NHL Odds: Steer Clear Of Chalky Avalanche In Top-Heavy Western Conference?

Colorado and Vegas are the heavy favorites out West


October 12, 2021

There is a clear divide in the futures market between the top two teams in the Western Conference and the competitors chasing them.

The Colorado Avalanche sit atop the betting board with +200 odds to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final. The Vegas Golden Knights are close behind at +300 to win the conference for the second time in five years.

There might be value in backing a team with hedging opportunities in mind for the postseason, but the top two teams are a class above.

Top 10 Odds For NHL Western Conference Champion
Colorado Avalanche +200
Vegas Golden Knights +300
Dallas Stars +1200
Minnesota Wild +1200
Edmonton Oilers +1300
Winnipeg Jets +2000
Seattle Kraken +2000
St. Louis Blues +2000
Chicago Blackhawks +2400
Calgary Flames +2400

Odds courtesy of Fanduel Sportsbook. Sign up for FanDuel Sportsbook today and get your first bet risk-free for up to $1,000!

The Avs’ spot atop the betting board is well-earned. Colorado finished the 2021 season with the best expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five, tallying a 60.1% mark. The next-closest team was the Toronto Maple Leafs, who finished the season nearly 5% worse than the Avs. Colorado returns most of its players from last season, including Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon and Norris Trophy frontrunner Cale Makar. Darcy Kuemper was acquired via trade to solidify the blue paint, but it’s unlikely that he buoys the Avs in their defensive end. Kuemper finished last season with -0.6 goals saved above average and a 77.4% high-danger save percentage. The Avs need to shake their playoff woes, and that’s not going to happen with another replacement-level goalie between the pipes.

The argument can be made that the Edmonton Oilers are worth backing to finish the season as Western Conference Champions. Edmonton enters the year with defending league MVP Connor McDavid leading an improved group of forwards. This pre-season, Jesse Puljujarvi and McDavid have already shown chemistry, combining for 15 points in eight combined games. Leon Draisaitl, Kailer Yamamoto, Zach Hyman and Ryan McLeod will feature as one of the best top-six groups in the league. Defensively, there are a few question marks for the Oilers. Duncan Keith joins the defensive group amid a downturn in production. The 38-year-old has seen diminishing metrics over the past three seasons but isn’t the oldest player expected to produce for the Oilers. That honor falls on Mike Smith’s shoulders. The 39-year-old goaltender will be the primary goalie for Edmonton this season. Although he was effective last season, Smith can’t be expected to carry the Oilers again. The Oilers will be in some high-scoring games this season, and if they move some of their assets for a legitimate starting goaltender, they could be the team to beat in the postseason.

From an advanced metrics perspective, no team has been better than the Golden Knights over the past three seasons. Vegas leads the NHL in cumulative expected goals-for percentage with a 54.7% rating. The Knights are built from the back end out, starting with Robin Lehner in net. Lehner has 25.4 goals saved above average over the past three seasons and is a progression candidate after finishing last season with below career-average metrics. Alex Pietrangelo leads a blue-line corps that allowed the fourth-fewest shots across all strengths last season. The Golden Knights also have an embarrassment of riches on the front end, with six forwards finishing last season with at least 33 points and eight forwards scoring 11 or more goals. Things should come together again for the Golden Knights this season, and we’re expecting another run to the Stanley Cup Final.

All NHL predictions and picks are courtesy of SportsGrid

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