LAS VEGAS– The puck is about to drop on the 2019-20 season, and oddsmakers have weighed in on a bevy of topics across the board.
While the easy play would be to put one’s faith behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, bettors who blindly traveled that path last year were rewarded with an empty wallet after the Presidents’ Trophy winners were unceremoniously swept in the first round.
So, with that in mind, let’s reach past the low-hanging fruit and take a look at a few compelling value plays on the futures market for the upcoming season.
—VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS, STANLEY CUP CHAMPION (+1200, Bovada)
Sure, Tampa Bay at (+700) has the best odds, but let’s keep in mind that the Lightning will have to contend with fellow Atlantic Division heavyweights Toronto (+1200) and Boston (+1400) in the second round — provided they don’t slip-up like last spring.
With that in mind, the Maple Leafs and Bruins could see history repeat itself as each enjoyed 100-point seasons in 2018-19 only to go the distance in the first round. The winner of that grueling series likely will encounter Tampa Bay, an arduous path for either team just to get to the Eastern Conference finals — and a tougher road for your bet.
Vegas, however, is expected to have an easier path through the Pacific and will be fueled by its controversial first-round flameout against San Jose last spring.
Three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury backstops a Golden Knights contingent that embraced the addition of Mark Stone, who seamlessly fit in with his new team and excelled in the first-round setback to the Sharks
Others to consider: The Washington Capitals (+2000) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (+2000).
–AUSTON MATTHEWS, HART TROPHY (+950, Bovada)
While Edmonton captain Connor McDavid (+350) and reigning Hart Trophy recipient Nikita Kucherov (+550) are considered the odds-on favorites, let’s not sleep on Matthews — provided he can stay healthy.
Matthews, 22, has erupted for 111 goals since entering the league as the top overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, a staggering total considering he has also missed 34 games due to injury over the last two seasons.
The budding superstar received an unexpected tip of the tuque from rival David Pastrnak, who noted his progress from season to season and called him an “unbelievable player.”
Matthews, however, is not the lone Maple Leafs forward to consider in this discussion.
John Tavares (+2500) is a more accomplished goal scorer and is coming off a career high in tallies (47) and points (88) last season, while Mitch Marner (+2800) — who led the team in points (94) in 2018-19 — is looking to pay dividends after signing a six-year contract extension earlier this month.
Others to consider: Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (+1000) and Chicago’s Patrick Kane (+2200).
–BEN BISHOP, VEZINA TROPHY (+750, Bovada)
Sure, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (+600) is the reigning Vezina Trophy recipient and plays on a team with firepower to spare, but we’re here to give you upside picks.
Well, Bishop — a former Lightning goaltender, if that works for you — was a Vezina finalist for the third time last season and nearly put the kibosh on St. Louis’ Cinderella season before falling in double overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference second-round series.
The towering Bishop led the league in save percentage (.934) while his goals-against average (1.98) landed him in the top three last season.
Bishop benefits from Dallas’ acquisition of former San Jose captain Joe Pavelski, who is expected to provide second-line scoring on a team that has relied heavily on shot-happy Tyler Seguin and captain Jamie Benn. The arrow is also pointing up on potential Norris Trophy contender John Klingberg, fellow defenseman Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz, with Bishop in line to benefit from their ascent.
Others to consider: Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky (+1100) and Boston’s Tuukka Rask (+2000)
–ALEX DeBRINCAT, ROCKET RICHARD TROPHY (+1400, Bovada)
With Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (+600) serving as the favorite, let’s consider the young Chicago star for a better payout as he plays alongside former Hart Trophy recipient Patrick Kane (+2200).
DeBrincat improved upon his impressive rookie totals in his second season in 2018-19, recording 41 goals, 35 assists and 24 power-play points (13 goals, 11 assists).
The 21-year-old also has enjoyed perfect attendance by playing in all 82 games in his first two seasons.
Others to consider: Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (+2000), Florida’s Aleksander Barkov (+5500) and Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson (+15000)
–JOHN CARLSON, NORRIS TROPHY (+1800, Bovada)
While San Jose’s Brent Burns (+450) and Erik Karlsson (+600) are the favorites by oddsmakers, the Washington star has been knocking on the door of the award for the last few years.
Carlson finished fourth in the voting in June after recording career highs in points (70) and power-play points (33) while averaging a robust 25:04 of ice time.
In addition, Carlson logged 4:05 of ice time on the power play — nearly a full minute more than former Norris Trophy winners Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay) and Burns as well as current award recipient Mark Giordano (Calgary).
Others to consider: Nashville’s Roman Josi (+1400), St. Louis’ Justin Faulk (+3500)
–By Bill Bernardi, Field Level Media