The teams have been picked, and now we await the start of the Regionals. The Europeans are first up this coming weekend, led by the 2018 NHL GWC Champion, Eki. Let’s take a look at the field and how the players drafted their teams.
Saku ‘Sagee95’ Björn
One of the newcomers for this season, Sagee made a pretty surprising first pick by taking Ryan Getzlaf. While he is hands-down the best faceoff player in the draft, his speed and shot are well below other top-ranked players. He followed up with another center in Anze Kopitar who is also a strong faceoff man, and then locked up one of the top defensemen with his third pick by taking Victor Hedman. He definitely went with a more defensive team, picking six players with the Heavy Hitter (HH) synergy, which gives those six players a +4 bonus to the Body Checking, Defensive Awareness, and Strength attributes. This should compliment Sagee’s play style well since he tends to play a collapsing and defense-first style of game. Overall he ended up with a well-balanced team that should suit his personal play-style going into the LAN stage of the tournament.
Christoph ‘Eilung’ Eilenberger
Another player making his NHL GWC debut, Eilung decided to opt for fast players when building his team. His first four picks were all inside the top 20 in terms of skating attributes: Nathan Mackinnon, Taylor Hall, Drew Doughty, and Morgan Reilly. The one problem he might run into is if he matches up against a team that is full of bigger players. He drafted only one player in the top 50 in terms of overall size (height and weight) – Seth Jones. It will be very interesting to see if he is able to slip past the checks of bigger players with his team’s speed.
Paul ‘PleeMaker’ Arontie
PleeMaker is making his return to the European Regionals, looking for a different outcome from Season 1 where he was unable to make it to the Grand Finals. Regarded as one of the best players in the world, he will need to prove he’s ready to make that next step and perform up to those expectations this year. It was pretty evident early on that he wanted his first line to have elite shots. His first three picks were Ovechkin (rated #1 in Shooting), Tarasenko (rated 10th) and Elias Petterson (rated 17th), which should suit his play style well. His defense seemed to take a back seat as far as ratings go, however they are all big bodies. The only one under six feet tall is P.K. Subban. The rest of his d-men are all 6’1″ and taller, which should make it tough for his opponents to maintain an offensive-zone cycle against him.
Kristian ‘Kriketsi’ Veijola
No player from Europe has improved more than Kriketsi this year. Making his NHL GWC debut, he had perhaps the best top four picks across all of the competitors. He went with the ‘best player available’ approach, and it worked out extremely well. Starting with Crosby (93 OVR), he added three more superstars in Laine (89 OVR), Patrick Kane (91 OVR) and Burns (90 OVR). Grabbing Brent Burns in the fourth round was a huge steal and has set him up with a lethal starting lineup.
Risto ‘Dominointi’ Järvi
In his first NHL GWC Regional appearance, he’s looking to upset the returning champion Eki in the first round with another very well-drafted team. By taking four centers with his top eight picks, he’ll have lots of options if he wants to go for a balanced lineup. My guess is he’s looking to pair his top two centers, Stamkos and Seguin, on his first line – but the option is there if he wants to split them up and roll three very deep lines. It will also be fun to see what his three small-but-talented wingers (Gaudreau, Keller and Oshie) can create off the rush.
Joonas ‘SUPERVIRTA’ Virta
A community fan favourite, Supervirta makes his NHL GWC debut this season and might have drafted the best top six in the tournament. Deciding to hold off on defense, he took five forwards to open the draft and ended up being loaded up front. Even with this aggressive approach, he was still able to grab Giordano and Klingberg for his top pairing. I personally can’t wait to see the kind of moves he can pull off with his team.
Hannes ‘Hansulinho’ Kettunen
The next of the three players that are making their return to the European Regionals, Hansulinho drafted his team around synergies and it’s left him with a very impressive roster. McDavid is an automatic game-changer to just about any lineup. He’s the best player in the draft pool by far and he also has the ‘Speedsters’ synergy – one of two synergies Hansulinho was able to activate. The other synergy he has active is ‘Net Front Presence’, which gives those players +2 to Aggression, Balance, Hand-eye, and Strength. Hansulinho’s goaltending is also very strong, as he was able to lock up the tallest goalie – Devan Dubnyk – and he also stole Dustin Byfuglien in the 11th round.
Erik ‘Eki’ Tammenpää
Lastly, let’s look at the reigning NHL GWC champion’s roster. It might be the blandest of all the teams, lacking heavily in star power. But digging deeper into his lineup, you can tell what his strategy was going into the draft. The draft pool featured very few elite faceoff centermen, with only 15 total centers with an 80+ Faceoff stat. Eki has three in the top eight. He locked up Matthews, Scheifele, and possibly the perfect third line center and penalty killer in Jordan Staal. This means that he’ll start with the puck more often than not, which will cause his opponents a lot of trouble, especially if they find themselves down a goal or two. His roster is extremely balanced and should be perfect for his playstyle considering he is the best in the world at adjusting to his opponent.
There you have the recaps for all the players involved in the European Regionals for the 2019 NHL Gaming World Championship. Switching game modes from Online Versus to Hockey Ultimate Team this year was a controversial move, but there is no denying that the Regionals and Finals will be much more exciting with the added layer of strategy and complexity that comes with each draft.
Be sure to tune into the European Regionals of the 2019 NHL GWC, which kicks off LIVE on Twitch on Saturday, May 18th at 5:00pm CEST / 11:00am EST.