The title for your post addressed the "best" version of NHL, while you then asked for the "most realistic." For me, those two are very, very different. For me, the most fun I have had with a version of NHL was easily 10. I will certainly not say that more recent versions have not become more realistic. I will only say that they, for me, have not been nearly as much fun.
Sorry for any confusion - not intended and I appreciate you answering in a way that works best for how you approach it.