NHL 16 contains several game modes; "Be a GM", where the player controls the general manager of a team of their choice, "Be a Pro", where the player controls their own custom player and progresses his career, Hockey Ultimate Team, where the player collects cards of real-life players, build a team, and then take on either players online or A.I. teams, and EA Sports Hockey League, abbreviated as EASHL, a multiplayer-only mode where players can use their own custom player to join other teams, also with custom players controlled by other people, and take on other teams. The EASHL returns after being dropped from the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of NHL 15. It features some changes in its progression system to address balance issues, including a switch to a class-based progression model similar to Be a Pro mode, and the removal of attributes and boosts. A beta for the EASHL mode was available for NHL 15 owners from July 30 to August 10.
Other features included are offline and online shootout modes, online team play, which has the user take control of players from real-life teams, and online versus, a simple head-to-head match. Returning to the game is the NBC Sports Network-style presentation, which features the network's score bug as well as commentary provided by Mike "Doc" Emrick (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk (color), and Ray Ferraro (ice-side reporter). Emrick and Olczyk's actual selves are present during the pregame intro cutscenes.