No more bubbles, no more empty barns, and as cool as it was to see a different format, no more Canadian Division. It’s the eve of the 2021-’22 NHL season and I’m excited to see rivalries restored (Bruins/Canadiens), tenured players donning new sweaters (Parise, Keith, Suter), and of course the Kraken!!! We are back to pre-Covid schedules, playoff formatting, and divisions with the exception of the expansion Seattle Kraken slotting into the Pacific and replacing the Arizona Coyotes who now move to the much tougher Central Division.
I have sifted through endless amounts of NHL articles and publications to try and whittle my team futures list down to a handful that I see the best value on. The intention of this article is for you to have another resource to check in on before you place your own tickets. As always make your own decisions and use others' information as a tool for you to get a perspective of what someone else is seeing that you may not.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS UNDER 106.5 POINTS -110 (DRAFTKINGS)
Toronto moved out of the Canadian Division and paired back with the likes of Tampa Bay, Boston, and Florida. Last season Toronto was the heavy favorite to win their division, and rightfully so as their competition was not up to par on paper, but Edmonton gave them a run for their money for the crown. This season they will again play against perennial Atlantic powerhouses in Boston and Tampa while teams like Florida and Montreal both seem to be on the rise as stingy competition. Toronto does have a lot of firepower on their roster and it would not shock me that they are playing for the Cup in June, but I have to question if they’ve got the maturity and goaltending to get there. The goaltending situation will be my biggest question for this season as Jack Campbell and new arrival Petr Mrazek will split the duties between the pipes. Campbell burst onto the scene last season and was white-hot from the start but I would expect his numbers to regress back towards the mean a bit this year.
BOSTON BRUINS UNDER 103.5 POINTS -110 (DRAFTKINGS)
Yes, it pains me to go against my team, but it’s the only option in my opinion. Boston will still be a strong team with very good defense, but the subtractions of David Krejci and Tuukka Rask will both have huge negative impacts on the club. After 15 seasons in the Black and Gold, Krejci decided to return back home to the Czech Republic. This leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the second line which further handicaps a team that already struggled for offense outside of their All-League first line. It is expected that Charlie Coyle will now step into David’s spot centering Hall and Smith, and although there is a lot to like in Coyle’s game, he just has not shown the consistency the Bruins need in the offensive zone. The team did have some nice signings to round out their bottom-six forwards, but I do worry that this will again be a 1 line team that if the first line slumps or misses time due to injury, the Bruins could struggle to put the puck in the net. There are also major question marks in the goaltending department this season. Tuukka remains unsigned and although he’s expected to resign at some point this season, how healthy will he be? I don’t think he can be relied upon to be the backbone of the team and instead the Bruins will be forced to turn to Ullmark and Swayman. Both looked very good at times last season, but both are unproven at the NHL level.
MINNESOTA WILD UNDER 97.5 POINTS -110 (DRAFTKINGS)
The Wild looked like a very strong team last season for a few months before ultimately fading away late in the season. This squad is certainly in a transitional phase with the subtractions of both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, but they do have some solid youngsters ready to take the next step. I do think that the major hole on this team will be in its defensive zone as they lose Suter, Cole, and Soucy on the blue line. They also had some bad goaltending last season, and there was no attempt to address that this past offseason. As good as they looked last season, they had the benefit of playing some of the NHL’s bottom feeders in Arizona and the three California teams. This season they are back in a division with Dallas, Winnipeg and Nashville which will all be stiff competition.
CALGARY FLAMES TO MAKE PLAYOFFS -125 (DRAFTKINGS)
The Flames lost longtime captain Mark Giordano this offseason to the expansion draft, but otherwise returned basically the same exact team. The Flames return back to the Pacific Division which has Vegas and Edmonton at the top, but Seattle, Vancouver, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose are all below them. There are lots of question marks on defense and goaltending with the Flames, but offensively they should still have plenty of firepower and be able to put the puck in the net. Calgary did try to address the loss of Giordano by signing both Zadorov and Grubranson, and the hope is Markstrom bounces back from his down year last season and looks more like the goaltender from his Vancouver days.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS TO MISS PLAYOFFS -125 (DRAFTKINGS)
Philadelphia showed nothing last season in the East, and I don’t expect the move back to the Metropolitan division to help one bit. Both New York teams, Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Washington are all better clubs and a path to the playoffs seems very minimal. Their only path consists of the offense returning to the powerhouse it was a couple of seasons ago, but the subtraction of Voracek certainly doesn’t help that matter. The Flyers will also need a return of Carter Hart being the goalie he was two years ago and hope that last year's version is not what they’ve got between the pipes each night. Hart was among the league’s worst goalies statistically last season and if he isn’t up for carrying the team this season, I see no way Philadelphia is competing for Lord Stanley this spring.
DALLAS STARS TO WIN THE CUP +3500
I think a lot of the value on some teams has been sucked out of the market, but I did place one Cup future last month on the Dallas Stars +3500 that is still available today. I had a +2800 futures ticket on Dallas a couple of summers ago and it was one hell of a ride. I want to get back on that ride again this season. Last season I did expect regression as the Cup was played in late September and it was a short offseason for players to heal from the pounding one’s body takes in the playoffs. Dallas also had an early-season bout with Covid, a winter storm that left the city without power for days, and seasons lost due to injury for Seguin and Radulov. I expect this team to put all that behind them and be a strong club and make the playoffs this season. Dallas is built like a team that can win in the playoffs with top-line firepower, strong blue line, depth, and goaltending you can trust. The Stars did lose Oleksiak in the expansion draft but brought in a more offensive-minded defenseman in Ryan Suter and defensive-minded Jani Hakanpaa. Dallas also added some depth to their forward core with Luke Glendening and Michael Raffl. With the returned health of Seguin, Radulov, and Hintz I feel like this could be one dangerous squad in the spring. There will certainly be questions surrounding their goaltending duo, but Khudobin should bounce back after his poor season last year and newcomer Brayden Holtby brings a veteran presence to compete for backup time along with future starter Jake Oettinger.
Predicted Standings (*denotes Playoff Wild Card teams)
Atlantic: Tampa Bay, Toronto, Florida, *Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, Buffalo
Metro: Carolina, NY Islanders, Pittsburgh, *Washington, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Columbus
Central: Colorado, Dallas, Winnipeg, *St. Louis, *Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, Arizona
Pacific: Vegas, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim
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