NHL Division Winners Futures Odds with Expert Betting Predictions
We are far enough into the NHL season that we are starting to get a sense of which teams are the contenders and which are the pretenders. A lot will still change, of course, and more than half a season is left to play. But teams that are in playoff spots now are more likely to stay in them, and vice versa - hockey is as reliable as any league out there when it comes to that. This is a good time, then, to look at NHL division winner futures to see where the value is. Divisions have a particular significance in hockey these days as they determine the first two rounds of playoff matchups - a flawed system, but that's a debate for another time - so this is a good place to look at see what the oddsmakers have to say (Odds to win the divisions are from Bovada ):
As was expected heading into the season, this is a two-horse race, with Tampa Bay favored at -145 currently and Toronto sitting at +150. Upstart Buffalo is third at +1100, and Boston is at +1300. But while both are very likely on the path to being playoff teams, neither has the firepower to match the top two.
The question, though, is whether the Leafs have the firepower to match the Lighting. I am highly skeptical. For one thing, Toronto is starting to lose contact already - Tampa Bay leads the league with 49 points. And while Toronto is in second in the league, their 43 points is already three wins back. Tampa has played one more game, but that isn't hugely relevant. Toronto's approach is to try to outscore teams, rely on their goaltending, and hope for the best defensively. And it has worked so far - they are tied with Calgary for second in league scoring, are second in goal differential, and their obvious defensive deficiencies have not been too much of a liability so far. The issue, though, is that Tampa takes a similar approach, but their goaltending is a little better, their defense is much better, and they are more explosive offensively - they have 130 goals to 113 for Toronto. I would never tie up my money for several months for a chance at a -145 payoff, but it feels like there is some nice value in Tampa Bay right now.
Oddly, this is the least-inspiring division so far. Washington, the defending Cup champions, lead, but their 39 points would be fourth in the Atlantic, third in the Central, and second in the Pacific. And the Caps still have a comfortable lead over the Blue Jackets with 34 points, with the Islanders and Penguins scuffling along behind with 32. Columbus would be no better than fifth in any other division. Washington is playing the best hockey and has a lead to work with, so the -105 price is fair. The concern for a team in their situation, though, is always that the amount of hockey they played last year, and the amount of partying they did this summer, will catch up with them. But if not them than who? Columbus (+190) has a lot of kinks to work out, Pittsburgh (+1000) is really struggling, and the Islanders (+1100) are still a year or two away from real competitiveness. Washington could win this division by default.
Right now, this is the tightest race in hockey. Nashville (+105) has a one-point lead on Winnipeg (+240) and two points on Colorado (+300), and the Jets have a game in hand on the other two. This is a battle that could go all the way to the end. Colorado seems like the team mostly likely to fall back, but the change we have seen in this team since the midpoint of last season is remarkable. On paper they shouldn't be good enough, but they are playing lights-out hockey. Winnipeg vs. Nashville is a total dogfight, and they were the two teams seen as best in the conference heading into the season, so we are getting what we expected. It feels so far, though, that we have seen a little less than full throttle from the Jets, and they seem to have found another gear lately. I like their upside a little bit more, and Nashville has the injury bug in a bad way. Just based on the prices I would take the Jets here.
Calgary is the somewhat unexpected leader right now, with a three-point edge on Anaheim. The division is deep and muddy, though, so it is no surprise that at +220 the Flames are the lowest-priced favorite we have. San Jose, currently tied with Vegas for third, two behind the Ducks, is the second pick at +325, with the Golden Knights and the Oilers, who are another point back, both at +380. Anaheim is at +450. Each team has reasons for concern. Calgary's goaltending is a bit of a mystery. Anaheim feels like they are overachieving. Edmonton is built around just one player - albeit the best player on the planet. Vegas is in a groove now but still doesn't have the talent of the elite teams in the league. And San Jose has really struggled to maximize their very expensive and very talented back end. I would lean towards Calgary, but then I live in Calgary, so you should take that with a giant grain of salt.
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