NHL Division Winners Futures Odds with Expert Betting Predictions
All but three teams in the NHL have reached at least the halfway point in the season, and it sure feels like playoff races this year have a lot less drama than we expected heading into the season. The West isn't nearly as deep or competitive as it seemed like it would be, and the East, while tougher, still only seems to have nine teams fighting for eight spots. With the races coming into focus, it's a good time to look at NHL division winner futures to see if any value is waiting for us (spoiler alert: not particularly). The odds are from Bovada .
It's only early January, and a whole lot can change before the end of the season. But nothing is changing here. Tampa Bay has a 10-point lead over second-place Toronto through 42 games, and they have lost only eight games so far. They have scored 19 more goals than any other team, they have by far the best goal differential in the league, and they are deep and dangerous. This is a very, very tough team. Toronto can score, too, but they were humbled this week in a bad loss to Nashville, and their defense and the health of their goaltenders are both issues right now. And while third-place Boston is on a good streak right now, they are 14 points behind Tampa, and that is a lot to make up unless a whole lot goes wrong down in Florida. Tampa is a very heavy favorite at -600, and that is completely justified. It offers no value but can't be argued with. Toronto is second at +300, with Boston at a very distant +2200. Toronto's best chance remaining is to dominate the head-to-head meetings between the teams and hope for the best. But they have only three games left, and the first one comes in Tampa in just 10 days when the Leafs will still likely be employing a patchwork of goaltending solutions. I'm not writing Tampa in in Sharpie quite yet, but I certainly have them written in in first place in pencil.
This division is much more competitive, with two tiers of teams. Nashville and Winnipeg are co-favorites at +120, and Dallas and Colorado are well behind, but tied at +800. No other team is relevant. Right now, Nashville has a one-point lead, but they have played three more games than Winnipeg, so the Jets actually have a small edge. The Preds are just coming out of a slump, and have dealt with injuries, but they have played some of their best hockey in the last couple of games and have plenty of experience to draw on in recent years. But Winnipeg made a run to the West final last year, too, and are deep up front, competent behind, and strong in net. I lean to Winnipeg with a fair bit of confidence, but that could just be the Canadian in me talking. Colorado is fading a bit while Dallas is climbing, but it is hard to imagine them having what it takes to get back in the race for first - they are both seven points behind Nashville and give up games in hand to Winnipeg. Their bigger focus has to be finishing third and avoiding having to be a wild card team.
This is a tight four-horse race - or three and a half, at least. The defending champs from Washington are favored at +150, with Pittsburgh at +200, Columbus at +250, and the Islanders still hanging around at +600. Right now, Washington has two more points than the Pens, and they have played in one fewer game. They have the edge. Columbus is a point behind Pittsburgh and a point ahead of the surprising Islanders. The Isles have won six in a row and are the hottest team in the NHL over the last 10 games, but their roster doesn't seem to support their performance - they are overachieving. Washington looks good right now, but they have played a whole lot of hockey the last year, and that could catch up to them. Pittsburgh has found their game after a sluggish start and knows that their window isn't going to stay open forever. They need to figure out their goaltending, but they would be my pick. Columbus doesn't have the depth of the top two and they have to ride their goaltending too much.
My hometown Calgary Flames are leading the division but are only the second choice to win the division at +180. San Jose is third right now, three points behind the leaders, and is favored at +175. Vegas is the third and final real contender at +200. Calgary is an offensive force right now - they just became the first team to have four 50-point players within 45 games since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh team that included Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. The offense is certainly top-heavy, but Johnny Gaudreau is a truly elite player. They could use a veteran defenseman, a backup goalie, and maybe a productive left winger, but they are my clear pick to win the division - and not just because they play down the road from me. The Erik Karlsson experiment isn't paying off as well as expected in San Jose. And Vegas, though red hot, lacks depth compared to the other two teams.
Get $60 worth of member's NHL picks absolutely free - no obligation, no sales people - you don't even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please on any of our top hockey handicappers. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free ! Also, for a limited time get three hockey handicappers for the price of one! Click here for our 3-for-1 NHL picks offer . Also, get free NHL picks every day on Doc's Sports NHL predictions page.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Get all of Tonight's NHL Picks.
Get all of Tonight's guaranteed Expert NHL Picks.