AHL Hockey Betting: Expert Tips and Wagering Advice
by Trevor Whenham - 10/14/2014
As betting on hockey deservedly becomes more popular, an interesting phenomenon has become more common as well - sportsbooks are offering odds on AHL action. For those not in the know, the AHL is the American Hockey League, the primary league for NHL farm teams. Squads are stocked mostly with prospects trying to break into the NHL or veterans rehabbing from injury or looking to restart a faltering career.
It's surprisingly good hockey, and thanks to the Internet there is no shortage of coverage available to follow the league. As is also typically the case with less mainstream leagues - the WNBA jumps to mind - there can be real value on offer for those handicappers who are willing to do their homework and seek out the best plays. When considering a play or two on the AHL to get your feet wet, here are six important factors to consider:
Which prospects are available?: One challenge of the AHL, or any minor league, is that players will frequently be called up to their parent club to fill in for injured players or to get NHL experience. When you are handicapping the AHL, then, you have to be careful that you don't just rely on the rosters or stat sheets to compare teams. You have to be certain of which players are actually available on that day. It can also be useful to look at players that have recently returned to the team. A player who just got sent down to the AHL might not perform to his full capabilities because he might not be happy about having been sent there. Finally, you should consider how the team deals with a call-up. Typically, the player that gets called up is going to be one of their best players. Do they just make do without him? Or do they have a sound replacement for him?
What is the state of the veterans?: Most AHL teams will have a player or two who you know from his NHL career. It's crucial that you don't assume that they will perform at the same level that they did in their NHL prime - chances are that they wouldn't be in the AHL if they could. You also need to understand why they are there. If they are on a rehab assignment, or are just trying to get into shape so they are ready for an NHL tryout, then they are not going to be at full strength.
Is the coach on the rise?: The AHL is about developing coaches as much as it is about the players. New Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins earned that gig after winning the Calder Cup with the Texas Stars last year, for example. When rosters are so young and are constantly changing, coaching is even more important at the AHL level than in the NHL. Being aware of the big-name coaches in the league can be an advantage for handicappers.
How much roster turnover has there been?: Some NHL teams make very few changes to their roster during the year and prefer to use an established, veteran roster. Others will use a whole lot of youngsters and will bring up a lot of prospects from the AHL to evaluate what they have and where their future lies. The approach of the NHL parent has a huge impact on the AHL team. The more times an NHL team calls up players, the more it shakes up the AHL team and forces them to make adjustments. That means that lines at the AHL level have less chemistry, and players could be in roles they aren't familiar with.
Travel: Travel in the AHL isn't as bad as it once was because teams are more likely to fly for longer trips than they used to be. There is still some long distances covered, though, and buses are still more common than in the NHL. The level of accommodations and training facilities aren't typically nearly as good as in the NHL, either. That means that the impact of travel can be significant, and longer road trips can really wear down teams. Travel is a big factor in NHL handicapping, so it only makes sense that it can be a much bigger factor in some situations in the AHL.
How busy is the NHL schedule?: On days when the NHL schedule is light there are going to be more bettors throwing a few bucks towards the AHL to get their hockey fix than there will be on a busy NHL day. Much of that money is going to be guided more by biases or assumptions than by strong handicapping. As you know if you have been betting for a while, dumb money is the best friend of value seekers who are willing to do their homework. Paying attention to the NHL schedule is a good idea.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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