Today is a pretty exciting day for me, as the newest installment of Pokèmon hits the shelves. By the time that you are reading this, I will have a copy of Alpha Sapphire in my 3DS, and will be playing it until I pass out.
"Great", you may think, "What's this got to do with hockey?"
It turns out that hockey and Pokèmon are more similar than you might think. Being a Pokèmon Trainer and a Hockey Coach essentially boils down to having the same goal: To utilize the unique talents of your 6 players in such a way that that you can consistently gain an advantage against a variety of opponents. That's it. The teams that can do this well consistently win, and the ones that can't struggle to do so.
As in hockey, Pokèmon sees a pretty big variety in style of play. You can have a hyper-offensive team that seeks to blast through an opponent by supporting one or two key threats (Pittsburgh), a stall team that seeks to frustrate opponents into making mistakes (The Wild through much of their history), a "bulky offense" team that can take hits just as well as they can deal them out (Los Angeles, St. Louis), or a balanced playstyle where you can win in a variety of ways (Chicago). With the right choices, you can make any strategy viable.
So, with that in mind, I've decided to play Professor Oak. I'll go through the Minnesota Wild's skaters, selecting for them a Pokèmon that seems compatible with their style of play. Let's catch 'em all!
Keith Ballard, #2, Golem
Golem was once a Pokèmon that was considered to be a key cog for a team, useful for it’s attacks and resistances. Time has not been kind to it, however, and Golem is now out-classed by options with a similar typing.
Charlie Coyle, #3, Nidoking
Nidoking is a very good Pokèmon who is pretty good at a lot of things. Good enough at defense, while being a capable attacker, whether physically, or specially. Despite Nidoking’s good all-around game, it’s not necessarily the best at any one thing.
Stu Bickel, #4, Unown
Unown has some versatility to it, as it’s signature move, Hidden Power, has the capability of being any type in the game. Pretty versatile, eh? Well, there’s only one problem with Unown. Hidden Power is it’s only move. And you don’t even get to use four Hidden Powers- the only move that Unown has for eternity is a Hidden Power of one type. Given the fact that just about every Pokèmon can learn Hidden Power, and Unown’s base stats are very underwhelming, Unown is out-classed in just about every way. Sorry, Stu.
Marco Scandella, #6, Blastoise
Blastoise, one of the longest-tenured Pokèmon in the game, is a Pokèmon that’s able to switch in on the toughest defensive assignments. Only recently with the addition of Mega Evolution has Blastoise been able to add an extra element of offense to it’s game. Blastoise’s improvements since last generation has made it a great option, regardless of what play style you need it for.
Mikko Koivu, #9, Venusaur
Venusauer is a versitile Pokèmon, capable of providing offense, defense, and support for teammates. It may be a little lumbering, and sometimes it’s play will put you to Sleep, but Venusaur’s strengths greatly out-number it’s weaknesses.
Zach Parise, #11, Garchomp
Garchomp simply wrecks house. If you wanted to use a Pokèmon specifically to provide offense as quickly as possible, Garchomp would be high on your list. Not content with merely a glass cannon, though, Garchomp can give opponents fits while running a defensive set.
Justin Fontaine, #14, Crobat
Crobat is a fine Pokèmon. It’s got just enough offensive ability, and a good defensive typing which makes him able to fill a variety of roles, especially supporting ones. Crobat is the kind of Pokèmon that is going to help you win some games without losing any for you, either.
Jason Zucker, #16, Jolteon
Jolteon is literally electrifying. It’s speed alone is enough to make it a threat that every team must account for, but when you combine that with Jolteon’s powerful attacks, then you’re cooking with fire. Or electricity, as it were.
Ryan Carter, #18, Mega Banette
With it’s new Mega Evolution, Banette has seen a surge in it’s offensive stats. Even so, it’s a question whether it has the movepool to put on a consistent display of offensive flair. Even so, Banette still has it’s Prankster ability to fall back on, allowing it to hinder and irritate opponents.
Ryan Suter, #20, Latias
With it’s Levitate ability, Latias can move around seemingly without exerting any effort at all. While it occasionally can hit hard with Draco Meteor, the real value in Latias is that it can often stay in the match for a while, taking hits and recovering off damage.
Kyle Brodziak, #21, Shuckle
Shuckle is capable defensively, but with rare exceptions, Shuckle is a non-factor on offense. Under-estimating Shuckle is unwise, however, as Shuckle can make opponents non-factors away from the puck. And with the occasional gimmick, Shuckle can actually finish opponents off!
Nino Niederreiter, #22, Gengar
Gengar is a mischievous demon, able to overwhelm you with it’s speed and skill combination. Gengar is equally capable of overpowering you, or throwing you off your game with annoying status moves. It’s notable that both Gengar and Nino have had their struggles with being banned, with Mega Gengar perpetually a threat to be banned from the anything-goes Uber tier, and Nino Niederreiter often being banned from the Wild’s Top-6.
Matt Cooke, #24, Muk
Muk is primarily used in a defensive role, is capable of crippling you with a mere touch, and is literally a big pile of sewage.
Thomas Vanek, #26, Sharpedo
Sharpedo is the definition of a glass cannon. Sharpedo has strong offenses, but isn’t going to provide a whole lot else. Thankfully, it’s offenses are good enough so that Sharpedo can easily be a net-positive to your team.
Jason Pominville, #29, Rotom-Wash
Rotom-Wash is a Pokèmon that can fit on just about any team. It’s got a great defensive typing, and it’s able to neutralize attacks from the game’s most powerful offensive weapons. It’s no slouch offensively, either, even if it’s Hydro Pump is less accurate than you’d ideally want it to be.
Nate Prosser, #39, Lanturn
A decent defensive Pokèmon with some bulk. However, the sheer amount of similar Pokèmon leaves Lanturn competing for a role on your team, often against better fits.
Lanturn, being an agitator.
Jared Spurgeon, #46, Chandelure
Chandelure is not big, but there’s no reason to under estimate it. Chandelure brings it offensively, and has the attributes, typing, and ability to be a much more defensive Pokèmon than it appears to be.
Mathew Dumba, #55, Level 19 Magikarp
You’re not going to look great while using a Magikarp. Oftentimes, Magikarp can look like a liability, and incite everyone to mock the trainer for using Magikarp. That’s OK. Let them laugh. A smart trainer knows that all you have to do is get Magikarp to Level 20, and it’ll evolve into Gyarados, a notoriously bad-ass shit-wrecker. Magikarp is almost there.
Erik Haula, #56, Sneasel
Of all non-fully evolved Pokèmon, Sneasel is the fastest. It’s ability to take a hit is certainly questionable, but despite it’s lack of bulk, Sneasel uses it’s offensive ability and speed to quickly strike at opponents.
Mikael Granlund, #64, Kadabra
Kadabra’s mental abilities are sublime, honed by focusing their energy through the spoon they constantly hold. It’s still developing it’s ability as an attacker, but it can provide valuable support, and has the potential to evolve into Alakazam, a Pokèmon capable of being the focal point of a team.
So, Wilderness, do you have any better suggestions for these players? Do you know what Pokèmon would be the perfect fit for other NHL'ers (Nathan MacKinnon would clearly pick Pidgeot- it's Pokèmon #018!)? Let us know in the comments!