Dylan Larkin did a double-take the first time he saw the list.
The 23-year-old centre has led the Detroit Red Wings in scoring the last two seasons, is one of the fastest players in hockey and could captain his team one day. But sneaking into the top-50 ranking of EA Sports’ “NHL 20” video game?
That came as a surprise.
“I thought it was pretty high,” Larkin said of the 88 overall rating (out of 100) that earned him the No. 50 spot. “I never thought I’d be named in the top 50 NHL players in anything.
“Even though I know it’s a video game, it’s pretty cool.”
Electronic Arts released the latest edition of its hockey franchise last month. As always, there’s new features, updated graphics, improved game play and lifelike player avatars.
“You always think your rating is probably too low,” Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel, ranked 44th with the same rating as Larkin, joked at the recent NHL/NHLPA media tour in Chicago. “The face and the hair was probably pretty good.”
St. Louis Blues centre Ryan O’Reilly, 29th with an 89 rating, said he appreciated that designers made his beard look darker than it is in real life.
“I was dying,” he said of his reaction after being shown his likeness. “That’s the way I think it is. There were a lot of colours going on around here.
“I don’t think they got it perfect.”
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is the top-rated player in “NHL 20” at 94, followed Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby (93), reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov (92) of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin (92) and Colorado Avalanche catalyst Nathan MacKinnon (92).
“I’m good with it,” Ovechkin said with a smile. “Obviously next year I’m going to try to be better.”
But while the NHLers polled were all aware of their rankings, they didn’t take to social media in droves to complain — unlike a number NFL players, who railed against the “Madden 20” video game when the numbers came out this summer.
“I don’t pay as much attention to it as maybe I used to when I played the game when I was younger,” said Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, who’s at No. 16 with a 90 rating. “I know there’s some young guys on our team that asked me if I saw my rating.”
“Every year you wonder how high you’re going to go,” added Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau (88), who came in at No. 46. “It’s cool how they do it.”
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews — No. 15 with a ranking of 90 overall — is the poster boy for the game’s North American edition.
“It was pretty generous,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t mind it.
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“I think it helped to be on the cover a little bit.”
Ovechkin said he plays video games during the season, but not the one featuring him.
“Lots of games,” he said. “Not NHL … I’m not that crazy.”