Now that the National Hockey League season is officially underway, let’s take a look at the top ten teams vying for the Stanley Cup this year. Teams are listed in order of best odds to win the Cup, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
Pittsburgh Penguins (6-1) — Coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups, the question will be whether or not the Penguins have anything left in the tank for another playoff run. Pittsburgh didn’t really lose anything in the offseason, and I wouldn’t bet against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Edmonton Oilers (9-1) — All hail Connor McDavid. This team will go as far as McJesus will take it, and that could be to the moon. The Oilers need to take advantage of this year, because McDavid and Draisaitl’s mega-contracts kick in next year and will make Peter Chiarelli’s job a lot harder.
Tampa Bay Lightning (12-1) — The Lightning are another team that relies heavily on one superstar, Steven Stamkos, to get the job done. Since going to the finals in 2015, Tampa has been plagued by injuries. They’ll look to correct that trend with a solid stock of players, including goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has emerged as one of the best young goalies in the league over the past three seasons. If the Lighting can stay healthy, they’ll have to contend with the Penguins in the playoffs.
Washington Capitals (12-1) — It seems like we say “this year is the Caps’ last chance at a Cup” every year, but it might actually be true this season. With an aging core and a lack of depth, this might be Washington’s best chance to shine. Despite Alex Ovechkin’s electric start to the season, this team’s real test will come in the playoffs. Can they make it past the second round?
Chicago Blackhawks (12-1) — The Blackhawks are vastly overrated, in my opinion. They traded away one of their best players, Artemi Panarin, in the offseason and don’t have the depth they used to. They have started the season well, including a 10-1 drubbing of Pittsburgh, but I think they’ll fade. They will probably still make the playoffs, but they aren’t the force to be reckoned with that they used to be.
Minnesota Wild (12-1) — The Wild are another team facing an aging top six, but they have one of the deepest rosters in the league. With the addition of Matt Cullen, the Wild have a true fourth-line center that allows the team to keep prospects in the AHL and not force them to play small minutes in the big league. Minnesota is like Washington in the sense that the real test will come once the playoffs begin. However, nothing in the Central Division is guaranteed, and it will be a tough road to playoff contention.
Toronto Maple Leafs (14-1) — I feel comfortable in saying that the Leafs have the best forward unit in the NHL. The Hyman-Matthews-Nylander line was absolutely phenomenal at times last season, and they’ll only get better in Auston Matthews’s second season. The reigning rookie of the year has this team on his back, but the addition of Patrick Marleau in the summer means Toronto has scoring power all through the top four lines. Defense will be the question mark for this team, but they should easily make the playoffs in a somewhat pedestrian Atlantic Division.
Nashville Predators (14-1) — After a surprise playoff run to the finals last season, Smashville is gearing up for another solid season. The Preds lost Mike Fisher to retirement and James Neal to the Vegas expansion draft, but are solid up front with Ryan Johansen back from injury and the addition of Nick Bonino on the second line. With a P.K. Subban-led defense that is one of the best in the league, the sky’s the limit for Nashville, but first they need to escape the Central Division.
Dallas Stars (14-1) — The Stars are the fourth team from the Central Division on this list. The division is stacked, and the teams that do make it out will be exhausted after a long, hard season. Dallas added Alexander Radulov and Ben Bishop in the offseason, but will need to avoid the injury bug if they want to make a play at a playoff run.
Anaheim Ducks (14-1) — The Ducks made it to the Western Conference finals last year, and they are poised to make another playoff run this season. With only Edmonton a real challenger in the Pacific Division, the Ducks should comfortably make the playoffs. Whether or not Anaheim can make another deep run depends on whether or not John Gibson can be better in net after a shaky year last season.
With the parity in the NHL today, anything can happen, especially when injuries play a role, so these predictions that I’m about to make are most likely going to be wrong. Don’t blame me in a few months when they turn out to be just that.
West — Edmonton, Anaheim, Calgary, Minnesota, Nashville, Dallas, Winnipeg, Chicago
East — Pittsburgh, Washington, Columbus, NY Rangers, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Ottawa
Stanley Cup Finals
Edmonton vs. Washington
Stanley Cup Champion