We are now officially in September, and a new hockey season is upon us. NHL camps will start up in a couple of weeks, and teams will be excited to see their offseason acquisitions. While there are some big names still left unsigned and final rosters are far from being set, it is never too early to look at NHL future bets.
In this article, I will be giving my best bets to win each division for the 2019-20 NHL season. Last year, we saw all division winners eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in history. I do not expect that to happen again, and I expect a big bounce-back season from a couple of franchises.
Tampa Bay Lightning (+100 on DraftKings Sportsbook)
The Lightning posted an NHL best 62-16-4 record last year, and they have all of their key guys returning. What separates Tampa in this division is their superstar players. They have a Hart Memorial Trophy winner in Nikita Kucherov, who finished with 128 points en route to his second straight 100-point season. They have a Vezina Trophy winner in Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was the best goalie in the league last year with a 39-10-4 record and a .925 save percentage. Victor Hedman is a perennial candidate for the Norris Trophy, as there are few defenders in the league with his size and skill.
Despite an early second-round exit, the Lightning are loaded with skill and will come back hungrier than ever. Steven Stamkos is healthy again, and he is performing at an elite level he is capable of. They have young studs in Brayden Point and Mikhail Sergachev ready to take the next step into the NHL’s elite. While the odds aren’t great, this is a very safe bet for the Atlantic Division winning team.
Nashville Predators (+375 on DraftKings Sportsbook)
The Central Division has perhaps the most parity in the entire NHL this year. The Stars, Blues, Avalanche, and Jets are all strong teams who you could also make a case for. Coming off of a 100-point season, the Predators had a busy off-season attempting to solidify a return to the playoffs. They brought in assistant coach Dan Lambert to fix a power-play that finished last in the entire league. They also added skilled forward Matt Duchene that should help to bring offensive firepower to an already balanced scoring attack.
Despite losing defenseman P.K. Subban in the offseason, the Preds still have one of the deepest defensive cores in the entire league. Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis form a top-three that not many teams can match. They get consistent goaltending year-in and year-out from Pekka Rinne and are very solid up the middle.
Carolina Hurricanes (+400 on DraftKings Sportsbook)
One of the 2018-2019 feel-good stories in the NHL, the Carolina Hurricanes are shaping up to have another very solid season. In a day and age where the NHL is based on speed and skill, the Hurricanes can take advantage of an aging division. The Capitals are still solid, but their key guys are now in their mid-30s. The Penguins are very top-heavy, and the team lost talented goal scorer Phil Kessel in the offseason. The young Hurricanes learned a lot from their playoff run last year and will take that experience into this year.
The Canes are led by young superstar Sebastian Aho. He is a phenomenal talent who is 21 years young, and he will take another step this year. Their first -round draft pick Andrei Svechnikov had a solid first year and will no doubt improve upon his 37-point output. It will all come down to their goal-tending, and Petr Mrazek proved that he is more than capable with a .914 save percentage last year.
San Jose Sharks (+350 on DraftKings Sportsbook)
This is good value, as you get the Sharks as the third favorite to win the division behind Vegas and Calgary. The Sharks had a nice 100-point season last year and advanced through two playoff rounds before being eliminated by the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. They locked up superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson in the off-season, and he will hope to lead a young, talented team this year. Not to mention, they still have point-per-game defensemen Brent Burns on the back end as well.
The Sharks lost an important piece in Joel Pavelski, but their young crop of forwards are ready to take flight this year. Thomas Hertl had a very nice year, with 74 points in 77 games, which was good enough for him to finish second on the team in scoring. Young 22-year-old phenom Timo Meier sneakily had 30 goals and 36 assists in his second full season. The Sharks still have plenty of scoring depth in Logan Couture, Evander Kane, and Kevin Labanc. Martin Jones will need to improve on a season where he put up a disappointing .896 save percentage.