NHL 18 has several new features, highlighted by the brand new NHL Threes mode, which mimics NHL overtime rules with 3-on-3 hockey. The mode features a smaller rink, bigger hits, and even a different announcer as it offers a more arcade-like look at hockey. Mascots from NHL teams are also playable in this mode.
NHL 18 also features a brand new Defensive Skill Stick, allowing players more freedom in how they play defense by being able to manually target their stick to poke check the puck away from opponents or block passes. Additionally, new deke moves were added, giving players more opportunities to create flashy scoring chances. The computer AI was also upgraded to be able to perform more complex plays, including using the Defensive Skill Stick and Creative Attack Dekes.
To further promote 3-on-3 gameplay, EASHL, one of NHL 18's online competitive game modes, now features a native 3-on-3 mode. Hockey Ultimate Team also features new HUT Challenges, giving players certain challenges to complete within three 2-minute periods, against AI of varying difficulties, for in-game rewards.