluators aren’t as up to date as they should be (hell, they still think James Sheppard and Cam Barker are going to pan out). When you see a recognizable CHL name in the draft pool, don’t just assume he’s going to be a great player in NHL 13. Make sure you scout the player and check out his ratings, because several highly touted real-world prospects don’t have ratings commensurate to their standing in the media.
Hold On To Aging VeteransBecause the new GM Brains are better at signing their own free agents, sometimes the end-of-year talent pool is shallow. No one wants to pay a 36-year-old defender upwards of $5 million a season, but in NHL 13 player skills hardly regress so veterans don't turn into bar league players overnight. If you don’t have a good young player waiting in the wings, I suggest signing the old man to a short-term deal because if he’s allowed to reach free agency chances are one of the position hungry AI GMs could offer more money than you.
Don’t Bother Trading For StarsIn NHL 13, AI-controlled teams are very hesitant to let go of their premiere players – as they should be – but they are equally stubborn about trading anyone else not on their list of available players. Don’t expect to pull off trades like the one that sent Wild defensemen Brent Burns to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and a late first-round pick that was eventually used on Zach Phillips. Teams expect a ransom to give up players in their prime like Burns, so unless you’re absolutely dying to reunite Mark Staal with his brothers in Carolina or something, the cost to pry one of these players from their team is too steep to make it a smart move. The only types of players AI teams are regularly interested in trading are players past their prime and prospects, which is why the draft is so important.
Pay Attention To GM TrackerBy performing the listed tasks in the GM Tracker, you earn experience points you can spend on improving your organization. Some of these objectives are fulfilled naturally, but others should be actively sought out to boost your experience pool. Exchanging minor leaguers may seem like an inconsequential move, but doing so can rack you up a couple more points to go toward upgrades.
Those are our “play fair” suggestions for being a smart general manager. What tips do you have to share?
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