Game Guides

NHL 21 – How to Deke

Want to be the dirtiest dangler on the planet? Check this out.

by Kenny Keelan

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One of the most exciting parts of hockey is being able to pull off a well-timed deke. NHL 21 has a comprehensive list of dekes with varying degrees of difficulty and effectiveness and, as such, some are easier to pull off and some are more rewarding than others. Seeing as this year’s outing added two new extremely popular dekes, players are looking to expand their repertoire to fit these new moves and refine their skill set with existing moves. In this article, we go over everything you need to know so you can learn how to deke in NHL 21!

One of the primary things you’re going to need to know before trying any dekes is how to use the skill stick to hold the puck on your forehand and on your backhand. Much like shooting, it uses the right analog stick but instead of moving it from back to front to take a slapshot or snap it forward to perform a wrist shot, you move it side to side to go forehand to backhand, with how that goes depending entirely on what hand your player plays on.

That said, let’s get right into it.

The Toe Drag

This deke is one of my personal favorites in any hockey game and is one of my favorite dekes in all of hockey. It’s a great way to create some lateral movement quickly, especially if you’re moving from the backhand to the forehand, which allows you to extend your reach far and snap it to the net while creating some openings. You’re protecting the puck as you move it along, too, making this more of a puck movement deke and allows you to move through traffic a lot more reliably. It’s just a great all-around deke and is a great starting point as it is fairly easy to pull off, too. This deke has three additional variants, as well, for passing and shooting.

You’ll perform this deke by either moving the puck to your forehand or backhand by moving the right analog stick and then rolling the right stick backward. How the puck moves depends on whether or not you start on the forehand or the backhand, though trying to go to the backhand before performing the deke is ideal as it gives you the most movement and reach. However, starting on the forehand is quicker and might be more ideal in situations where you’re in tight to the goaltender. The shot variant is performed by snapping the right analog stick upward after rolling it back at some point through the deke animation to determine when the shot goes off. The pass variant is performed by pressing the pass button (R2 on PS4 and RT on Xbox One) through the deke animation after rolling the right analog stick backward. The third variation, called the Toe Drag Flip or “The Datsyuk Flip”, is a different way to shoot through a toe-drag deke, flipping the puck in the air slowly to fool a goaltender, primarily used on breakaways and shootout shots; this is performed by pressing R1 on PS4 or RB on Xbox One at some point through the deke animation, though this is much more effective on the forehand.

Between The Legs

A relatively new deke to this franchise and popularized over the course of the last couple of seasons in the NHL, the between the legs deke is one of the flashier dekes and is primarily used to quickly go in a direction with a shot or pass than the direction you are facing and moving in. This deke isn’t to be confused with a deke that is often called a between the legs deke that we will call the “Through the Legs” deke to differentiate the two. It’s a quick move popularized by Matthew Tkachuk that puts the puck on the stick and the stick between your legs. There are also shooting and passing variations on this deke that are almost required to perform to make this deke effective but aren’t necessary.

To start a between the legs deke press and hold L1 on the PS4 or LB on the Xbox One and then press in the right analog stick and hold it that way for as long as you want to hold the puck between your legs. There’s no real timing benefits in holding this through the animation as the longer your hold the puck between your legs, the more vulnerable it’ll be. To pass the puck, you use the pass button while holding the deke animation, same goes for shooting and saucer passes. This is meant to quickly fool the defense and a goaltender into thinking you’re going one way when you’re turning your body another way. This is another deke that’s meant more for breakaways or shootouts but can be utilized, especially for passes, on odd-man rushes.

Slip Deke

This is a pretty simple deke that will likely be utilized often in higher difficulties and, as such, is fairly easy to play but is also highly contextual and needs to be used properly or else it could result in a turnover. The slip deke is to be used when you’re carrying the puck along the boards quickly and you’re being pressured by a defending player into closing that space, usually resulting in a check or a puck battle. This deke allows you to quickly jump through that closing space, push the puck ahead, and use that speed boost to catch up with the puck and continue the play.

You can perform this deke by simply pressing L1 on PS4 or LB on Xbox One as you’re along the boards and a defending player is closing in on you. Using this properly, while simple, is a fine art because not being close enough to the boards results in a Loose Puck Deke attempt and, in that situation, would almost certainly result in a turnover. If you’re facing too many defenders, the unprotected puck will likely be snatched up no matter whether or not you successfully pulled the deke off.

One-Handed Deke

This one’s also fairly simple and also relies heavily on observation and timing. It’s a great way to create lateral movement and is primarily used to move the puck through the legs and sticks of defenders who aren’t keeping their eyes on the puck. This deke extends your stick to the backhand and then, in a kind of self pass, shoves the puck across the front of you and you bring the stick around to receive the puck on the other side of you.

To perform this deke, you’ll want to push the analog stick so you’ll hold the puck out on the backhand – again, that’s dependent on the handedness of the player you’re controlling – and while you’re holding the puck on the backhand, press and hold L1 on the PS4 or LB on the Xbox One and then roll the right analog stick upward. This deke does not have shooting or passing variations as it’s primarily used to shake defenders. As this deke leaves the puck unprotected, you have to be careful when using this deke.

Touch Deke

Another simpler deke, this one uses the body to try and fool defenders and goaltenders as the idea is to keep the puck on the same path it was traveling on and juking the body in a way to betray the puck’s current movement. This is used to much the same ends as the one-handed deke but this one gives you a little less control over the puck movement but, as a result, is easier to pull off, and is used primarily to fool players who are not watching the puck.

In order to pull this one off, you simply need to be moving and press L1 on the PS4 or LB on the Xbox One. There’s no real context for this one and you just need to be more watchful on the play in order to pull this one off well. I’ve found that it doesn’t work very well on higher difficulties or even on the lower difficulties if you have the Game Style slider all the way to the right as the puck is completely vulnerable through the deke and defenders often crash the puck carrier. This is a great deke to figure out how your movement affects the deke and the play and move around defenders.

Windmill Deke

The windmill deke is similar to the one-handed deke in terms of the fact that you’re moving the puck across you to create lateral movement but you do this without extended the puck out on the backhand and you can perform this deke on either the backhand or the forehand. It’s less risky than the one-handed deke as a result and allows for easier decisions, on the fly. You’re not going to want to use this deke to move through defenders or break a defensive line but rather move yourself and the puck to one side to take advantage of or create an opening.

You’ll be able to pull this deke off by pressing and holding L1 on PS4 or LB on Xbox One and then move the right analog stick left or right, depending on the direction you want to move the puck in. Goalies, dependent on their skills, often don’t have trouble tracking through this deke as the puck doesn’t exactly move quicker than you do, so only use this deke to snap a shot if you know you can move the puck faster or if you know the goalie has a weak spot you can quickly take advantage of.

Drop Pass

This is pretty self-explanatory and it works just like you would expect. By pressing the pass button – R2 on PS4 and RT on Xbox One – briefly and pressing nothing else, you either leave the puck stationary behind you or tap it backwards, to leave it for a teammate coming up behind you. These are great for odd-man rushes or to keep the play going when you have a teammate coming up with momentum behind you, looking to make a play.

Like a no-look pass in basketball, a drop pass is very flashy and can create opportunities for scoring where it didn’t seem possible.

Self Pass

Yet another self-explanatory deke that works exactly like you’d expect, with three variations. To pull this off, you start by pressing and holding L1 on PS4 or LB on Xbox One and then pressing the pass button. How you act is contextual to where you are on the ice. If you’re on loose ice, you flip the puck up in a lob to get the puck through traffic and over defender’s sticks, moving towards the puck to get it again. If you’re behind the net, you bank the puck off of the net and spin around to chase after the puck. If you’re close to the boards, you chip the puck up off the boards and go after the puck.

All of these are gamble moves and really should only be performed if you’re getting around a single defender until you feel more comfortable with the deke. Even then, the deke should only be used against multiple defenders if they’re converging on a single point. While you aren’t always able to effectively chase the puck down, you can try to aim it so a teammate picks up the loose puck but that’s an even bigger gamble than passing it to yourself.

The Michigan

Known warmly by a variety of names as the move has a bit of a storied history, it was popularized in the NHL by Andrei Svechnikov as the first player in the league to pull the move off successfully in a regular-season game. You basically, while behind the net and on one side of the net, scoop the puck up in the blade of your stick like you would a lacrosse ball in lacrosse and using the momentum from moving your stick around, keep it there and bring the stick around to the other side of the goal and slap the stick against the bar, slamming the puck into the net in a way that’s almost unfair to the goalie.

Pulling this deke off is a little more difficult and thankfully so: while positioned behind the net, you move the puck to your forehand, press and hold L1 on the PS4 or LB on the Xbox One, press in the right analog stick, and then, while the analog stick is pressed in, swing the right analog stick down and then to the right. It’s quite a complicated move and, honestly, until you get really good at it, you can telegraph the move a lot so it’s practically useless in online matches and in harder difficulties until you get really good at it so if you’d like to use this in real action, you’d better take it to practice first.

Stride Deke

Coming back to the more simple repertoire, the stride deke is just a way to create a movement to one side or the other. It’s kind of a good way to lead into other dekes, almost like a pump fake or a juke. You perform this by pressing and holding L1 on PS4 or LB on Xbox One and then moving the left analog stick either right or left. This doesn’t really have a singular purpose, in my opinion, other than to chain into other dekes or to start exercising muscle memory for other dekes.

Spin-o-Rama

This is really kind of an impractical move in today’s NHL but it’s fun and when it works, it looks and feels amazing, so it still has a home in a game like this. This deke has you spin the puck around you on your stick, pivoting around. You can pull this off by simply pressing L2 on PS4 or LT on Xbox One and you can direct the deke by holding the left analog stick left or right but is not required to pull the move off.

The Kucherov

A move not only popularized but seemingly created by Tampa Bay Lightning player Nikita Kucherov, this deke has you basically appear like you’re going to stickhandle the puck as you’re approaching the net but your stick doesn’t actually touch the puck, forcing the goaltender to track the player and move out of position while the puck trickles through the five-hole and into the net. It’s not pulled off a lot in the NHL as it’s one of those “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” moments that results in people looking for it should it come too often.

This one is fairly simple to pull off as part of the move requires you to use a stride deke. What you’ll want to do is stride deke to your player’s forehand and then quickly move the right analog stick to the right. What you end up doing is you move the puck in one direction using the stride deke and then move your stick in the opposite direction using the right analog stick. This move takes a little bit of practice as directing the puck the right way depends on what angle you’re coming at the net and when you move the right analog stick.

Tap Deke

This deke is very similar to the one-handed or touch dekes in that is creates movement of the puck around the body in order to fool defenders but this particular deke uses the starting point of behind the body to protect the puck at the start of the deke. It creates a self pass that’s hard to intercept without tripping up the player.

You can pull this deke off in a variety of ways, though you’re really only going to want to use one most times, at the end of the day, however, let’s get right to it: to perform this move on the backhand, move the analog stick right, then press and hold L1 on PS4 or LB on Xbox One, then swing the right stick left, followed by bringing both the left and right analog sticks to the right. The forehand version is the same but you start by rolling the analog stick down and then to the right and all the following directions are opposite. This deke, while not as flashy as some of the others, is a great way to force sticks in a certain way, should defenders make an attempt on the puck by poking it out or doing a stick lift, which often draws a penalty.

Jump Deke

This deke is another one of those that you won’t be using all the time but once you do pull it off successfully, you’ll be glad you did. The jump deke literally has you chip the puck up and you jump over an obstruction on the ice, be it a stick, another player, or maybe a goalie who has left the crease to challenge you which has yet to happen to me in single-player action.

You can perform this deke by pressing and holding L1 on PS4 or LB on Xbox One and snapping the right analog stick up. Of course, this leaves the puck vulnerable but you’re not really using this deke very often anyhow, so if you manage to retain possession through this deke after using it right, you might want to consider getting a lottery ticket.

Skate Kick Deke

A move that was made popular by Pavel Bure, back in the day, this deke has you drop the puck back as though you were about to make a drop pass, using your skate to kick the puck back to your stick and continue the play. You could use this to juke a goaltender out of position or chain it with other dekes to shake defenders out of position.

You can pull this deke off by pressing and holding L1 on PS4 and LB on Xbox One and then pressing the right analog stick back. Simple as that. Again, you’re leaving the puck vulnerable, but it doesn’t take long to execute so it’s not dangling for long.

Through the Legs

This deke is almost exactly like the tap deke in that you start this deke with the puck behind you but instead of wrapping the puck behind you or around the front of you in order to create lateral movement, you literally poke it across you and through your legs. You can perform this move either on the forehand or on the backhand and is fairly versatile as it’s great for breaking up defense, juking goaltenders, and drawing penalties.

You can pull off this deke by holding the puck to your forehand or backhand using the skill stick and behind you, holding the right analog stick in either back corner, pressing and holding L1 on PS4 or LB on Xbox One, and then pressing the right analog stick either to the left or right, opposite of your initial direction.

That just about covers everything you need to know about dekes and how to perform them; as you get better and better, you’ll find out fun and inventive ways to chain them together with other dekes and other moves to leave everyone in your dust.

Be sure to check out our review of NHL 21 as well as our guide to winning faceoffs!

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