NHL 2022-23 Season Preview: Best Sleepers and Long-shot Bets to Win Stanley Cup
Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller
But before we raise the curtains on a new campaign, let's take a look at the betting board and pick out a few sleepers that could be worth a flutter:
Michael Leboff: Washington Capitals +4000 (FanDuel)
This is a great buying opportunity on the Capitals. The Caps have lost in the first round of the playoffs every season since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 and are coming off a campaign that saw them finish fourth in the Metropolitan Division behind the Hurricanes, Rangers and Penguins.
The narrative surrounding the Caps is that their core is too old and the defense is too thin, but I’d disagree with both of those stances.
While the Caps are a veteran team, they added a couple of in-their-prime contributors (Dylan Strome, Connor Brown) to the top-six, which should pack enough punch to keep this team in contention until Tom Wilson and (maybe) Nicklas Backstrom come back. The Capitals are always one of the top-scoring teams in the NHL, and I see no reason why they’ll step back this season.
That offense should provide enough runway for a defense that may not pack much in terms of star power, but is a pretty solid group overall. The Capitals finished in the top third of the NHL in basically every defensive metric that holds weight, and they did that despite receiving mediocre goaltending.
The team addressed that issue by signing Darcy Kuemper, who posted a .920 save percentage and a +15.9 GSAx in 57 games last regular season.
The Eastern Conference is deep and will be an absolute gauntlet, but the Caps are as steady as any team in the East and could be the last one standing in the spring.
This is a great buy-low spot on a perennial contender that finished first or second in its respective division in 14 of the last 16 seasons.
Carol Schram: Dallas Stars +5100 (BetMGM)
New Dallas bench boss Peter DeBoer doesn’t have a Stanley Cup yet. But he does have a history of immediate success when he takes over the reins of an NHL team. He got both the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first year behind each team’s bench. Then, in Vegas, he managed two final-four appearances before the Golden Knights unraveled due to injuries and other turmoil last season.
In 2020, the Stars were the team that knocked Vegas out of postseason contention, in an unlikely run of their own to the Stanley Cup Finals. Much of that 2020 core group remains intact, including Norris Trophy contender Miro Heiskanen, ageless Joe Pavelski and finally healthy Tyler Seguin.
At some point, 23-year-old sniper Jason Robertson will sign his new contract and go about the task of following up on his breakout 41-goal campaign. And perhaps most importantly, Jake Oettinger has now shown that he’s ready to carry the load as a No. 1 goaltender and that he can raise his game to an epic level when the stakes are at their highest.
Oettinger got the underdog Stars within a goal of a Game 7 first-round overtime upset of the Calgary Flames last spring, posting an otherworldly 1.41 goals saved above expected per 60 minutes during the series and not just embracing but thriving under the intensity of playoff pressure.
If Oettinger continues to build upon his newly minted reputation as a big-game goalie, the Stars could make another run at a championship this season. At +5100, Dallas is presenting an outstanding buy-low opportunity.
Jonny Lazarus: St. Louis Blues +4000 (DraftKings)
The St. Louis Blues, in my mind, are being completely slept on. This is a team that won the Stanley Cup just three short years ago, and they still have most of the core that helped achieve that.
They are strong on both sides of the ice, especially when it comes to special teams; they ranked fifth last season in killing penalties, and they had the league's second-best power play. They finished the regular season with 109 points and a record of 49-22-11.
The one area that is up for debate in regards to the Blues right now is their goaltending situation. Last year they had a 1A and 1B goaltending tandem made up of Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso. However, this summer they saw Husso depart, and they brought in an NHL veteran in Thomas Greiss.
I imagine that Greiss and Binnington will split time in the blue paint over the course of the season, but it will be interesting to see who wins the battle between the two.
Either way, they are both completely capable netminders, and we’ve already seen Binnington lead a Cup run. There’s no reason to believe that he can’t do it again.
Tony Sartori: Vegas Golden Knights +2500 (DraftKings)
In my mind, this will be one of the best times to buy low all season on the Vegas Golden Knights. Last season, the team and its fan base were on the harsh end of a lot of criticism on Twitter because of their failed expectations, which served as a great wake-up call for an organization that has made the playoffs every single year since its inaugural season.
That being said, I love this opportunity to buy low on a team that faced more injury problems than any other club in the league. Last year, the following players played fewer than 60 games: Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, Alec Martinez and Zach Whitecloud. Of those guys, Eichel/Stone/Martinez all played fewer than 40.
That is an immense amount of talent not on the ice, and the Golden Knights STILL finished with 94 points. I am also optimistic about the coaching change, going from Peter DeBoer to Bruce Cassidy.
While I am sure Boston fans reading that sentence would probably disagree, you need to take a step back for a second. Cassidy has made the playoffs in seven of his eight years as an NHL head coach and has reached the Cup Final.
Two areas of the game that Boston excelled in last season under Cassidy were preventing high-danger scoring chances and strong special teams play. By the end of the regular season, the Bruins ranked fifth in 5v5 GA, first in 5v5 xGA, and in the top half of the league in both PP% and PK%.
Those are two areas that Vegas needed assistance in as they finished 16th in 5v5 GA, 18th in 5v5 xGA, 25th in PP%, and 21st in PK%. Another reason for the number we are getting on this future bet is the injury to Robin Lehner, though I believe that could be a blessing in disguise for this club.
While Lehner is still talented, injuries have started to catch up with him and his best years are behind him. Now, the reigns are passed on to 25-year-old Logan Thompson, whose best years are ahead of him.
In fact, you could argue Thompson is already better than Lehner at this point in their respective careers as he finished last year with a higher SV%, higher 5v5 GSAx/60, and a lower GAA (granted, with a smaller sample size). At 25/1, Vegas is worth a flyer to rebound this season – a number we likely will not see again.
Ryan Dadoun: Vancouver Canucks +5000 (FanDuel)
Let me be clear: Vancouver is far from a favorite to win the Cup, but if you’re looking for a long shot with a chance of being this season’s Cinderella story, then Vancouver’s one to look at. First off, the Canucks were far better after Bruce Boudreau took over as head coach last season, posting a 32-15-10 record under him, so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do over the course of a full campaign.
Boudreau’s takeover corresponded with the Canucks’ offense finally getting going. They went from an average of just 2.36 goals per game prior to the coaching change to 3.28 the rest of the way.
Elias Pettersson in particular turned things around. So much of the team’s success hinges on him, but early in the season, he was floundering with just four goals and 12 points in 25 games. He managed to score 28 goals and 56 points in 55 contests the rest of the way.
As critical as it was for the Canucks’ offense to heat up, though, it’s important not to overlook the rise of Thatcher Demko in goal. He similarly got off to a rough start, but as the season progressed, he managed to reinforce the idea that he will be a solid number one in this league.
Vancouver is one of those teams that has looked promising on paper for a while now. They gave their fans an encouraging taste of what the future could hold when they took Vegas to seven games in the second round of the 2020 playoffs. They haven’t been able to put everything together since then, but the potential is still there, and in some ways, it’s even greater now that the core has matured. They’ve taken their licks, perhaps now it’s time for them to step up.
Greg Liodice: Ottawa Senators +5000
For the past five years, the Ottawa Senators have been looked down upon. It seemed as if no move they made was the right one. The only things they seemed to have gotten right were their draft selections and trades for futures.
Now, the Sens have managed to build an exceptional foundation heading into the 2022-23 season led by captain Brady Tkachuk. The younger of the Tkachuk brothers has really come into his own and become a leader before our very eyes.
Behind Tkachuk is a myriad of talented players, including Josh Norris, Thomas Chabot and Tim Stutzle, who are all just scratching the surface to become studs in this league. Not only that, but they’ve added veterans Claude Giroux, sniper Alex Debrincat and Mathieu Joseph (from the trade deadline last year) to the team. Mix in these vets with the young guns, and Ottawa could be destined for great things.
Of course, goaltending is always a question mark, especially when it comes to young teams. Last season, Anton Forsberg proved himself to become a No. 1 starter with a +8.5 GSAx and a .917 SV% on a team that didn’t make the playoffs. They also traded for veteran Cam Talbot, who’s coming off a decent season in Minnesota. A Talbot/Forsberg tandem can be a sneaky 1A/1B force in the East.
Make no bones about it: The Sens are not a favorite to win, but it’s the perfect opportunity to buy into their stock. In the NHL, anything can happen if you make the playoffs. Keep an eye on the Sens.