NHL 23 Positions Explained: Everything You Need to Know about Player Types, Forwards, Defensemen, and Goaltenders

Here’s everything you need to know about the NHL 23 positions and player types.

It can be difficult for a newcomer of ice hockey to get to grips with the roles of the different positions and the different player types in NHL 23. Yet, for line chemistry and getting the most out of your gameplay, it’s vital to know how each position operates and what to expect from the various player types.

Below, you’ll find an explainer on all of the positions in NHL 23 and each of the player types that feature in the game for forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders. You’ll also find out why handedness matters in the game.

Positions in NHL 23 explained

There are three forward positions in every even-strength line, which are the center, left wing, and right wing. When you start to lose players due to penalties and deploy penalty kill units, first, you’ll lose a winger and then the other winger. So, you’ll always have a center on the ice to take faceoffs. Behind them, you have a left and right defenseman as well as your goaltender.

Center (C)

The center is the forward that plays in the middle position of the front three. Your center is the second-most important player on the ice – second only to the goaltender – with possession on each faceoff being decided by their skill in the duel.

A center is expected to win at least 45 percent of faceoffs and be the focal point of attacking moves. So, this will require them to take, skate with, and distribute the puck to the wings, as well as offer a passing lane in the offensive end, often around the slot or closer to the puck carrier. In the defensive end, centers need to cover the middle of the ice or the more central area of the defensive strategy.

In NHL 23, regardless of player type or archetype, centers need to have a well-balanced attributes sheet. That said, the more important attributes are Hand-Eye, Passing, Puck Control, Faceoffs, Speed, and Poise.

Right Wing (RW)

Your right wing is the forward that plays to the right side of your center. They are expected to be offensive outlets, feeding passes towards the middle of the offensive end and speeding down the right flank to get open. They can also be the ones to chase down the puck on the forecheck, such as if the puck is dumped to the right side of the opposition’s goal.

A right wing needs to pose a threat on the right side to pry away the opposing left defenseman, creating space in the middle for the center. They are also expected to be able to score plenty of goals as well as cover their flank on the backcheck. If the other team’s left wing is approaching the defensive end, your right wing can be expected to put pressure on them before your right defenseman comes in to attempt to win the puck.

In NHL 23, you can see a wide range of right wingers, spanning more brutish builds to speedsters with finesse. Throughout them all, though, you’ll want your right wing to have high ratings in Wrist Shot Accuracy and Power, Acceleration, Agility, Speed, Balance, and Puck Control.

Left Wing (LW)

The left wing if your forward who plays to the left side of the center. As is the case with right wing skaters, your left wing is expected to be able to score goals, carry the puck, and pick out passes that create goalscoring opportunities. They will both enter the offensive zone with the puck and chase down dumped pucks that slide to the left side of the opposition’s goal.

Left wingers also need to be active on the backcheck, often being the first line of defence if an opponent’s right wing is on the rush. Equally, defensive duties won’t tend to draw them too deep into your defensive end, with at least one of your wingers tending to sit higher up to be ready for a breakout opportunity.

In NHL 23, you’ll want the core skills of a left wing – Wrist Shot Accuracy and Power, Acceleration, Agility, Speed, Balance, and Puck Control – to have high attribute ratings.

Defensemen (LD and RD)

You have two defensemen on the ice at all times, with one playing more to the left of the middle and the other playing more to the right. As the center is generally expected to play a 200-foot game, defenseman primarily focus on defending their respective wide areas. So, a left defenseman will look to close down the left side.

The job of a left defenseman or right defenseman is to win back the puck. In NHL 23, this is usually via a body check in open ice, along the boards, or with a well-timed stick check. As opposing forwards begin to carry the puck towards your defensive end, defensemen will retreat until your blueline, and then put more pressure on – generally speaking.

Your defensemen will also be the ones to collapse close to the goal to protect the net from long shots and forwards skating towards the crease. This can also involve trying to shrug a player who’s standing in front of the goaltender (known as a screen) from the crease or disrupt their game.

In offensive situations, both defensemen come to the opposing blueline. They’ll usually be within the offensive end, ready to take passes, circulate the puck, and sometimes hammer slap shots on goal. However, in the event of a turnover, your defensemen will be the first to retreat.

In NHL 22, you’ll want defensemen with high ratings in Stick Checking, Shot Blocking, Defensive Awareness, Durability, Slap Shot Power and Accuracy, Body Checking, Strength, Discipline, and Passing.

Goaltenders (G)

Your goaltender is the player who stands in the crease to attempt to stop the puck from going into the goal. They are the most important player on your team, will play all 60 minutes of a game, and are expected to stop more than 90 percent of roughly 35 shots that come their way in each game. That said, most goaltenders will be given 20 or more rest nights throughout the season, particularly on back-to-back game days.

For most NHL 23 players, goaltending is a passive aspect of the gameplay. Few switch to the goaltender in games outside of playing passes from a collection behind the back of the net or to avoid freezing the puck. The main exception to this is the gamers who take on the hefty challenge of playing as the goalie in Be A Pro and similar modes.

In NHL 23, all of the goaltender attributes are vital to their success, particularly because you don’t tend to have any input on their performances. That said, the puck-stopping attributes like Glove Low and High, Stick Low and High, and Five Hole are key.

Why does handedness matter to NHL 23 positions?

It’s always a good idea to keep in mind handedness when setting your lines. If a left wing shoots left, their optimum play while going down the left side’s boards is to pass as the forehand face of the stick is directed inwards. Turning in on goal, in this example, would leave either a very narrow shooting lane for a regular shot, or a backhand shot.

So, if you want your left or right wing to score plenty of goals, try to have them shoot from further out to increase the shooting angle or pick a skater with opposite handedness to their position – such as left shot skaters on the right wings.

This is equally as important for your defensemen. In NHL 23, shooting from the blueline or point with your defensemen is a great way to score if their handedness is optimised for such an attempt. If you want your defensemen to have scoring opportunities, it’s best to have them with opposite handedness to their side: so, a left defenseman who shoots right.

That said, puck-moving defensemen are coveted in the modern game, as are takeaways. Having defensemen with the same handedness as their side opens up wider natural passing lanes, particularly to their side’s wing and to the center. This also allows them to get the maximum reach and effectiveness when stick-checking forwards coming down their side of the ice.  

Player types in NHL 23 explained

Within each of the NHL 23 positions detailed above, there are several sub-categories – otherwise known as “Archetypes” or the “Player Type” – which indicate how the player acts on the ice. There are six forward player types, four defenseman player types, and three goaltender player types in the game; here’s how they work.

Enforcers (forwards)

A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Enforcer" archetype in the game.
The “Enforcer” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Enforcers don’t tend to have much playing skill and are primarily on the ice to be a physical presence, lay down checks, and fight other players when called upon. Usually deployed as a right wing or left wing, Enforcers tend to have very high attributes in strength, fighting skill, balance, body checking, and aggressiveness.

If you have an Enforcer, they tend to be best deployed on the third line, fourth line, or the same line as your top rookie to protect them in heated games. Use your enforcer to physically punish stars of the other team or get into a fight if your team’s energy is low – winning fights increases line energy, giving you the edge in close games.


A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Grinder" archetype in the game.
The “Grinder” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Grinders are physically-inclined skaters who revel in attacking the puck wherever it is, laying down checks, and containing the puck while awaiting the arrival of more skilled players. Usually, grinders are found as left or right wingers because they’re so good at board play, and they tend to have high ratings in body checking, strength, aggressiveness, shot blocking, and stick checking.

Your Grinder is ideally placed on checking lines, which are usually reserved for lines three and four. This is because of their defensive approach to the game that revolves around stopping opponents in their tracks and halting the movement of the puck. They’re also good equalisers to speedier, smaller wingers.

Two-Way (forwards)

A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Two-Way" archetype in the game.
The “Two-Way” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Two-Way forwards are just as good in the offensive end as they are in the defensive end. True masters of the 200-foot game, you’ll often see them described as defensive players because other types of forwards don’t offer as much to the team without the puck as a Two-Way forward.

Expect to find Two-Way forwards in either wing position but especially in the center position. A top-class Two-Way center can be played on the first or second line, with their prowess in the faceoff circle granting the other top skaters on your top lines more of the puck. They win possession and defend very well, allowing the line to have much more attack-minded skaters on the ice without losing much balance.

A Two-Way center is expected to have high ratings for poise, hand-eye, and faceoffs. All Two-Way forwards, which includes wingers, often have high attribute ratings for their Defensive Awareness, Stick Checking, Passing, Offensive Awareness, Strength, Shot Blocking, Discipline, and Endurance.


A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Playmaker" archetype in the game.
The “Playmaker” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Playmakers are your main offensive outlet, the best passers of and movers with the puck, and position themselves to create goalscoring opportunities. Playmakers are just as commonly found on either wing as they are in the middle, but a top-class center who’s a Playmaker will tend to be the star of the team in NHL 23.

A Playmaker can be deployed in any of the top three lines depending on the composition of your roster. Still, it’s usually best to pair them with a goal-savvy winger – particularly those of the Sniper player type. Your Playmaker needs to excel in all offensive categories for maximum effect (so you can also check our list of the best playmakers in NHL 23).


A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Power" archetype in the game.
The “Power” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Power forwards are the more skilful strong players of the forward lines. While Grinders and Enforcers tend to be much more focused on physical play, Power forwards use their strength to out-muscle opponents and make space for big plays. Their top attributes tend to be in strength, body checking, hand-eye, puck control, offensive awareness, and aggression.

You’ll often find Power forwards on line two or three, but a top-class Power forward can revel alongside Playmakers with high offensive awareness on line one as well. With a Power forward and plenty of speedy skaters around, dumping the puck and working aggressive forechecks become useful offensive options. In the defensive end, a Power forward’s physicality certainly comes in handy along the boards and behind the net.


A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Sniper" archetype in the game.
The “Sniper” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Snipers in NHL 23 are the best goal scorers in the team, trusted with firing the puck on net at any given opportunity. More often than not, Snipers are right wingers or left wingers, but some centers have been given the Sniper player type in NHL 23. Their best attributes have to be shooting attributes and Puck Control, and then either Acceleration, Agility, and Speed or Strength and Aggressiveness.

Pair a Sniper with your top six (a player good enough to play on line one or line two) Playmaker, and you’ll have a recipe for goals. As soon as they get the puck in the offensive end, a Sniper will tend to either fire a shot from around their side’s faceoff circle or drive to the net to attempt to tuck one past the goaltender.


A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Defensive" archetype in the game.
The “Defense” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

A Defensive defenseman is a defenseman that plays with a defence-first mentality, prioritising covering potential breakouts over getting involved in the offence. They are at their best without the puck, boasting high ratings in all defensive and physical attributes. This allows them to be masters of the takeaway and reclaiming possession.

The regular shutdown line three of your defence is usually the best place to deploy a Defensive defenseman. That said, to bring balance to a line with a high calibre Offensive defenseman, a decent Defensive defenseman can be a sound choice.

Still, the priority of a Defensive defenseman is to block shooting lanes, clear the net mouth, and play it safe if under pressure, making them ideal additions to any penalty kill unit.

Two-Way (defenseman)

A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Two-Way Defensemen" archetype in the game.
The “Two-Way Defensemen” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Two-Way defensemen are just as effective with the puck as they are without possession. These blueliners are expected to track back, be physical, and retrieve the puck as well as move it well, spot rushing wingers, and have a few shots on the goal. Speed, Agility, Offensive Awareness, Defensive Awareness, Passing, Shot Blocking, and Stick Checking are the key traits of this player type in NHL 23.

Two-Way defensemen can be found on any defensive line. As they can play at both ends of the ice well, the main decision to be made when deploying a Two-Way defenseman is which other skater you’ll put on their line. Another Two-Way defenseman would naturally bring balance, but they can also act as soft counterweights to Offensive defensemen or Defensive defensemen.

Offensive (defenseman)

A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Offensive Defensemen" archetype in the game.
The “Offensive Defensemen” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Offensive defensemen are the more attack-minded blueliners who aim to anchor an offensive move and get in on the scoring more regularly. Often boasting high ratings in Speed, Acceleration, Puck Control, Passing, Offensive Awareness, Slap and Wrist Shot Accuracy, and Hand-Eye, Offensive defensemen can take the puck in the neutral zone, pick a perfect pass, and then rush to offer another option from the blueline.

You’ll rarely find an Offensive defenseman on the third line due to their tendency to push the offence and their relative lack of utility defensively. Instead, they’re better suited to line one or two, increasing their ice time with the team’s top offensive forwards. They tend to be a staple of powerplay units.

Enforcer (defenseman)

A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Enforcer Defensemen" archetype in the game.
The “Enforcer Defensemen” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Enforcer defensemen are very similar to the forward class of Enforcers, simply being defensemen in their position of preference instead. They, too, excel in Aggressiveness, Strength, Fighting Skill, Balance, and Body Checking, offering another place to put an Enforcer on your lines if you don’t want to lose a forward slot.

Butterfly (goalie)

A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Butterfly Goalie" archetype in the game.
The “Butterfly Goalie” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Butterfly goaltenders are accustomed to playing low in the goal, covering the bottom corners with their legs inverted outwards. This goalie player type is very difficult to score against down low, often rated highly for Five Hole, Stick Low, Glove Low, and Angles. However, they struggle with shots towards the crossbar and with mobility across the crease.

Standup (goalie)

A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Standup Goalie" archetype in the game.
The “Standup Goalie” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Standup goaltenders prefer to guard the goalmouth by standing more upright for the most part. This somewhat traditional stance allows them to be faster and more aggressive to skaters who are closing in. A Standup Goaltender’s best attributes will be their Glove High, Stick High, Poke Check, Speed, and Aggressiveness. However, covering the high areas comes at the cost of low coverage, with the bottom corners being particular weak spots.

Hybrid (goalies)

A screenshot from NHL 23 regarding the "Hybrid Goalie" archetype in the game.
The “Hybrid Goalie” Archetype is necessary to have on your team in NHL 23!

Hybrid goaltenders play between the Butterfly and Standup stance, with their mobility allowing them to switch between to offer much more even coverage. All of their main saving attributes tend to be rated evenly, with elements like Aggressiveness, Stick Checking, and Angles being a bit weaker. This is the default player type of every goalie in NHL 23 as of October 10.

That’s everything that you need to know about all of the positions and player types of NHL 23. Hopefully, this guide gives you a better idea of how to use and deploy the skaters at your disposal in the game.

Looking to up your defense? Here is our list of the best NHL 23 goalies.

Wondering which team to choose? Check out our article on NHL 23 best teams.

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