NHL Best Bets: Expert Picks, Predictions Tonight

NHL Best Bets: Expert Picks, Predictions Tonight article feature image
  • Hockey expert Nicholas Martin shares his NHL best bets for Sunday's playoff slate.
  • Continue reading for NHL expert picks and predictions.

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs continue with a four-game slate and hockey expert Nicholas Martin has locked in picks for two of today's matchups — a series player prop bet in Avalanche vs. Jets and a first period total prediction for Predators vs. Canucks.

Read below for our NHL best bets.

NHL Best Bets Tonight

Sunday, Apr 21
7:00 p.m. ET
Arturri Lehkonen Series Leading Goal Scorer (+1800)

Jonathan Drouin authored an amazing story in this 2023-24 season, as he revived his career with 56 points and was rightfully selected as Colorado's Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee. He spent the vast majority of the seasons second half on the top powerplay unit, and the majority of the season on Nathan MacKinnon's wing on the top line.

Jonathan Drouin is out for the entire first-round series, the team says.

He suffered a lower-body injury in Game 82.

— Aarif Deen (@runwriteAarif) April 20, 2024

It's going to be a horrible ending to a great bounce-back if Drouin does not take the ice for a postseason game. The Avs' are going to need some forwards other than MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Val Nichushkin to step up if they are going to get by a formidable Jets side.

One of the guys that is going to receive an elevated role in the lineup is Arturri Lehkonen. Lehkonen looks to be moving up to the top power play unit, where he has proven to be effective at finding kick-out plays and redirections in tight.

Zach Parise practiced in Drouin's spot on the top line, so for the time being it appears that Lehkonen will not claim a spot alongside MacKinnon and Rantanen at even strength. If that unit isn't productive early on, putting Lehkonen into Drouin's role might be coach Jared Bednar's first adjustment.

Lehkonen remaining in his current role alongside Casey Mittelstadt and Valeri Nichushkin might not hurt his chances of being productive too greatly either. They will more commonly get soft matchups versus the Jets second and third defense pairings. In a tiny sample of 23.8 minutes together they own a 72% expected goal share and 4.54 xGoals per 60.

Lehkonen has scored 11 goals in 27 playoff games with the Avalanche. He has proven to be playoff performer, and is getting a big opportunity to step up once again for the Avs' in what should be an excellent series.

Lehkonen is priced to at +1800 (FanDuel) to lead the series in scoring, and that number has held steady even after the announcement that Drouin would no play. He is in with a better than 5.3% chance to lead this series in scoring, and there is value backing that prop ahead of Game 1 of the series.

Best Bet: Arturri Lehkonen Series Leading Goal Scorer +1800 (FanDuel, Play to +1500)

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Sunday, Apr 21
10:00 p.m. ET
First Period Under 1.5 (-105)

Both of these sides rank top ten in terms of chance creation over the last month of action, and are highly capable offensive teams. That just works to lend itself to more playable prices on Game One under's though, and I'm not expecting many offensive fireworks in this series prior to seeing any action.

Coach Rick Tocchet improved the Canucks game considerably in all areas of the ice this season, and is rightfully going to win the Jack Adams award as a result. The improvement that was most consistent down the stretch though, was the Canucks ability to play lock down defensive hockey, and their wins over quality opponents were mainly of the low event variety.

The way that the Canucks won a critical division deciding matchup in Edmonton 3-1 on April 13th could be an indicator of the way their playoff matchups are going to go.

As the Canucks get their first taste of playoff in hockey in four years look for it to lean towards conservative, battened down play which leads to little in the way of high danger scoring chances. That's the DNA of Rick Tocchet, and I think it will show through in this matchup.

Both teams are offering Vezina Calibre goaltenders, who will not be beaten often on chances in which they are set and square.

Juuse Saros played to a -3.0 GSAx and .906 save percentage overall this season in 64 appearances. He was far better in the seasons back half though, and should be viewed as a better netminder than those stats indicate.

Thatcher Demko will likely finish second in the Vezina trophy vote this season, based on his +22.0 GSAx and .918 save percentage in 51 appearances. He's looked sharp since returning from injury, and I feel confident he is going to be a difference maker in this series.

Bet365 has the first period under 1.5 priced at -105, and I see value betting that prop at anything better than -115.

Best Bet: First Period Under 1.5 -105 (bet365, Play to -115)

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