NHL 23: Beginner’s guide to defense – How to position yourself, controls, and tips

Struggling with the D?

Screenshot by Gamepur

Sure, the object of hockey is to score more goals than the other team. Part of that is on the offense, but the other part is keeping the puck of your own net. Defense is critical in hockey, and that’s true as well in NHL 23. If you’re struggling with playing defense in this year’s game, we can help. Let’s take a look at the controls for defense, plus some helpful tips on how to position yourself, and things to watch for on the ice.

Related: NHL 23: Comprehensive deking guide – How to deke, controls, and tips for beginners


TypeXB ControlsPS Controls
SkateL (Left/Right/Up/Down)Left Stick (Left/Right/Up/Down)
Switch PlayerRTR2
Manual Switch PlayerRT (Hold) + RR2 (Hold) + Right Stick
Casual Manual Switch PlayerRT (Hold) + LBR2 (Hold) + L1
Manual Switch Player (Last Man Back)RT (Hold) + RSR2 (Hold) + R3
Vision ControlLT (Hold)L2 (Hold)
Body CheckRRight Stick
Poke CheckRBR1
Sweep StickRB (Hold) + RR1 (Hold) + Right Stick
Chop PuckRS + RR3 + Right Stick
Pass Block + Sweep StickLB + R (Left)/(Right)L1 + Right Stick (Left)/(Right)
Stick LiftAX
Hip CheckRS + LBR3 + L1
Block PassLBL1
Dive/BlockLB + RBL1 + R1
Initiate/Accept FightY (Double Tap)Triangle (Double Tap)
Boardplay (when near boards)Y (Hold)Triangle (Hold)
Initiate Net Battle (in open ice)Y (Hold)Triangle (Hold)
Quick PlaysPadPad
Line ChangeB/XCircle/Square
Tie Up Player StickA (Hold)X (Hold)

Now that we’ve gone over the basic controls you will need to know for defense in NHL 23, here are some helpful tips that might come in handy.

NHL 23 Defense Tips

Stay in position

Regardless of what mode (HUT, EASHL, etc.), it’s important to stay in position. For example, if you continuously attempt to pinch and move up forward as a defenseman, you leave yourself at risk of surrounding goals. Why? Because you won’t have enough bodies back to handle the opponent’s offense.

Stay with the opposing skaters, and be disciplined, or you might regret it in the future. Keep the left winger on the left side, the right winger on the right, etc. You can be aggressive at times, but pick your spots carefully.

Watch the poke checks

The new Frostbite engine has brought some quirks to it, and one that has changed significantly since the overhaul is poke checks. Poke checks are far less overpowered, as the Frostbite engine emphasizes body checking, blocking passing lanes, and staying in position.

Poke checks are still important, but it’s really not to spam. Constant poke checks will lead to lost footing, and allowing for opponents to get past you should you not be successful.

Please avoid pinching

We touched on pinching in the first step, but we’ll address it again in more detail: avoid being overzealous with defenseman pinches. We already touched on it here earlier, but it’s vital that you keep your D-men back in most circumstances. The only instances where you should try to pinch is in situations where you have time and space to do something. But, if an opposing skater is within a stride or two of you, be careful.

Otherwise, you might leave yourself in a bad position, lose the puck, and have to then deal with an odd-man rush. Make sure that if you are usering with a defenseman, stay in front of the puck, and watch the passing lines and try to close those up.

Block the lanes

Frostbite has led to some big changes, namely the speed of the game and the physics engine. Space is much harder to come by than in past games, so it’s important to watch the open players out on the ice and key in on tendencies. Does the opponent love to work the points, or what about the centerman in front? Look at which players are open, and which players the opposition loves to funnel the offense through. Then, adapt and cut those options off.