Each of the following teams is coming into the season with various question marks, but the usual suspects find themselves at the top.
The Western Conference looks like a two-team race, while the Eastern Conference is more wide open. We’ll be taking a deeper look into our favorites as we analyze the numbers courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.
TOP 10 ODDS FOR STANLEY CUP WINNER
Colorado Avalanche: +550
Tampa Bay Lightning: +650
Vegas Golden Knights: +700
Toronto Maple Leafs: +1100
Boston Bruins: +1400
New York Islanders: +1500
Pittsburgh Penguins: +2100
Florida Panthers: +2200
Carolina Hurricanes: +2300
Washington Capitals: +2400
New York Rangers: +2400
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Let’s start with the consensus favorite, the Avalanche. Colorado has arguably the best first line in all of hockey right now. It’s hard to imagine a better top-three in the league than Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog. We’ve also heard the stories coming out of Colorado about MacKinnon’s work habits and how he expects the same from the entire team. In addition to the Avalanche’s threatening offense, former Calder Memorial Trophy winner Cale Makar leads its top defensive pairing. The one big question mark is how Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz will handle the void left in the net by Philipp Grubauer.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
It’s pretty hard not to consider the Lightning on a shortlist of possible Stanley Cup winners because the organization has won the previous two. Tampa Bay has one of the best offenses top to bottom, featuring arguably the best defenseman in the league and possibly the best goaltender. This group was Steven Stamkos’ team, and the ‘was’ is essential here. When Stamkos is your third or fourth-best player, you have one hell of a team. This year’s team will also feature a healthy Nikita Kucherov, who missed the previous regular season. Brayden Point has solidified himself as a top-flight center in the league, and Victor Hedman continues to be the measure of what an elite defenseman is. In addition to all of that, the Lightning has perennial Vezina Trophy contender Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes. There is no need to wonder why Tampa Bay has won back-to-back cups. However, we have to wonder what effect losing players like Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde will have.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Everyone knows the story of how Vegas came into the league with low expectations and then immediately made the Stanley Cup Final. Even after that surprise, we doubt many thought the Golden Knights would be a favorite to contend for the Cup every year afterward. Vegas’ strength has always been a balanced threat throughout its lineup, but its top two lines are pretty damn intimidating. The first line features Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, while the second line runs off the offense of Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson. The backend of the Golden Knights is also solid. Alec Martinez and Alex Pietrangelo are two of the top defensemen in the league, while Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore form a dependable second pairing. Rounding out the top six are Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud, who have played together since their time in the AHL. The big question will be in the net: How will Robin Lehner handle the entire goaltending load now that Vezina winner Marc-Andre Fleury is in Chicago?
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
When talking about the Maple Leafs, it always seems like you have to start with the same question: How good is Toronto’s defense? Whereas Vegas has a lot of strength with its backend, the Leafs’ defense is always under the microscope. Let’s start with the negatives. Toronto is going to find out what life is like after Frederik Andersen. We don’t know how Jack Campbell will handle an entire season, and we haven’t seen Petr Mrazek in blue and white. On defense, Morgan Rielly is one of the league’s best offensive defensemen, and Jake Muzzin is as reliable as anyone. However, when Muzzin gets hurt, we’ve seen how much the team relies on him. On the positive side of things, the Leafs’ offense is outstanding. Austin Matthews is the best goal-scorer in the NHL, Mitch Marner is a wizard at creating opportunities, John Tavares is year-in and year-out a top-flight player, and William Nylander is criminally underrated every year. Adding to all of that premier offense is a supporting cast of very capable forwards.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
We’ve saved the least exciting team for last. The New York Islanders are not flashy. It features a mix of grit and talent up front and stability in the back. The Islanders’ top line of Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Kyle Palmieri are plenty capable of putting up points. However, New York’s top defensive pairing of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock and its goaltending tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin are what put it on the list. If there were a Vezina trophy for goaltending tandems, Varlamov and Sorokin would probably win.
All NHL predictions and picks are courtesy of SportsGrid.
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