With NHL training camps now in full swing the Toronto Maple Leafs have emerged as the strongest favourites on the NHL divisional betting lines, sporting short +140 odds to win the North Division at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Maple Leafs have been a fixture near the top of the NHL standings over the past three seasons, but have been regularly overshadowed by Boston and Tampa Bay in the highly competitive Atlantic Division. However, with the temporary realignment for the upcoming season grouping Toronto with the six other Canadian teams, the Maple Leafs enjoy a golden opportunity to claim their first divisional title since 2000.
Toronto, though, will not be without stiff competition in the North Division. The Edmonton Oilers sit second to Toronto as a +300 wager, just ahead of the Vancouver Canucks at +500. The Oilers enjoyed a return to respectability last season, finishing the abbreviated campaign with 37 wins, one more than Toronto, and the most among Canadian teams.
The Canucks struggled down the stretch, but their youthful lineup continued to make gains in the postseason, coming within one win of a trip to the Western Conference Final. Rounding out the North Division odds, the Montreal Canadiens sit at +650, ahead of the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets at +700, while the Ottawa Senators lag as distant +8000 longshots.
Elsewhere on the NHL divisional odds at online sports betting sites, the Stanley Cup champion Lightning lead the way as +150 favourites to win the Central Division, while the Bruins have risen to narrow +250 chalk to win the East Division.
Like the Maple Leafs, the Lightning are expected to benefit from realignment this season, as Tampa Bay closed out last season with a double-digit point edge over its closest Central Division rival. And while a salary cap crunch emerged as a concern for Tampa Bay during the offseason, the club has so far managed to address those issues without dismantling their championship lineup.
The Bruins closed out last season with a league-leading 100 points, but were forced to make some hard personnel decisions in the wake of an early playoff exit. That included allowing rearguards Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug to leave town as free agents. Boston also finds itself atop arguably the toughest division in the NHL this season, and is closely trailed by the Philadelphia Flyers at +300 on those NHL odds, and the Pittsburgh Penguins at +450.
And over in the West Division, the Colorado Avalanche lead the way as +150 betting favourites, just ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights at +188. The St. Louis Blues closed out last season as the top seeds in the Western Conference, but open the new campaign as a lengthier +500 wager to win the West Division.