Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for the 2018-19 NHL Season
Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Alex Ovechkin
The NHL season begins on Wednesday, but there is still time to make some investments in the futures market. Our staffers weighed in on their favorite futures ranging from longshots to win the Stanley Cup to fading Alex Ovechkin.
Stanley Cup Longshots
Michael Leboff — Arizona Coyotes to Win the Stanley Cup (150-1)
I’m absolutely enamored with the Coyotes this season. Will they win the Stanley Cup? Almost certainly (the odds imply a 0.66% chance) not. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a +EV bet.
The main reason I’m high on Arizona this season is because I think it has one of the league’s best goaltenders in Antti Raanta.
In 47 games last season, Raanta posted a .937 save percentage at 5v5 and finished with a +7.35 Goals Saved Above Average. If Raanta stays healthy, the Coyotes should be in the mix for a playoff spot as they have a sneaky-deep roster.
Stuckey — Carolina Hurricanes to Win the Stanley Cup (125-1)
The Hurricanes are always a trendy sleeper, but this number is just too high. They have oodles of skill up top and one of the best defenses in the league. They have a big weakness in goal, but that isn’t enough to keep me off this price.
Atlantic Division Musings
Steve Petrella — Toronto to Not Win the Atlantic Division
The Maple Leafs are the third-most complete team in their division, and the other two are listed at plus money to win it.
Tampa Bay is the best team on paper in the NHL, and that often bears out over 82 games (although not in the playoffs). And Boston has the best line in the league and an excellent top nine.
To me, there’s more to like about those two teams than a Toronto team that ranked in the bottom five in expected goals against last season. There are still major holes on defense, and Frederik Anderson’s 91.83 expected save percentage in 5v5 situations was 47th of goalies who played at least 10 games. He looked good last season, but he’s due to regress a little. John Tavares won’t solve any of their defensive woes.
Instead of laying a big price on Toronto to not win the Atlantic (-240, I’m taking the Lightning (+180) and Bruins (+300) to win it. I put 1 unit on the Bruins and 1.4 on the Bolts, creating a moneyline of about +150 if either wins. If Florida sneaks up and somehow wins this division, I’ll tip my cap.
Sean Newsham — Sabres over 80.5 points
The Buffalo Sabres may have had the best offseason in the entire NHL, all things considered. Their tanking finally paid dividends in the form of Rasmus Dahlin. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick is a generational talent who will immediately bolster what was a weak Sabres defense.
There was talk leading up to the draft that if Dahlin was Canadian he would have had a buzz similar to that of Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby — the Swede is that good.
Even though Buffalo traded Ryan O’Reilly, the return was two good depth pieces, and the Sabres were then able to land a proven 30-goal scorer in Jeff Skinner.
The Sabres play in the same division as Tampa Bay, Toronto and Boston, but Montreal, Detroit and Ottawa are also in the Atlantic, so there’s plenty of bad teams for Buffalo to beat up on.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sabres make a drastic climb this season and I expect them to eclipse the 80-point mark easily.
Jason Sobel — Tampa Bay to Play St. Louis in Stanley Cup (+8300) AND Tampa Bay to Play Edmonton in Stanley Cup (+9400)
This should come as no surprise, but the Lightning will be the class of the East again this season. No surprise to the books, either, which have enlisted the Bolts as the favorite. I don’t like futures bets with such low ROI, so I like playing these two Stanley Cup matchup props with huge payouts instead. I think the Blues and Oilers could be primed for solid seasons and each has enough star power to win three playoff series in the West.
Danny Donahue — Devils (+110), Panthers (+160), Blue Jackets (+220), Flyers (+225) to miss playoffs
While this is technically four separate futures, I’m thinking of it as one bet. Let me explain.
Obviously only eight teams per conference can make the playoffs, but there are nine Eastern Conference teams whose playoff odds are listed at minus-money. I hate using the word lock, but it’s awfully hard to see one of the top five teams — TB, BOS, TOR, WSH, PIT — not making it, which would mean at least one of these four plus-money payouts has to cash.
That leaves me counting on at least one of six teams — the Rangers, Islanders, Red Wings, Canadiens, Senators and Sabres — to clinch an unexpected playoff berth.
Last season there were six teams whose playoff odds were +100 or higher that ended up making the postseason, two of which came from the Eastern Conference. It’ll just take one to make this a profitable bet this season, and on the chance that there are two or more, this starts to become a pretty hefty payout.
Joe Holka — Auston Matthews To Win Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (+900)
The narrative that Matthews was upset (at first) when the Leafs signed Tavares is completely insane. Coach Mike Babcock now has the luxury of choosing to match up the Matthews line with inferior defensive units, which only raises Matthews’ ceiling, as Tavares draws more shut-down attention. With Matthews already having a 40-goal season under his belt, +900 to lead the league feels like decent value.
Evan Abrams — Alex Ovechkin Under 80.5 Points
I’m not completely sure Ovechkin has stopped drinking and hoisting the cup above his head in Vegas yet, so to me, that’s one reason to love this bet.
Looking at the bet more from an analytical standpoint, Ovechkin has finished below 80 points in four of his last six seasons (not including the shortened season) and after he finished with 87 points last season, I think the Caps’ hangover could make it tough for him to reach this total.
Ovechkin hasn’t missed a game since January of 2016, and over the last two seasons, including the playoffs, his 201 games played is tied with Phil Kessel and Dmitry Orlov for the most over that span.
At the age of 33, after Ovechkin’s first Stanley Cup and real postseason success, I will take the under on his points this season.
Mark Gallant — Patrice Bergeron Under 74.5 Points
I took 18 point-total unders at Bovada and zero overs. Similar to football, I don’t think they are factoring in injuries enough (or at all) with the totals listed. Let’s just hope there’s not a scoring outburst this season.
Even though I am a big B’s fan, it pains me to say that the Patrice Bergeron under is my favorite of the bunch. Last year, he put up a career high in points per game with a shade under 1.00, scoring 63 in 64 games. While an over/under of 74.5 might be in play if he were to play all 82 games, I expect him to miss some games for sure.
He’s compiled a laundry list of injuries over the past several years and is still not 100% heading into game 1 after undergoing groin surgery this summer. The Bruins aren’t going to want to run him into the ground during the regular season, as he’ll be vital if they want any success in the postseason.
Look for Bergeron to miss some time and go under this total. Hell, he’s literally never gone over 74.5 in his career, and I don’t see him doing it for the first time in season No. 15.