The NHL season is just around the corner. We are now less than a week away from opening night on January 13th. That’s not too far away, and it’s never too early to start looking at some futures bets for the season.
Let’s take a look at the best value picks to win each NHL division. These teams aren’t all going to hit – hell, I’ll be happy if one does and ecstatic if two do –, but there is plenty of value to be found if you look past the top teams. Longshots are how you hit it big.
Columbus Blue Jackets +900
The Central Division is slated to be a competitive division. Not only does it have both teams that reached the Stanley Cup Final last year in the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars, but it has a few teams that can sneak up on you as well.
One of those teams that can be a thorn in the side of many is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Many people wrote the Blue Jackets off last season after losing Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin to free agency, but they were able to make the playoffs by upsetting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the qualifying round. They only won one playoff game against the Lightning, one year after sweeping them.
So, why are the Blue Jackets my best value bet in the Central? Well, the +900 odds are a bit higher than I’d expect. +900 implies 10% of winning. Columbus is undoubtedly better than that.
Columbus has a great goaltending duo in Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins that is able to steal games. The Blue Jackets will be a defense-oriented team with their goalies and top defensemen (Seth Jones and Zach Werenski) leading the way. They should be able to get enough offense from Pierre-Luc Dubois and a few bounce-back candidates in Cam Atkinson and Max Domi, who was acquired in the offseason. And hey, John Tortorella always seems to push the right buttons.
The Lightning (+125) are still the odds-on favorite to win the division, and who I would pick straight up, but Columbus should be closer to the Hurricanes (+350) or even the Stars (+550); not +900. Take that value and place something down on the +900 line.
New York Islanders +1000
We’re going with another overlooked team in the East with the New York Islanders. The Islanders are coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference Final last season.
The East might be the toughest division in the league this season. Six of the eight teams made the qualifying round, with four (Bruins, Capitals, Flyers, Islanders) making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Add in the Penguins and there are five pretty good teams looking to fill four playoff spots. They are going to beat up on each other and the Islanders are built for the grind.
Like Columbus, the Islanders are a defense-oriented team with Barry Trotz at the helm. They have strong goaltending with Semyon Varlamov returning and Ilya Sorokin finally in North America. Mat Barzal is a Training Camp holdout, but the two sides will come to terms and he’ll be flying all over the ice once again.
Odds of +1000 implies a 9.09% chance to win the division, which I view as incredibly low for the Islanders. They are a good team in a strong division but get overlooked due to a lack of star power. They won’t wow you and you won’t see them on the highlight reels, but they will frustrate the opposition and win games.
With no clear-cut favorite (Bruins +250, Flyers +375, Penguins +400, Washington +400) to win the East, bet on the value that the Islanders bring at +1000. I would even bet on them as low as around +750 if your book doesn’t have +1000.
Winnipeg Jets +1000
In a wide-open division full of Canadian teams, the Winnipeg Jets seem like the best value bet at +1000.
It seems crazy that the team with the reigning Vezina Trophy Winner in Connor Hellebuyck has odds like this in a shortened season. In a sport where goaltending can completely change a game, +1000 is definitely worth a shot.
The Winnipeg Jets also aren’t even that bad! They’ve made the playoffs (including last year’s qualifying round) in each of the last three seasons with a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2018. The Jets have a great goalie but unfortunately lack on defense. However, their offense should be able to pick it up.
Mark Scheifele is healthy after getting injured in the playoffs, and their top six can be dangerous if they’re clicking. They brought back Paul Stastny to play with Patrik Laine (and Kyle Connor) on the second line to bolster that a bit.
The Jets simply have too much talent to be +1000 to win the division. Hellebuyck can steal some games, Laine can fire some rockets, and Scheifele and Wheeler can get things done up front. If the Maple Leafs (+120) falter, it’s anyone’s division. Why not the Jets?
The Canucks (+550) and Flames (+600) are also worth a look if you want less of a longshot.
St. Louis Blues +500
The West Division is the most top-heavy division in the league. They have two of the best teams in the whole league in the Avalanche (+165) and Golden Knights (+175) at the top, then the Blues, and then five teams with odds of +1300 or higher to win the division. None of those five teams seem like real threats, especially given the top three teams in the division, but the Blues have some value at +500.
The Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019 and won the Central Division last season. Now, in a new division with two of the top dogs in the league, it’s going to be an uphill battle. But don’t rule them out.
St. Louis may have lost their captain in Alex Pietrangelo over the offseason, but they replaced him with Torey Krug. They’ve also added Mike Hoffman late in the offseason. The scoring winger will fill out their top six and give them some depth up and down the lineup. Ryan O’Reilly will still lead the way up front, with Jordan Binnington being the undisputed starter in net after Jake Allen left in the offseason.
On paper the Blues aren’t as good as the Avalanche or Golden Knights – I’m not that crazy. However, they are bringing back most of the same players and shouldn’t have chemistry issues. A cohesive team that has won together before will be able to thrive in a shortened season. Take the Blues at +500.