Hockey season is finally here. While it may not be football or basketball in terms of popularity, hockey has its niche fanbase that lives and dies with its teams. Whether you're a diehard fan of your team or a casual bettor looking to get started betting on hockey, welcome aboard.
I'm previewing every team and outlining factors bettors should be aware of. With this baseline of knowledge, you should be equipped to grind through the six-month-plus regular season. I'll also be going through my favorite season-long bet for each team in the futures market at BetMGM. At the end, we'll take a look at interesting bets for season-ending awards.
Four teams in the Atlantic Division would fancy themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston and Florida all have projected point totals of over 100 points. These teams will likely beat up on Detroit, Buffalo and Ottawa, which all should be in the basement in terms of projected point totals. Montreal finds itself in a weird spot, coming off a Stanley Cup Final appearance but not legitimately expected to compete in this division.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa has played a lot of hockey in the last year and a half. It's lost a considerable amount of depth. I would be wary of betting the Lightning at their current inflated prices in the futures market. On a game-by-game basis, I wouldn't be afraid of betting against them when they are inflated favorites.
Future bet worth a look: Andrei Vasilevskiy to win the Vezina: At +400, Vasilevskiy is the favorite to win the award. With that being said, he's clearly the best goalie in hockey. Sometimes it's worth eating the chalk.
Toronto Maple Leafs
This team has underachieved every step of the way the past few seasons. The Leafs are a high-flying offensive team that often struggles keeping the puck out of their net. They can outscore anyone; they can lose to anyone. I'd avoid them as favorites, play them as underdogs and see them as a good "over" team on a game-to-game basis.
Future bet worth a look: Under 105.5 points. This team has underperformed expectations for years now and they're in a hell of a division.
One of the more consistently solid teams in the league over the past few seasons, I don't feel as good about the Bruins as I have in years past. David Krejci is gone and so is Tuukka Rask for the time being. Will the goaltending be good enough? Do they have the depth to survive? Boston should still be a very good team, but they might not be their usual elite selves.
Future bet worth a look: Jeremy Swayman to win the Calder. Swayman will split time with Linus Ullmark in net for Boston this season. He performed very well in spot duty last season. If Swayman gets control of the crease, that +2500 ticket on him to win the Calder might be a winner.
Florida entered the picture last year as an elite team and I see no reason for it to take a step back. The Panthers brought in Sam Reinhart to bolster their top six. Spencer Knight is ready to take control of the crease if Sergei Bobrovsky struggles again. Last year, the Panthers were one of the more profitable teams to bet on. If oddsmakers don't adjust, continue to bet the Panthers especially in this loaded division, which should create value.
Future bet worth a look: Florida to win the Stanley Cup. Most metrics had them as a top five team last season, but they ran into the Lightning in the playoffs. At 22-1, I'm taking the shot on Florida.
This is the weird team in the market this year. Everyone knows that Montreal went on a miracle run in the playoffs last year. However, it seems like oddsmakers are going a little overboard in their disrespect for Montreal. I think the Canadiens are a slightly above average team that will be in the wild-card race at the end of the season. Carey Price has been a below-average regular-season goalie for the last two seasons, so I don't downgrade Montreal too much after his absence. I wouldn't be afraid to bet Montreal as an underdog this season.
Future bet worth a look: Over 89.5 points. I see the Habs around 92-95 points and competing for a playoff spot.
Detroit Red Wings
Detroit played to a 70-point pace during last year's shortened season. It replaced Jonathan Bernier with Alex Nedeljkovic in net and added Nick Leddy on defense. The Red Wings lost Jakub Vrana, arguably their most talented forward, for four months due to an injury. Tyler Bertuzzi, another one of their better forwards, refuses to get vaccinated and will be forced to miss quite a handful of games due to his inability to cross the Canadian border. I still project Detroit as one of the worst teams in the league. With its improved goaltending and forward issues, it might be an under team.
Future bet worth a look: Lucas Raymond to win the Calder. The fourth overall pick from the 2020 draft looks to have made the team and is being slotted in on the first line. At 20-1, the high-scoring winger is worth a shot.
Another rebuilding year for the Senators seems imminent as they're clearly not ready to compete with the big boys in this division. The difference between a fun, exciting team and a hard-to-watch tire fire will likely come down to goaltending. Brady Tkachuk has yet to sign a contract, so it looks like his holdout will stretch into the regular season. I think Ottawa will take a step forward this year, so I'd look toward the Senators when they're large underdogs.
Future bet worth a look: Over 76.5 points. As long as the Tkachuk holdout doesn't last too long and they get decent enough goaltending, they should be more competitive.
In a division with many bad teams, Buffalo is projected to be the worst. The Jack Eichel situation is alarming and proves how incompetent this organization really is. It's ruined the value of its biggest asset and made players across the league wary of what's going on here. This team will be bad. Save your money.
Future bet worth a look: None. The projected point total is 67.5 points, and that's very low. I wouldn't bet the over though.
Oddsmakers expect this to be the most competitive division in the league. The Islanders have the highest projected point total at 99.5 points, while the Devils, with a projection of 89.5 points, are projected to finish seventh in the division. Just 10 points separates the penthouse and the basement. Giddy up.
New York Islanders
The lovable underdog has finally gotten respect and is now among the favorites. Barry Trotz enters his fourth season as the Isles coach and this is the most forward depth he's ever had. The goaltending should again be atop the league. The defense has gotten a bit weaker, but should still be adequate. I'm interested to see how the market handles the Islanders on a game-to-game basis, as they've been making people money as an underdog for three years now.
Future bet worth a look: The Islanders opened at 20-1 to win the Cup, but the value is sapped at their current number of 14-1.
Pittsburgh has had nearly a 15-year run as an elite team. What goes up, must come down. Is this the year the Penguins start the downward trend? They're dealing with injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They lost forward depth over the offseason and their goaltending is a huge question mark. In this uber-competitive division, will they be left without a seat at the table?
Future bet worth a look: Pittsburgh to miss the playoffs at +185. Three good teams will miss the playoffs in this division. Pittsburgh has obvious issues, especially while Crosby and Malkin are out to begin the year.
New York Rangers
The Rangers have been a young team on the rise for a few years now, and it seems like oddsmakers have decided this is the year they will take that step into the playoffs. Players like Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, Vitali Kravtsov and Nils Lundkvist are all expected to play significant roles. I think the Rangers might be a bit overvalued, but they should be in the picture all season long.
Future bet worth a look: Gerard Gallant to win the Jack Adams. At +1200, the first-year coach inherits a young team with a lot of potential. If he leads them to the playoffs in his first year in a major market, he'll have a good case to win coach of the year.
Carolina has been a darling of the analytical community for the past few seasons. Last year, the Hurricanes finally took that step and were an elite team during the regular season. However, they replaced (and downgraded) both goaltenders from last season and then lost Dougie Hamilton via free agency. On the bright side, Frederik Andersen has proven he can be a great goalie in this league, and Teuvo Teravainen should be healthier this season. I think they still have enough to be one of the better teams in the league.
Future bet worth a look: Over 95.5 points. They played at a 117-point pace last regular season. This seems like too much of a downgrade.
Much like Pittsburgh, Washington has enjoyed an extensive run as one of the league's better teams. However, its core is aging while the young teams in the division ascend. I have no doubt the Capitals will compete all season long, but I don't think they are the elite team they have been in recent years. Goaltending remains a question mark as Ilya Samsonov looks to establish himself as a true No. 1 goalie. Capitals games have the potential to be high-scoring affairs if Samsonov doesn't ascend.
Future bet worth a look: Alex Ovechkin to win the Rocket Richard. Prior to last season, Ovechkin led the league in goal scoring in seven of the last eight years. Sure, he's getting older but I'll take a shot on the greatest scorer of our generation at +1000.
The 2021 season for the Philadelphia Flyers was sunk by goaltending. Carter Hart was a highly regarded prospect who had a solid start to his NHL career. However, he was the worst goalie in hockey last season. The talent level on Philadelphia is more than adequate, and if it receives even league-average goaltending, it'll be in the race.
Future bet worth a look: Hart to win the Vezina. Goaltending is such a storyline for the Flyers, and Hart has proven he can be a good NHL goalie. At 30-1, I'm liking the fairy tale story here.
New Jersey Devils
There's a lot of hype surrounding the young Devils entering the season. They signed the top free agent on the market in Dougie Hamilton, giving them a true No. 1 defenseman. They also traded for Ryan Graves to solidify the backend. With Jonathan Bernier signed to work with MacKenzie Blackwood in net, the Devils focused on goal prevention. Their hope is that young forwards like Jack Hughes continue to grow and provide scoring. New Jersey is no longer a pushover, but I don't see them making the playoffs in this division.
Future bet worth a look: Lindy Ruff to win the Jack Adams. Point projections have the Devils competing for a wild-card spot. If New Jersey can sneak into the playoffs, Ruff will get some love at 50-1.
Columbus Blue Jackets
For quite a few years, the Columbus Blue Jackets vastly overperformed their talent level. A team commitment to defense and playing the game tough yielded results. Things fell apart during the shortened season last year and the Blue Jackets got rid of Seth Jones, but I'm not convinced they're a basement dweller. I don't think they'll make the playoffs, but I do think they'll still be a nuisance to play against.
Future bet worth a look: Over 76.5 points. I don't think the Blue Jackets will be as bad as some think.
The Central Division is similar to the Metropolitan Division, but there's a clear favorite atop the Central. Colorado is expected to win the division, but second through sixth place are wide open. Point projections have those five teams separated by just six points. Even Nashville can be considered a part of the race.
The Avalanche were absolutely dominant during the regular season last year, winning the President's Trophy and leading the league in most analytical measures. More of the same is expected from Colorado this season. The Avalanche will likely be too expensive to bet on a game-to-game basis, so we'll likely be spending a lot of time deciding whether it's worth it to bet against them and then regretting it immediately when we do.
Future bet worth a look: Colorado to win the Stanley Cup. They are the favorites, but you might not see +600 again this season if they do what they're expected to do.
The Minnesota Wild surprised a lot of people last season when they went from middling team to one of the league's best. While they may not be quite as good as they were last year, they should still be a very good team. Kirill Kaprizov gives them the game-changing talent they always lacked up front, and Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen should provide decent enough goaltending. If the market doesn't respect the Wild, I'll be looking to take advantage.
Future bet worth a look: Kirill Kaprizov to win the Hart. It's hard to bet anyone not named McDavid, but there's a world where the Wild are an elite team. Kaprizov played at nearly a point-per-game pace in his rookie year. There's a world where he takes another step forward and becomes a premier player in the league. At 30-1, I'd take a shot.
The Dallas Stars made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2020 but then followed that up by missing the playoffs last season. Which version is the actual Dallas Stars? The obvious answer is somewhere in between. However, the range of outcomes really is that wide with this team. The questions are obvious, especially in net where I'm not sure I trust a duo of Anton Khudobin and Braden Holtby. However, if Ben Bishop returns from injury and things go well for Dallas, I can envision a deep playoff run.
Future bet worth a look: Dallas to win the Cup. They had good underlying metrics for most of last season despite the poor results. Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov are healthy after missing much of last season. They've proven they can do it. At 30-1, I'll add them to my portfolio.
For hockey fans with an analytical mind, the Winnipeg Jets make little sense. They're always near the bottom in terms of puck possession metrics, but they always vastly over-perform said metrics. A combination of elite goaltending and great top-end talent allows the Jets to defy all logical sense. You can often find them underpriced for this reason on a game-by-game basis.
Future bet worth a look: Connor Hellebuyck to win the Vezina. Outside of Vasilevskiy, Hellebuyck is the best goalie in the sport. If Winnipeg does well, Hellebuyck will get a lot more credit than Vasilevskiy will on the loaded Lightning. At +1000, Hellebuyck has a shot.
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are the last team to win a Stanley Cup during a normal season, but I'm not sure this iteration of the Blues is anywhere near the level of that team. The forwards are solid, but not very deep. The defense has obvious question marks and has never replaced Alex Pietrangelo. The jury is still out on whether Jordan Binnington is anything more than an average goaltender. If the Blues are still getting that recent championship glow from the market, I'll be fading them.
Future bet worth a look: St. Louis to miss the playoffs at +115. I think all four teams listed above are better than the Blues. The underlying metrics for this club were ugly last season.
Scoring was never an issue with the Blackhawks. Youngsters like Kirby Dach, Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik have joined the old guard, featuring Patrick Kane and a healthy Jonathan Toews. Chicago invested heavily in improving their goal prevention by trading for defenseman Seth Jones and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. I think the Blackhawks might be a tad overrated heading into the season, but they will be fun and competitive.
Future bet worth a look: Jeremy Colliton to win the Jack Adams. The Blackhawks have been bad for a few years now. This year, they're potentially good. In this narrative-based world, you would want to be holding a 40-1 ticket on the coach of that team to win an award that is solely driven by narratives.
Nashville went on a tear to end the regular season last year and then hung right with the Carolina Hurricanes in a spirited first round series. Nashville did offload some talented players this offseason in Ryan Ellis, Viktor Arvidsson and Calle Jarnkrok in the offseason, but I think it'll still be competitive. I refuse to believe Matt Duchene is done as a good player at the age of 30. It'll be a tough ask for the Predators to make the playoffs, but they should be competitive.
Future bet worth a look: Juuse Saros to win the Vezina. Saros singlehandedly drove this team into the playoffs last season, but a slow start to the year lost him love for the Vezina. If Saros gets this Nashville team into the playoffs, it'll be much harder to ignore. At 30-1, he's worth a shot.
Arizona has been a hard team to play against over the last few seasons, but the Coyotes ultimately faded as the season went on. This year's version of the Coyotes has made it clear that winning is not a priority. They traded their most exciting forward in Conor Garland. They absorbed awful contracts in exchange for future draft compensation. Almost everyone on this roster is a free agent after the season, so they might sell even more near the deadline.
Future bet worth a look: I wouldn't hate a play on over 68.5 points, but like I said, there's a real chance that Arizona trades a bunch of players during the regular season. I would avoid them for that reason.
The Pacific Division is the worst division in the league. The Vegas Golden Knights are clear favorites to win it, and the seven other teams range from flawed to average to brand new to bad. Nevertheless, at least two teams will find themselves in the playoffs and a few others might compete for the wild card.
Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas has been an elite team since they entered the NHL in 2017. The expectation remains for this upcoming season with the Golden Knights a heavy favorite to win the division at -165. A lot will be made of the departure of Marc-Andre Fleury, but I think it's a non-story because Robin Lehner is a very good goalie. Like with most elite teams, you'll need to pick your spots when betting Vegas this season.
Future bet worth a look: Robin Lehner to win the Vezina. At 16-1, Lehner has proven to be a very good NHL goaltender over the past few seasons. The crease now belongs to him.
Edmonton is the only other team other than Vegas in this division to make the playoffs last season. The Oilers were swept in the first round. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are two of the best players in the world, but the rest of the roster is littered with question marks. The advanced analytics hate Edmonton's defense. There are obvious concerns when your starting goaltender is 39 years old and has had one good year in the past three seasons.
Future bet worth a look: Edmonton to miss the playoffs. I'm not saying it will happen, but at a +275 price, I'm willing to take the chance that enough things go wrong for this very flawed team.
Welcome to the NHL, Seattle. The Kraken have the unenviable honor of following the Golden Knights as the NHL's next expansion team. Vegas set the bar high, and while I don't think the Kraken will be as good as the Golden Knights were, I think they'll be a good team right from the get-go. They have great goaltending, solid defense and their forward depth should help overcome a lack of top-end talent.
It definitely feels like a make or break year for the Calgary Flames. They've been a mediocre team the past two seasons, failing to build on the momentum from winning the Western Conference in 2019. Johnny Gaudreau is a free agent at the end of this season and there should be a commitment to winning to entice him to stay. The Flames have enough high-end talent. The questions are their depth and their defensive unit. Jacob Markstrom is an average goalie, but Calgary might need a bit more than average from him.
Future bet worth a look: Darryl Sutter to win the Jack Adams. The guy is a former Cup-winning coach who was lassoed off a farm somewhere in Alberta during retirement to help save the home-town team from mediocrity. If the Flames have a good year, the media will eat up this story. Worth a bet at 50-1.
In the 2020 bubble, the young, upstart Vancouver Canucks eliminated the defending champion Blues and pushed the Golden Knights to the brink. It was supposed to be the start of something, but last year's shortened season was a mess both on and off the ice. The talent is there up front to score and they have a budding young star in goal. If they can somehow keep the puck out of their zone, they have a chance to surprise some people.
Future bet worth a look: Thatcher Demko to win the Vezina. Demko is a budding young star in goal. The crease now belongs to him after the Canucks moved on from Braden Holtby. If this team makes any sort of noise, Demko will have stood on his head. At 16-1, I'd take a shot.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, and they're still paying for it in some ways today. The core of that roster has gotten older and now we're in the awkward transition period where the team tries to implement young talent while still honoring the guys who accomplished the ultimate goal for the franchise. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty are still key cogs on this team but a youth infusion is desperately needed. There's enough on this roster to keep it competitive, but not enough for it to be viewed as a real threat.
Future bet worth a look: Under 84.5 points. The Kings played at a 72-point pace in last year's shortened season and while they've made a few minor acquisitions, I don't think they've improved that much.
San Jose Sharks
By most metrics, the San Jose Sharks were an average team last season. However, the results weren't as they finished seven games below .500 in a 56-game season. The main reason for that was their goaltending. The Sharks gave up a league-leading 199 goals last season. Martin Jones, Devan Dubnyk and Josef Korenar are all gone, and they've been replaced by James Reimer and Adin Hill. The new goaltending duo projects as extremely average, but average would be a huge upgrade compared to what the Sharks got last season.
Future bet worth a look: Over 83.5 points. I think the Sharks have an outside chance of competing for a playoff spot in this division if they can get anything resembling average goaltending.
There's not much to be excited about with the Anaheim Ducks this season. They were bad last season and they did almost nothing in the offseason to change that. John Gibson might be one of the better goalies in hockey, but he's stuck behind a team that will never allow us to see his full potential. Gibson is fully capable of stealing a game on any night, which always gives the Ducks some appeal as big underdogs when throwing darts.
Future bet worth a look: Trevor Zegras to win the Calder. At +550, he's the second favorite behind Cole Caufield. Zegras dominated college hockey, tore up the AHL last season as a 19-year old and even contributed over 0.5 points-per-game in his NHL cup of coffee. The talent is undeniable and he'll have immediate first-line duties on the Ducks.
Let's take a look at the betting markets for the end-of-season awards. I'll outline the favorites and any long shots I think might be worth a dart throw.
The Hart Trophy is given to the league's most valuable player. Connor McDavid won the award in 2021.
Connor McDavid: McDavid is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy at +275. If McDavid stays healthy, it's hard to envision a world where he doesn't win this award. He's far and away the most dominant player in the sport. He scored 21 more points than the league's second-leading scorer last season.
Others worth exploring: If the Rangers take the next step and become a playoff team, I can see Artemi Panarin getting some love at +1200. If Kirill Kaprizov takes another step forward in his sophomore season, I can see him making some noise at +3500.
The Vezina Trophy is given to the league's best goaltender. Marc-Andre Fleury won the award in 2021.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Vasilevskiy is the favorite to win the award in 2022, with his odds currently sitting at +400. There's little debate as to who the best goalie in the league is, but the only question is whether Vasilevskiy will get enough respect to get votes as he backstops a loaded team that has won back-to-back championships. Voters might lean toward a newcomer or a better story.
Others worth exploring: I think Connor Hellebuyck, currently priced at +1000, is the second-best goalie in the sport and he's the main reason for his team's success in Winnipeg. Robin Lehner and Thatcher Demko are solid bets, with both sitting at 16-1. If you want a longer shot, I can see Carter Hart rebounding nicely or Juuse Saros making some noise in Nashville. Both of those goalies currently sit at 30-1.
The Norris Trophy is given to the league's best defenseman. Adam Fox won the award in 2021.
Cale Makar: Cale Makar is the favorite to win the Norris Trophy this upcoming season at +400. The Avalanche defenseman finished second in voting last year despite missing 12 games during the shortened season. He played at a point-per-game pace. Makar is the most offensively gifted defenseman in the league, plays on an elite team and is still young enough where it's conceivable his game continues to grow.
Others worth exploring: John Carlson is always a threat to put up crazy offensive numbers as he plays on Washington's top power-play unit. At 20-1, I don't mind a bet on him. Mark Giordano was just named captain of the Kraken, so if you expect Seattle to have a good inaugural season, he's an interesting shot at 35-1. He won the Norris in 2019.
The Calder Trophy is awarded to the league's top rookie. Kirill Kaprizov won the award in 2021.
Cole Caufield: The Montreal Canadiens forward is the current favorite to win the award at +325. Caufield already showed the hockey world what he could do in last year's playoffs, but he's still a rookie heading into this season because he didn't play enough games last year. He had 12 points in 20 playoff games for Montreal last season.
Others worth exploring: I think Trevor Zegras at +550 has the biggest opportunity to put up points. He will immediately play on Anaheim's top line and on the power play. Lucas Raymond (20-to-1) should have a similar opportunity in Detroit, but that remains to be seen. Spencer Knight (11-to-1) and Jeremy Swayman (25-to-1) both enter the season in goaltending platoons on good teams. If either one gets control of the starting job, they'll have a great chance to win the award.
Rocket Richard Trophy
The Rocket Richard Trophy is given to the player who leads the league in goals scored during the regular season. Auston Matthews won the award in 2021.
Auston Matthews: Matthews scored at an incredible pace in 2021, potting 41 goals in 52 games. He scored on 18.5% of his shots, which was a little above his career shooting percentage of 16.2%. Matthews is young and in prime position to lead the league in goals for years to come. He's the current favorite to lead the league in goals at +350.
Others worth exploring: It's hard to fade Matthews here as nobody else in the league had over 32 goals last season. However, don't forget about the old guy. Prior to last season, Alex Ovechkin won this award seven times in eight seasons. He's currently sitting at 10-to-1 to win the award, and I don't mind taking a shot on the greatest goal scorer of our generation.
Jack Adams Award
The Jack Adams is given to the coach of the year. In 2021, Rod Brind'Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes took home the hardware.
Jon Cooper: The head coach of the Lightning is the favorite to win this award at +700 after leading his team to back-to-back championships. For that reason, he probably shouldn't be a favorite. The same can be said about other favorites like Barry Trotz of the Islanders (+750) and Bruce Cassidy of the Bruins (+750). Their teams have had too much recent success and expectations are high. This award is usually given to a coach who's team exceeds expectations the most or makes the biggest single-season leap.
Others worth exploring: Gerard Gallant is a first-year head coach for the Rangers. He's worth a bet at 12-to-1 if you envision the Rangers taking the next step into the playoffs. Dave Hakstol at 30-1 is a great bet as he'll be tasked with leading an expansion team. Gallant was the head coach in Vegas during their inaugural season and won the award. If you want a long shot, I like Darryl Sutter of the Flames at 50-1.