Erik "EKI" Tammenpää is ready to defend his title as champion of the NHL Gaming World Championship, and he's been putting in the work to secure another victory.
Registration for the 2019 NHL Gaming World Championship begins on March 6, and EKI will be back to take on the best EA SPORTS NHL 19 players in the world with a $100,000 cash prize pool on the line.
"The biggest motivation is that I just want to win at everything I do in general and prove to myself that I'm the best," the 19-year-old from Finland said. "I do so much work to be the best at chel so of course winning is my only goal and I wouldn't be satisfied with anything else."
[REGISTER HERE: 2019 Gaming World Championship]
This is the second year of the event, and there are some notable changes to the tournament across all three rounds.
"We've listened to the players and measured how the live events and content were received and are making changes this year that we think will make for a more competitive tournament and more engaged community," said Chris Golier, NHL Vice President of Business Development.
The Online Qualification Round will consist of two phases and will take place in one of the most popular modes in EA SPORTS NHL 19 -- Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT). The first phase of Online Open Play begins on Wednesday, March 13. Players will be able to participate using an existing or newly-created HUT team -- adding a layer of strategy and personalization to roster creation. The second phase of the Online Qualification will be an Online Play-in Bracket hosted by Battlefy. Three brackets will happen by region, with the European Union Online Play-in Bracket dates being April 13 and 20; Canada on April 20 and 27; and the United States on April 27 and May 4. Each Online Play-in Bracket will be single-elimination and consist of head-to-head best-of-one games for the first five rounds, and a head-to-head best-of-three series for the final two rounds.
The competition will also be shifting to Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) play mode where Players may participate using an existing or newly-created HUT team. Gamers will be able to use these teams until the Live Regional Final when a redraft will take place. Players will also redraft for the World Final in Las Vegas.
Hockey Ultimate Team also brings a new wrinkle of strategy to the Live Regional Final and the NHL Gaming World Championship Final. In both rounds, participants will draft their unique rosters from a pool of available Hockey Ultimate Team Items featuring NHL players. Each drafted team will ultimately consist of 12 forwards, six defensemen, two goaltenders and five extra bench players. Once a player is drafted, that player is no longer available, resulting in teams with no duplicate players or duplicate clubs. This unique aspect of the competition will add another layer of strategy to tournament play and allow the participants to construct teams with specific play styles that complement their own. In addition, each participant will either be assigned or choose one unique NHL team to represent.
"This year, HUT will allow for a variety of teams and strategies," said Nasher, who will serve as an analyst for the tournament. "The draft leading up to live events will be incredible, like being an actual GM, players will need to make tough decisions on when and where to draft certain players. We'll see some teams stack up on offense, while others favor defense, it should be interesting to see."
While Nasher's favorites in the tournament are EKI, Regs and Yung Gren, he predicts the redrafting element will add another challenging layer because of the unpredictability.
"Players will be forced to step out of their comfort zone," he said. "Some players stick to versus (with actual NHL teams), others focus on HUT, but for the first time, players won't know exactly what their team will look like going into the tournament. Tough decisions will have to be made during the draft, I'm sure we'll see some pretty crazy lineups come the live events. The good news is players will be able to build a team to fit their play style."
Of course, EKI hopes to earn the title again after having been through the whole experience last year.
"Playing at that level with that kind of prize pool and pressure was a very valuable experience for other tournaments and life in general," EKI said.
This year, he's won the Finnish Championship in 1v1 and 6v6 and the unofficial European Championship in 6v6. He placed second in the Washington Capitals Faceoff on Feb. 19.
"I'm looking forward to go to Vegas again," he said. "That would be nice."
Players can sign up for the 2019 NHL Gaming World Championship on the tournament's registration page at NHL.com/Gaming.