This article is part of our Handicapping the NHL series.
The 2021-22 season will kick off Oct. 12 with a banner raising in Tampa Bay, as well as the debut of the NHL's newest Franchise the Seattle Kraken. With less than two weeks until Opening Night, RotoWire's AJ Scholz will take a look at the team and player futures for the upcoming season, starting with the team futures courtesy of the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Division Winner Favorites
Atlantic Division: Toronto Maple Leafs (195)
Metropolitan Division: New York Islanders (275)
Pacific Division: Vegas Golden Knights (-160)
Central Division: Colorado Avalanche (-250)
AJ's Pick: Based on these numbers, it's pretty clear the oddsmakers are anticipating a relatively easy path to their respective division titles, which shouldn't come as a surprise when you consider Colorado can skate arguably the best line in hockey with Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. While I certainly expect the Avs to win the Central, there isn't enough value here for me to consider taking those odds, as an injury to new netminder Darcy Kuemper could sideline them. The Metropolitan is going to be a battle, as always, which makes me wary of taking the Islanders given there are more than a number of clubs, including Carolina and the Rangers, who could factor into the division race.
All that to say, of the favorites to win their division, I'll be looking at the Maple Leafs at +195. While the Bruins could still be a factor, I anticipate the Atlantic comes down to a coin flip between the defending champion Lighting and the Leafs. Getting nearly 2/1 value on a coin toss makes them the best favorite to target.
AJ's Non-Favorite Pick: Outside of those four clubs, you could certainly look at the Lightning at +210 which gives a slightly better return than taking the Leafs but I'd rather go for a club like Carolina that comes at +475. The blue line was certainly downgraded by the departure of Dougie Hamilton, yet it could also be an opportunity for guys like Jaccob Slavin or Brett Pesce to step into bigger roles. The Canes also upgraded the goaltending position, in my opinion, by adding Frederik Andersen who has four 30-win campaigns under his belt.
Division Winner Parlays
Avalanche and Golden Knights Both Win (125)
Maple Leafs and Avalanche Both Win (310)
Lightning and Avalanche Both Win (340)
AJ's Pick: Over on the DraftKings Sportsbook, they are offering Division Winner Parlays which includes a multitude of combinations from combining the two biggest division winner favorite in Colorado and Vegas for just +125 value to parlaying Chicago and Seattle to win their respective divisions at +16000. The two combinations above that include the Avs are my favorite on the board depending on which side of the Lightning/Maples Leafs debate you might come down on. For me, it's the added value of parlaying the Bolts and Avs.
AJ's Longshot Pick: As I mentioned above, the Islanders are in a tough Metro Division and are far from a lock to finish in first place, but they are getting back Anders Lee, who missed most of 2020-21 due to injury and have a solid netminding tandem in Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin. By parlaying them with Tampa Bay, you can get +1100 value taking the Isles and Lightning to win the Metropolitan and Atlantic, respectively.
Colorado Avalanche (230), Toronto Maple Leafs (550), Tampa Bay Lightning (550).
AJ's Pick: For me, this might be the easiest team future bet on the board. The President's Trophy for most points on the year is clearly the Avalanche's to lose this season. In addition to the forward complement I outlined above, they also have a trio of offensively gifted defensemen, headlined by Cale Makar who has racked up 94 points in 101 games over his first two seasons in the NHL. Losing Vezina Trophy nominee Philipp Grubauer between the pipes certainly didn't help their cause but Darcy Kuemper doesn't have to be perfect given the talented roster in front of him.
AJ's Longshot Pick: Over the past three seasons, nobody has scored more points than teammates Connor McDavid (318) and Leon Draisaitl (299) for the Oilers. The problem in Edmonton has always been the goalie duo, which general manager Ken Holland once against failed to upgrade, so the team will continue to roll with 39-year-old Mike Smith as the starter. Still, for me, the Oilers at +2200 is worth a sprinkle as a longshot option to win the President's Trophy.
Stanley Cup Winner
Colorado Avalanche (475), Vegas Golden Knights (700), Tampa Bay Lightning (700), Toronto Maple Leafs (900).
AJ's Pick: While some guys have departed in free agency and the expansion draft like Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson, the Lightning have kept their core together and will no doubt benefit from having Nikita Kucherov healthy for the entire season. It's hard to imagine a team will actually pull off three straight titles but with Andrei Vasilevskiy in the pipes and a wealth of scoring options through the roster, it's just hard to bet against this team right now.
AJ's Longshot Pick: Speaking of teams that maintained much of their core, the Hurricanes could create nightmare matchups for every other team in the league if they opt to continue splitting Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov on separate lines. If this club is trailing in a game, it can simply toss that trio back together to try and get a late equalizer. To that end, getting Carolina at +2500 to win the Stanley Cup is a fantastic spot.