Pittsburgh Tops NHL Futures Ahead of Season

With a red-hot Evegini Malkin and a fully-fit Sidney Crosby returning to the fold, the Pittsburgh Penguins are favorites to lift the Stanley Cup ahead of the impending lockout-shortened season.

With a hockey season finally on the horizon, the Pittsburgh Penguins have topped bookmakers’ lists as favorites to lift the Stanley Cup this summer.

The ranking comes as no surprise as the Penguins were topping such lists before and during the lockout, which came to an unofficial end this past Sunday with the announcement that the league front office and the Players’ Association has struck a deal, ending more than four months of uncertainty.

Reports currently indicate that the NHL is targeting Jan. 19 as the start date for a shortened season that will last 48 games. No concrete schedule can be put into place until the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and NHLPA is completely ratified.

Regardless, news that there will be a hockey season is an added bonus for bettors in a growing market. According to Bovada, betting on the NFL grew by 100 percent last season, a year that saw the Los Angeles Kings score a surprise Stanley Cup victory.

Here then is a breakdown of the Top 5 teams on the current NHL Futures list.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins (8/1)

Last Season: 51-25-6 (Lost 4-2 to Philadelphia in Conference Quarter-Finals)

With club captain Sidney Crosby healthy for the start of the season – and by all accounts hungry to play – the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team loaded with talent, will be favorites to take the Stanley Cup.

One of the biggest reasons for this is Evegini Malkin – last season’s Hart trophy winner – who will return to the U.S. having tallied 65 points (23G, 42A) for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Russia’s KHL. An in-form Malkin spells danger for the Atlantic Division and the rest of the league.

Of course, the Penguins – who last won the Stanley Cup in 2009 – have had issues staying healthy, a well-known fact that could see bettors stay away.

 

New York Rangers (17/2)

Last Season: 51-24-7 (Lost 4-2 to New Jersey in Conference Finals)

After falling to rivals New Jersey in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Rangers will look to go (at least) one better this year and head to the Stanley Cup Finals. They’ll have Rick Nash – the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft – onboard after a deal was struck back in July, adding to a lineup that has talent and experience.

 

Vancouver Canucks (9/1)

Last Season: 51-22-9 (Lost 4-1 to Los Angeles in Conference Quarter-Finals)

Beaten finalists in 2011 and unceremoniously dumped out in the first round last year by a Los Angeles Kings team on its way to the Stanley Cup, Vancouver will look to once again lead the league in points (as it did last season with 111) and attempt to win its first ever Stanley Cup.

 

Los Angeles Kings (12/1)

Last Season: 40-27-15 (Beat New Jersey 4-2 in Stanley Cup Finals)

Had the NHL season fallen through, the biggest casualty would have been the fans in Los Angeles. After a shocking playoff run that saw the Kings eliminate the No. 1, 2, and 3 seeds in the West, Los Angeles lifted the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. That one run has the most people in Los Angeles watching hockey since a certain No. 99 arrived on a plain from Edmonton.

Fans will again get to cheer as the Kings attempt to defend their title. Another run like last year’s is highly unlikely. Every other team will offer their A-game against the L.A. side. That’s tough enough. But then history is against the Kings. You have to go back to the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to find a team that successfully defended the Stanley Cup.

 

Philadelphia Flyers (12/1)

Last Season: 47-26-9 (Lost 4-1 to New Jersey in Conference Semi-Finals)

At 12/1, Philadelphia is the third Atlantic Division side in the top five of the NHL Futures, a clear indication of how tough the division is going to be. Not that that’s anything new. The Flyers scored an upset victory over the Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs last year, before being ousted by New Jersey.

Captain Chris Pronger’s return is in doubt after he sat out 69 games last season with post-concussion syndrome and is not anywhere near close to being cleared. Many believe his career is done. Still, Philadelphia has some firepower and will likely advance to the playoffs.

 

In Short…

At 18/1, Minnesota is the highest-ranked (10th) side that did not make last season’s playoffs. The Wild has not made the postseason since the 2007-08 season.

Despite a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, New Jersey is only considered 30/1 to lift the giant trophy this season, ranking the side joint 18th in the league.

Although the franchise was named the richest in hockey, Toronto is one of those sides level with New Jersey at 30/1. Come April, a city that loves hockey more than any other may be more interested in its fully-loaded baseball club.

Columbus has the unenviable label of biggest underdogs this season. The Jackets – who have only made the playoffs once in franchise history (2008-09) – are 100/1 to lift the Stanley Cup.

Florida, Ottawa, and Phoenix– all teams that made last year’s playoffs – are all considered 40/1 to win the Stanley Cup (joint 21st).

 

Odds to Win the 2013 Stanley Cup

Pittsburgh Penguins (8/1)

New York Rangers (17/2)

Vancouver Canucks (9/1)

Los Angeles Kings (12/1)

Philadelphia Flyers (12/1)

Chicago Blackhawks (14/1)

Boston Bruins (16/1)

Detroit Redwings (16/1)

St. Louis Blues (16/1)

Minnesota Wild (18/1)

San Jose Sharks (20/1)

Carolina Hurricanes (22/1)

Washington Capitals (22/1)

Buffalo Sabers (25/1)

Edmonton Oilers (25/1)

Nashville Predators (28/1)

Tampa Bay Lightning (28/1)

New Jersey Devils (30/1)

Toronto Maple Leafs (30/1)

Anaheim Ducks (40/1)

Colorado Avalanche (40/1)

Dallas Stars (40/1)

Florida Panthers (40/1)

Ottawa Senators (40/1)

Phoenix Coyotes (40/1)

Calgary Flames (50/1)

Winnipeg Jets (50/1)

New York Islanders (66/1)

Columbus Blue Jackets (100/1)

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