What the betting odds predict for the 2021-22 NHL season

Elliotte Friedman explains why the Toronto Maple Leafs are the Canadian team under the most pressure this season.

Betting markets don’t aim to predict the outcome of full seasons so much as they aim to approximate it, entice you to wager, and to protect themselves from big losses in the process. Hey, it’s a business. For example, since the Toronto Maple Leafs have the biggest fanbase by volume, the most action is likely to be on their outcomes. And because fans tend to be optimistic, they’re likely to bet overs. If the “book” sets the line too low, and a huge volume of people smash the over (which they would) and the Leafs are in fact good, the books are out a lot of money. So for a team like Toronto, their point projection is almost always going to err on the high side.

Even knowing that, I’m genuinely surprised by their initial line. I use Coolbet, and if you went there yesterday, you could bet the Leafs under on … 107.5 points. So many people bet the under that they moved the line to 106.5.

That was one place I think you could’ve found favourable odds, and let’s be real, 106.5 for the Leafs still feels like the stuff of best-case scenarios. If you don’t mind letting them hold $100 of your money for the season, there’s a good chance they’ll return $190 to you in April. (I use $100 for the purpose of round sums, not because that’s the kind of money I personally bet.)

But the Leafs aside, lines came out for every team, and tons of futures bets with them. These are the type of betting pursuits I find most fun (and frankly, most profitable if you can afford to put up a little money). There are divisional bets, playoff conference winner bets, individual award bets, even over/under bets on player points.

I’ve spent some time picking through them to find some good values, and the below is what I’ve come up with.

Team over/under bets

You know where I stand with the Leafs, here’s where I stand on two other Canadian teams:

Take the over on the Jets.

The Jets can score, or at least should be able to between Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Paul Stastny. Adding Nate Schmidt and Brendan Dillon to their D-corps makes it more legit, and they’ve got one of Earth’s three best hockey goalies. Their division is Colorado and a bunch of teams who are all wild cards to me. Minnesota, Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas, Chicago … nobody’s bad, but I think the Jets should tease a playoff spot at the very least, which is usually around 94-95 points these days. There’s an upside that’s brighter than that, too, if they stay healthy.

Take the Canucks over as well:

I think Oliver Ekman-Larsson will have a good year, refreshed and with a team that isn’t bottoming out on purpose. The Canucks can score, they have good depth forwards, and I believe in Thatcher Demko. Plus their division should hand out enough free points between California and Arizona that the line of 88.5 points seems like their floor.

I’m pairing that bet with this one, for Vancouver to make the playoffs:

OK, let’s talk about some individuals, diving right into the screenshots, no headers:

Mantha scores goals. He scored 24 in 80 games, then 25 in 67 games the next year, and in the two following seasons the Red Wings were hot garbage (and his scoring pace only trailed off a bit). Mantha had four goals in 14 games after his trade to Washington last season, and he’s the prime age of 27. A full season with the Capitals and I think the over is a smart bet here, assuming good health.

I’m bullish on Tkachuk being a high-output goal scorer in the NHL. He’s scored over 20 multiple seasons in the league already and he’s just 22 years old. You’re telling me a healthy Tkachuk isn’t gonna score 23 times this season? I think he’s more likely to hit 30 than get stuck on 22. (I’m gonna stop saying “healthy,” that’s all we can assume with most guys.)

Pastrnak won the Rocket Richard at 23 years old, scoring 48 times in 70 games. He’s a whopping 25 years old now. He “only” had 20 in 48 games last season, but from the age of 20-22 he scored 34, 35, and 38. I’m gonna bet on last year's 30-ish goal output being the outlier, and him being much closer to 40-45.

Hammer these Hughes bets. Smart and skilled and can finish, a number one overall pick just coming into his own physically in the NHL. Heck, he was around this goal pace last year, scoring 11 times in 56 games. I bet he hits this number in January.

I like this Hughes bet, too:

This will be the third season of Hughes' career and I’m betting on the breakout.

I like his teammate, too, while we’re at it:

Sharangovich turned 23 this summer, and scored 16 goals last season in 54 games. Feels like a no-brainer, as bets go.

I’m betting Hall’s depleted goal totals of late are a result of being on out-and-out bad teams lately. If he plays top-six (obviously) for the Bruins and sees decent PP time (extremely likely) I can’t see him going through a year and not getting to 14 goals.

This one feels even more likely to hit:

What’s the obnoxious Bitcoin expression: “Buy the dip?” Yeah let’s do that with Hall, too.

This seems way low to me. At age 23 Willy scored 31 times in 68 games. At 24 during the pandemic bubble year he got 17 in 51 games. He turned 25 this summer, he’s healthy, and the line is 22.5? I’d consider the over if it were four goals higher.

McDavid scored at a 154-point pace last season. His team should be better and his division is still soft. This might be a 2.0 point-per-game season for the 24-year-old. If he did score at that pace, he’d need to dress 65 times to hit the over.

One thing I like to do is bet on the best players in the league to play well. Bold huh? I think Cale Makar is the best D-man in the league, or one of the top-three at least. And so, at +300 on that, I’m in. (Note: I’m not actually placing this bet, as I vote on the awards. But this would be a good one for you, Gamblor.)

Every full season sees some teams earn less than 68 points, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Ducks – who were on pace for fractionally less than 63 last season – would suddenly perform better than that, with essentially the same roster.

See above. Buffalo was on a 54-point pace and traded most of their decent players. Jack Eichel won’t be playing there. This one feels like an absolute lock.

The Sharks were on pace for 72 points last season, their best players are another year older, and they (very likely) lose Evander Kane, who led them in scoring last year. I’m skeptical they get a lot better.

And finally, the new guys.

I like Seattle's D-corps fine (though they don’t have any elite D-men, really a bunch of second-pair guys), and I like their goaltending just fine. They should be better than the two California teams mentioned above. Up front the Kraken look hard-working and … again, fine! But 93 points is on the cusp of playoffs, and I think Vegas blinded us all to how hard it should be to succeed without access to the top 100 or so players in the league. I think the Kraken fall short of 93 points in year one.

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