2021 NHL Betting Preview: Our 3 Favorite Bets to Win the Calder Trophy

2021 NHL Betting Preview: Our 3 Favorite Bets to Win the Calder Trophy article feature image
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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Ilya Sorokin

The 2020 NHL Draft was all about Alexis Lafreniere and the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts, a year after drafting Kaapo Kakko with the second overall pick, won the draft lottery and the right to select Lafreniere.

While Lafreniere is the headlining debutante, he is not the favorite to win the Calder Trophy, given to the league’s Rookie of the Year. That honor belongs to his teammate, Igor Shesterkin. The 25-year-old goaltender is +250 at DraftKings, just ahead of Lafreniere who sits at +300.

Do any of our NHL writers think that Shesterkin or Lafreniere are good value bets to win the Calder Trophy? Check out our favorite plays for Rookie of the Year below:

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Michael Leboff: Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (+2700)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]

The 2021 rookie class features two highly-touted Russian goaltenders: Shesterkin of the New York Rangers, the +250 favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders, a 27/1 longshot in the same market. You’d think that, with that type of discrepancy, that Shesterkin would be miles ahead of Sorokin heading into the 2021 NHL season.

That is just not the case. In fact, the only difference between the two netminders is that Shesterkin has a dozen NHL games under his belt, while Sorokin has yet to make his debut. And while Shesterkin’s 12-game twirl with the Rangers last season went well, the 25-year-old saved 5.9 goals above expectation, per Evolving Hockey, in those 12 games don’t make him the sure thing that the market suggests he is.

Not only that, but the second-favorite for this award, Lafreniere, is also on the Rangers, and threatens to split the votes if they both have strong seasons.

Like any rookie — and any goaltender — we don’t know exactly what to expect from Sorokin, but what we’ve seen from his 244 games in the KHL (the top hockey league in Russia and the second-best hockey competition in the world) is very encouraging. Sorokin’s last two seasons with CSKA Moscow saw him post save percentages of .940 and .935 with 20 shutouts. That’s one shutout for every four games.

No matter if Sorokin wins this award or not, the fact that a very similar player is being priced at +250 while he is out at +2700 shows you that he is worth a punt.

[Bet Ilya Sorokin at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Pete Truszkowski: Ilya Sorokin (+2700)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]

A goaltender has not won the NHL’s Calder Trophy since 2009 when Steve Mason took home the hardware. In fact, only three goalies have won the award since 2000 (Andrew Raycroft in 2004 and Evgeni Nabokov in 2000). With that being said, the oddsmakers think that this might change this year. As Leboff noted, Shesterkin is the chalk heading into the season, but there’s really no reason that he and Sorokin should be this far apart. I also think that Sorokin’s situation sets him up for more success than his cross-town rival.

With the NHL’s 56-game regular season, the prevailing thought is that NHL teams will be forced to use rotate goalies pretty often due to the amount of back-to-back games and the overall condensed nature of the schedule.

This benefits Sorokin from the perspective that in a normal 82-game season, Shesterkin would be the clear starter probably playing 55-60 games while Sorokin would likely split time with incumbent Semyon Varlamov and only play 35-45 games.

This disparity in games played would be hard to overcome for Sorokin. However, now it’s likely that the Rangers will be forced to play back-up goaltender Alexandar Georgiev more often due to the schedule. If Shesterkin ends up playing 35 games for the Rangers and Sorokin plays 27 games for the Isles, this gap would be much easier to overlook.

Additionally, Sorokin’s Islanders play a very different style of hockey compared to Shesterkin’s Rangers. The Blueshirts play a much more open brand of hockey to take advantage of the offensive talent they possess. The Islanders, under coach Barry Trotz, are a very stingy group. Last season, the Rangers gave up the second most expected goals per 60 minutes at 5v5. The Islanders were middle of the pack.

Defensive and coaching edge goes to the Islanders, which helps a young goaltender. Additionally, the Islanders are expected to be better than the Rangers by most oddsmakers. FanDuel has put the Isles’ Over/Under at 63.5 points, with the Rangers down at 57.5. Playing for a better team will help Sorokin.

Under coach Barry Trotz, Robin Lehner was a Vezina finalist in 2019. When Trotz was in Washington, Braden Holtby won the Vezina trophy in 2016. Goaltenders thrive in Trotz’s system, especially under the tutelage of Mitch Korn, his long-time goalie coach.

Sorokin is a highly regarded prospect with a comparable resume to the current favorite to win the award. He plays for a stronger coach, in a better system and on a team which is coming off an Eastern Conference Final appearance. At 27-1 odds, Sorokin is a great bet to take home the Calder trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.

[Bet Ilya Sorokin at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]
Dylan Cozens is +1150 to win the Calder Trophy. Credit: Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images.

Sam Hitchcock: Dylan Cozens, Buffalo Sabres (+1150)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]

Picking a viable Calder Trophy winner requires two things: Internet connection and a flourish of imagination. Reports on the World Wide Web indicate that Dylan Cozens will be on the Buffalo Sabres’ opening roster. In fact, a top-nine forward role for him looks close to cemented. At +1150 on DraftKings and coming off a World Juniors where Cozens torched the competition, the young forward is worthy of a sprinkle of your monetary fairy dust.

Cozens has the skill set to curry favor with Sabres coach Ralph Krueger. He will likely get opportunities to kill penalties and his positioning on the forecheck and in backchecking seems to signal that he’ll be a prized possession player. The Sabres have Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Taylor Hall, three forwards who love to attack but could use a dose of accountability on their lines. Cozens can provide that safety blanket when the puck is lost.

Furthermore, Cozens can finish scoring chances, which is paramount for a team that ranked second worst in the NHL in expected goals per 60 minutes. I am also bullish that Cozens will get a chance to play the power play for Buffalo, perhaps boosting the second unit. Whether as the net-front presence or the bumper, Cozens showcased at the World Juniors that his shot and puck retrieval will be strengths at the professional level. Additionally, he is a willing playmaker in tight spaces, and an easy way for him to earn the love of his teammates will be via a few tap-in goal feeds.

Now is when you hear the record scratch. There are more fun ways to lose money than betting on the Sabres, you say. Not to mention, the East could be the league’s most competitive division and there are several very stingy defensive teams who will be difficult to thwart. True, Buffalo has flubbed the last several seasons in depressing fashion despite a hunger for a rosier future.

New Jersey is primed to be the foremost punching bag in the East, and even if Buffalo is mediocre, Cozens can still thrive. After all, Elias Pettersson won the Calder Trophy on a Vancouver Canucks team that finished one point ahead of the woeful Anaheim Ducks in 2018-19. Ergo, even if the Sabres miss the playoffs, Cozens can prosper.

[Bet Dylan Cozens at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]
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