by Dan Adkisson
After a turbulent 2020, which saw sports worldwide shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is slowly returning to normal. All major competitions have resumed their respective seasons, including the NHL. This year promises a lot of excitement, and several teams have already started to show their Stanley Cup ambitions.
In the West Division, the Colorado Avalanche are among the favorites to win it all, with odds of +650 right now. Other top contenders from the NHL’s 30 other teams are the current champs, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and big off-season spenders, the Vegas Golden Knights, both with odds of +850. The Toronto Maple Leafs stand at +1200 as the top Canadian contender. From the Northeast, the Boston Bruins are at +1400 while the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes are at +1700, rounding out a group of top contenders.
Many fans are eager to see how Tampa Bay will rebound after winning the Cup last summer. The Lightning had an excellent 2019-20 campaign, resulting in bringing back the championship to Florida for the first time since 2004, when they beat the Calgary Flames in seven games. Jon Cooper’s guys have good chemistry and a slightly easier conference than their main rivals coming from the West. That’s the primary reason why many believe they could successfully defend their title this season.
While it’s always very challenging to predict the true Stanley Cup contenders during the first-half of the season, as odds and these picks indicate the three above-mentioned teams have a bit better opportunity than the others. The problem for Vegas and Colorado is that they have an extremely tough conference, and sooner or later, they will have to face one another on their road to lifting the Cup. Divisional rivalries add more spice to the playoff series, taking a lot of energy, which is a massive handicap in this case. Meanwhile, the Lightning won’t face the same issue.
Besides being one of the biggest candidates for snatching the title, the Avalanche have one of the top contenders for the Hart Trophy – Nathan MacKinnon. His odds to win the MVP for the regular season are +1500 although several players, including the Oilers’ Connor McDavid are even better, currently at +170. The Toronto Maple Leafs have Auston Matthews, the current second favorite, at +300. The 2020 NHL MVP, Leon Draisaitl, is +1300 to repeat last season’s success, tied with Brad Marchand and Johnathon Huberdeau. Meanwhile, Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks is +2300, along with three-time winner Alexander Ovechkin listed at +2900.
The great Ovi is the only active player with multiple Hart trophies and the last one who managed to win this award twice in a row. If Draisaitl manages to grab another Hart, he will become only the third player with two or more MVP awards since 2000, joining Sidney Crosby on that prestigious list.
Last year, Draisaitl was near masterful, making a breakthrough that stunned several around the league, although the Oilers didn’t have a particularly impressive regular season. Edmonton finished ended their campaign in the qualifying round of the summer playoffs against Chicago, where they were eliminated 3-1 in their best-of-five series. This year, the Oilers have much higher goals and expectations, where anything but a deep playoff run would be nothing short of a disaster for the rising team.
Draisaitl and Ovechkin will also fight for the Maurice Rocket Richard trophy, which is awarded to the most efficient player in the league. Auston Matthews is currently the odds on favorite with odds of -167. The next closest player is Connor McDavid at +900 odds. Ovechkin, a nine-time winner, is chasing history but isn’t favored by the sportsbooks, currently at odds of +2700. The Russian and David Pastrnak shared the award last year with 48 goals each. Draisaitl is +1150, whilePastrnak is +1100.
These are some of the most attractive betting options this season. See what you think and choose your NHL picks based on these details. If you want to improve your chances of being successful, always be sure to do your research before making a bet.