The NHL season is back – but it’s going to look quite a bit different.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 season has been shortened and the league
temporarily realigned, leaving quite a bit of uncertainty ahead.
As we move into the new and unique NHL season, we preview each team and each division as 31 teams compete for the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to defend their Stanley Cup title this season, and they’ve got the talent and depth to do it. The Lightning return most of their roster this season including some key offseason re-signings in Mikhail Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli. Tampa Bay will be without its top offensive weapon for most of the season after Nikita Kucherov underwent surgery on his hip during the offseason, but they have more than enough talent on the roster to make a run at another championship and they enter the season as the favorite to win the Central Division at +130.
Despite losing in the first round of the NHL, the Carolina Hurricanes are poised to make another playoff run with a deep and talented team. The Hurricanes have one of the more well-rounded teams in the NHL, finishing in the top third of the league in both goals scored and goals against. Carolina does have concerns at the goalkeeper position, but they still enter the season with the second-best odds to win the Central Division at +400.
After a runner-up finish in the Stanley Cup Final, the Dallas Stars will be looking to put together another solid season and playoff run this year. After allowing the second-fewest goals in the NHL last season, the Stars will once again be led by their defense, returning most key pieces from last season including goaltender Anton Khudobin. Dallas could struggle to score goals at times, however, as an offense that was already near the bottom of the league in scoring will now be without forward Tyler Seguin for most of the season. The Stars enter the season with +400 odds to win the Central Division, tied for the second-best odds in the division.
Though last season was a disappointment that didn’t quite live up to expectations for the Nashville Predators, but they did finish the season the regular season strong before they were eliminated in the play-in round of the playoffs. The Predators will need much more consistency this season if they are going to make a playoff run and enter the season with +650 odds to win the Central Division.
Columbus Blue Jackets
They may not have a lot of star power in the lineup, but the Columbus Blue Jackets always seem to exceed expectations and will look to do it again this season. Though the roster lacks a lot of high-profile talent, Columbus did sign Max Domi and signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a new contract. The Blue Jackets will look to get the most out of this team once again, but they have just +850 odds to win the Central Division.
Last season was a struggle for the Florida Panthers, culminating in a play-in round loss to the New York Islanders in the postseason. The Panthers had a strong offense last season, but it will be a new-look team after adding Alexander Wennberg, Anthony Duclair, Patric Hornqvist, and Vinnie Hinostroza this offseason. The offense should lead the way once again, but they’ll need to be much stronger on the defensive end. As a result, they enter the season with +900 odds to win the Central Division.
After qualifying for the postseason as the last team in the expanded 24-team field and actually winning their play-in series against the Edmonton Oilers, the Chicago Blackhawks are hoping for another surprising season, but it isn’t going to be easy. The Blackhawks have serious concerns on the defensive end and in goal and lack any real star power. Chicago enters this season with longshot +1600 odds to win the Central Division.
Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings are looking for a bounceback season after a historically awful season, but it’s going to be an uphill battle. The Red Wings don’t have very much proven talent at all and their success will rely heavily on development from young players. Because of that, Detroit has the worst odds to win the Central Division at +6000 odds.
The Boston Bruins won the President’s Trophy last season with the top record in the NHL, but they were bounced from the playoffs in the second round by the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins will be talented once again, but with the losses of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara, they could take a slight step back this season. Still, they begin the year as the favorite to win the East Division with +250 odds.
The Philadelphia Flyers were one of the best and most teams in the NHL last season, especially towards the end of the regular season, and they return almost all of last season’s team this year and get Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick back. They’ll look to build off of last season’s stellar play and enter this season with the second-best odds to win the East Division at +300.
The Pittsburgh Penguins once again have a talented roster with plenty of star power at the top headlined by prolific forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins don’t have a lot of depth compared to other playoff teams and there are concerns on the defensive end, but this is still a solid team that will be a contender at playoff time. Pittsburgh opens the season with +450 odds to win the East Division.
After finishing in first place in the notoriously tough Metro Division last season, the Washington Capitals suffered a first-round loss to the New York Islanders. With the bulk of their roster returning along with the addition of some key acquisitions in Justin Schultz and Zdeno Chara, the Capitals will look to bounce back this season and enter the year with +600 odds to win the East Divison.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers enter the season with a young and talented roster, including Alexis Lafreniere, who they landed with the top overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. With the youth on the roster, the Rangers appear to have a bright future ahead of them, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to contend just yet. New York has talent, but a lot of inexperienced all over the ice and enters this season with +600 odds to win the East Division.
New York Islanders
After a solid season, the New York Islanders made an improbable run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will look to keep that momentum going this season. Though it’s a tough division, the Islanders do return the bulk of their lineup and proved that they can hang with anybody in the NHL last season. Still, they don’t have the raw talent of other teams in the division and enter the season with lengthy +750 odds to win the East Division.
After a tough season, the Buffalo Sabres made some big offseason moves to help bolster their roster, signing Taylor Hall, Eric Staal and Cody Eakin. The Sabres are a pretty talented team at the top, but there is not much depth, which will be a problem in a challenging East Division. As a result, they enter the season with longshot +1500 odds to win the division, tied for the worst odds.
New Jersey Devils
Expectations are not very high for the New Jersey Devils this season with a youthful and inexperienced roster. The Devils did add Ryan Murray and Corey Crawford this offseason to help bolster their defense, which gave up the sixth-most goals in the NHL last season, but there just isn’t enough talent on the roster for them to be a contender this year and they enter the season tied for the worst odds to win the East Division at +1500.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season didn’t live up to expectations for the Toronto Maple Leafs after a disappointing regular season followed by a first-round loss in the playoffs. Still, the Maple Leafs have one of the most talented teams in the NHL – especially on the front end – and added T.J. Brodie to help bolster the back end. Toronto is quite clearly the most talented team in the North Division and enters the season as the favorite to win the division at +130 odds.
Despite having two elite players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Edmonton Oilers struggled last season due to inconsistent play on the defensive end and a lack of depth across the roster. The Oilers did make some offseason moves to help remedy the situation, including the addition of Dominik Kahun, and will be looking to break through and play up to their potential this season. Edmonton enters the season with the second-best odds to win the North Division at +400.
After a surprising playoff run last season, the Montreal Canadians are looking to build off of that momentum and put together a solid regular season. With most of their talent returning, the Habs also added some key supporting players in Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Corey Perry and Michael Frolik and could be even better this season. They enter the year with +500 odds to win the North Division.
The Calgary Flames are coming off of a mediocre season by all accounts and are looking to improve this season. The Flames did fill their biggest hole this offseason with the addition of goaltender Jacob Markstrom and they have a solid core of players on both the front end and the back end. They could be a team to watch this season and enter the year with +700 odds to win the North Division.
The Vancouver Canucks enter the season as a little bit of a wild card. The Canucks have a lot of promise, led by young star Elias Pettersson, and bolstered the defense with the addition of Nate Schmidt, but there will be unproven players all over the ice, including Thatcher Demko at goalkeeper. Vancouver could be a surprising team this year, but there just isn’t a ton of proven talent to bank on. As a result, the Canucks have just +700 odds to win the North Division.
The Winnipeg Jets enter this season with the same situation that’s plagued them previously: they’re absolutely stacked up front and can score a ton of goals, but do not have much depth and have a particularly weak defense. The Jets will once again lean on their offense and their elite goalkeeper Connor Hellebuyck as they look to contend again this year, but that defense could be their Achilles heel once again. Winnipeg enters the season with +700 odds to win the North Division.
Though the future is brighter for the Ottawa Senators, they are currently one of the worst teams in the NHL. The Senators do welcome a few new faces this year with Matt Murray, Tim Stuetzle, Erik Brannstrom and Josh Norris all joining the team, but there’s just too much inexperience for Ottawa to realistically contend for anything this season. As a result, the Senators have by far the worst odds to win the North Division at +10000
The Colorado Avalanche has been getting progressively better year after year and they enter this season with arguably the best and most complete roster in the NHL. Led by superstar Nathan MacKinnon and reigning Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar, the Aves are strong in all facets and only got stronger with the addition Devon Toews. Colorado is not only the favorite to win the West Division at +160, but the Avalanche is also the favorite to win the Stanley Cup at +650.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights were one of the most dominant teams in the NHL during the second half of the regular season and will look to carry that momentum into this season after a few key offseason additions. The Golden Knights added Alex Pietrangelo during free agency and re-signed Robin Lehner to bolster what is one of the most complete rosters in the league. Vegas is one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup at +750 and has the second-best odds to win the West Division at +185.
St. Louis Blues
Even though they were unable to defend their Stanley Cup title, the St. Louis Blues had a strong season, especially considering they were without their top forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who will still be out to start this season. Despite the departure of captain Alex Pietrangelo, the Blues still have a solid roster and made some offseason additions to help bolster their lineup, adding Mike Hoffman and Torey Krug. They enter the season with +500 odds to win the West Division.
The Arizona Coyotes were unable to compete for much last season and lost Taylor Hall to free agency this offseason. With no exciting offseason moves, the Coyotes will likely be no better than a fringe playoff team this season, but there is still some talent on this roster to make them dangerous if they do make the postseason and they enter the year with +1100 odds to win the West Division.
The Minnesota Wild have been a middling, fringe playoff team for years, and that’s unlikely to change this year. The Wild do add Kirill Kaprizov to help bolster an already-solid offense and have a strong defense, but there is little star power on the roster and there are serious concerns at the goalkeeper position. As a result, Minnesota has lengthy +1200 odds to win the West Division.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks entered last season expecting to contend for the Stanley Cup but instead finished with the third-worst record in the NHL. The Sharks do have plenty of talent, especially on offense, but they have very little depth and have serious concerns at the goaltender position, though San Jose did add Devan Dubnyk to help remedy that situation. With all those question marks, the Sharks have +1400 odds to win the West Division this season.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings were one of the worst teams in the NHL last season, and it’s unlikely that’s going to change drastically this season. The Kings have holes all over the team and have too many older players on the back ends of their careers in key spots. Though Los Angeles does have some promising prospects, this team is going through a rebuild and will not contend this year. As a result, they enter the season tied with the worst odds to win the West Division at +1600.
The Anaheim Ducks were rebuilding last year and will continue to rebuild this year. Though there are talented players on the roster, the Ducks’ focus this year will be on their youth and transitioning the core of their team. Anaheim’s attention is directed on the future and not contending this year, and as a result, they enter the season tied for the worst odds to win the West Division at +1600.