TORONTO - As in the NHL draft, Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid leads all rookies in the new "NHL 16" video game from EA Sports.
But the video game developer is leaving plenty of room for the teenage sensation to grow.
McDavid, the No. 1 pick this summer, has been given a player rating of 82, which is some distance away from the video game's top 50 players. EA will undoubtedly revise that rookie rating as warranted by his on-ice performance in the NHL.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby tops the game ratings at 96 while Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen is No. 50 at 89.
As an OHL player, the 18-year-old McDavid has already been in the game and his rating was revised upwards during last season because of his dominance in junior. No. 2 pick Jack Eichel, as an NCAA player, has not appeared in the game and has yet to get a rating.
Because of that, Eichel will have to appear in the NHL before the centre can make it into the virtual hockey world. While that is also the case for McDavid, there is a loophole in that gamers can elevate him to the NHL when they want because he is already part of the database.
Both players could make their NHL regular-season debut Oct. 8 when the Oilers visit St. Louis and Buffalo, which took Eichel second overall, hosts Ottawa.
The two rookies showed few could compete with them in their previous hockey environments. But their NHL story is just about to unfold.
"We have a good grasp that Eichel and McDavid are going to be impact players," said Andy Agostini, an associate producer on the game. "How much of an impact once they're playing against fully grown men who have been in the NHL for five to 10 years will be something that we're going to have to keep our eye on."
The player ratings, assembled from a subset of some 20 skill rankings, are done in conjunction with a pro scout. The video game developer revises the ratings via updates during the season.
"To add two or three points isn't an issue for us," Agostini said of the rookies. "It's more we don't want to overstate their importance (at the start)."
McDavid had 47 goals and 76 assists in 47 games for the OHL Erie Otters last season when he was Canadian Hockey League player of the year. He had 97 goals and 285 points in 166 career regular season games (1.71 points per game) in three seasons in junior.
Eichel, the 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner, picked up 26 goals and 45 assists in 40 games last season as a freshman for Boston University.
EA's top 15 prospects in the new game cover a variety of draft years given it takes most prospects some years to advance to the NHL.
Outside of McDavid, the top rookies listed for 'NHL 16" are:
Emile Poirier, Calgary, 80; Oliver Bjorkstrand, Columbus, 80; Mackenzie Skapski, New York Rangers, 80; Ronalds Kenins, Vancouver, 80; Nick Ritchie, Anaheim, 79; Ryan Hartman, Chicago, 79; Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders, 79; Ivan Barbashev, St. Louis, 79; Connor Brown, Toronto, 79; Jake Virtanen, Vancouver, 79; Madison Bowey, Washington, 79; Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg, 79; Nic Petan, Winnipeg, 79; Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg, 79; and Shea Theodore, Anaheim, 78.
Erie centre Dylan Strome, taken third overall by the Arizona Coyotes, gets a 77. London Knights centre Mitch Marner, the fourth overall pick taken by the Maple Leafs, is a 74.
NHL 16, which is made in suburban Vancouver, is due out Sept. 15 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
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