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The best strategies to use in NHL 23

Set your team up for success.

NHL 23 brings a new year of content and new features like special in-game presentations and custom Franchise Mode options. If you’re planning on playing a lot of “CHEL,” be prepared to get acquainted with strategies. Strategies influence how the AI moves and positions itself across the ice and in varying situations. This is vital to get right, especially if you do want to play a lot of Online Versus or Hockey Ultimate Team. So, which strategies do we recommend for NHL 23? Let’s go over our picks.

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Related: NHL 23: The 10 tips you should know for HUT

How to change strategies

Before we get into which strategies we recommend, let’s quickly go over how to change strategies. During a game, you can press either B/X (on Xbox) or Circle/Square (on PlayStation) during a stoppage of play to change the strategies, as well as the team’s lines. If you are in HUT, select Manage Lineups from the My Team tab and then go to the Strategies section.

Team Strategies

Now, let’s take a look at our selections for the best team strategies, starting with the forecheck:

Forecheck – 1-2-2 Aggressive or 1-2-2 Passive

Forechecking is all about putting pressure on the opposing team in their zone, particularly toward their defensemen. The key though is that you don’t want two or three of your players to fall behind the puck and get caught. Sending one player on the forecheck in most situations is the best route to take. However, if you are down by one or two goals late, you might want to consider changing this strategy and sending in two players.

Neutral Zone – 1-3-1 or 1-4

If you play online, most players you see will use either a 1-3-1 or 1-4 for the Neutral Zone. This creates a Neutral Zone trap that prevents the puck-possessing team from getting through by suffocating passing lanes and taking up space.

It’s a highly effective strategy, so either one will work, even though the 1-4 is a more extreme version. However, if you do come across a trap player, try to dump and chase. This should loosen things up and will allow you to get the puck in the opposing zone. To do this, attempt a flip, pass, or shot around the boards to get the puck in the other team’s zone.

Trap/Forecheck – Varies

If you plan on playing a defensibly responsible game, set this setting to either a 0 or 1. This will reinforce your team’s trap bias and have your AI defenders focus on suppressing the other team’s breakout.

However, the Frostbite engine does reward forechecking and hits a bit more, increasing this setting to 3-6 might be a good idea. We do, however, want to note that despite all of this, being too aggressive can still lead to defensive gaps. Specifically, when it comes to defenders stepping up and possibly being behind the puck when it is all said and done.

This is why we once recommend setting it to how you plan on playing.

Offensive Pressure – Standard

For NHL 22, we recommended going with setting the Offensive Pressure to either Standard or Aggressive, depending on play style preference. For 23, we’re sticking with just Standard. Standard is a good, balanced format that should keep things stable, while also preventing hiccups should you be the victim of a turnover.

Defensive Pressure – Protect Net

Just like last year, our recommendation for this strategy is to set it to Protect Net. Even though things have changed from 22 to 23. Protect Net is still your best bet to cover the slot area, and avoid the other team from getting pressure close to the net.

Defensive Strategy – Collapsing

Much like last year, set this to Collapsing. Doing this will get your defenders to collapse to the front of the net and slot. Because players have a better chance of scoring in the slot area (the area in the middle of the ice, right in front of the net), it’s important to protect this part of the ice at all costs.

Penalty Kill and Power Play

It’s now time to look at special team setups. Let’s start with the penalty kill, as it’s important to point out that there are three different strategies for the PK: Large Box, Passive Box, and Diamond.

Diamond works for the 1-3-1, or Umbrella, which we’ll get to when we talk about power play setups. Large Box is geared toward users who want to pass and cut into the middle of the ice, as it puts pressure on those skaters. Passive Box creates a tight square on the ice, an effective strategy against players who want bang-bang pass and shoot players across the ice.

We like the tight, passive box. The main reason is that the AI is much more open to clogging up passing lines on its own. Because of that, you’ll be able to cut off any circulation in the middle of the ice that the opposition may want to set up.

As for the power play setups, you could pick either an Overload, Shooting, or Umbrella strategy. The latter can be a handy strategy for creating second-chance shots and screens, as well as one-timers from the middle from a forward or blue-liner. This strategy, however, does have a drawback, as you could get caught on an odd-man rush since only one player will be back on the blue line.

It’s up to you which one you pick, but we do prefer either Shooting or Umbrella.

PP Carry/Dump – 0, 1, or 2

Since you have the man advantage on the power play, try to avoid dumping the puck in on the PP. This setting isn’t all that important, but nonetheless, set it very low.

Breakouts

As far as breakouts are concerned, here are our recommendations for how you should set those up:

  • Control Breakout – Strong Side Slant
  • Power Play Breakout – Five Back or Center Lane Option
  • Quick Breakout – Close Support

3-on-3 Offense – Standard or Passive

Don’t lose your head during 3-on-3 play. It’s important to stay calm, and avoid being too aggressive. Otherwise, you might turn the puck over very quickly, and lose the game fast. It’s important to be steady during this setup, take your time, and try to force the other team to be aggressive and get out of position. Set this to either Standard or Passive.

Line Strategies

These can be set up based on preference. However, we do want to briefly chat about the Hold Line/Pinch settings.

As far as this is concerned, try to keep this very low, as well. This will prevent the AI from being too aggressive with the defensemen, and thus, prevent odd-man rushes. This should hold as long as you don’t pinch all that often yourself.


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Author
Chris Studley
Chris is a staff writer for Gamepur who lives on the East Coast of the U.S. Chris has covered sports games, including the Madden, FIFA, NHL, NBA 2K, and MLB The Show franchises, for Gamepur since 2020.