Stanley Cup 2021: Favorites, Dark Horses, and Their Odds to Win It All
- The NHL is tentatively expected to return this month and the first puck drop of the season is expected to take place Wednesday, January 13 with five games set to take place
- Due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the season will be a short one with teams participating in just 56 games as opposed to the usual 82-game season
- A lot has changed since the end of last season and there are a new crop of contenders to look at as well as a few fall-from-graces that could be expected
Bet on NHL Championship Winner, Here!
To say the 2019-20 NHL season was different than the rest would be the biggest understatement in league history. All professional sports were at the mercy of COVID-19 at some point or another and the NHL was no exception. After a halt in the season due to lockdowns, the NHL managed to complete its (shortened) season and eventually crowned a Stanley Cup champion.
Now heading into 2021, the NHL has announced its plans to begin a new playing season – albeit shortened to 56 games and including a realignment of the four divisions to cater to travel restrictions – and it will start Wednesday, January 13 with five games.
Although fewer games and less travel is a benefit to all 31 teams in the league, here we will take a look at those who are heavily favored to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup at the season’s end and some of those teams who could see themselves become unlikely heroes in 2021.
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NHL Championship Winner 2021 Odds
Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook, updated on April 12, 2021.
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+600|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+800|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+800|
|New York Islanders||+1200|
|St. Louis Blues||+3700|
|New York Rangers||+6000|
|San Jose Sharks||+7000|
|Los Angeles Kings||+15000|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+30000|
|New Jersey Devils||+100000|
|Detroit Red Wings||+300000|
Odds from DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or check out more offers and promo codes for the best online sportsbooks.
Breaking Down the Top-5 Teams With the Best Odds
Last season record: 42-20-8
Leading scorer: Nathan MacKinnon – 93 points
The Colorado Avalanche were WSN.com’s third-favorite team last season to win the Cup in 2021 – and it was a pretty good horse to bet on. Although they fell short in the playoffs, who could blame this young team for how their season ended amidst an unprecedented global pandemic. This year the oddsmakers have the Avs as the number-one favorite to hoist the Cup and we can’t argue with that. This is a team of the present and the future.
Let’s start with the offense. Star forward Nathan MacKinnon finished with 93 points last year in just 69 games played. That was the fifth-best in the league. This team also boasts the likes of captain Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, and Andrei Burakovsky. The team had the fourth-highest goal total last season and the fifth-best shooting percentage.
Their defense is also dynamite. Last season’s Cale Makar accumulated 50 points in 57 games. Despite missing some time due to injuries, Makar was still able to take home the Calder trophy at season’s end as the league’s best rookie that year. And Colorado’s first-round pick of this past year is likely to make his NHL debut in 2021. That, of course, being Bowen Byram. Sam Girardi and Erik Johnson also help solidify the backend.
Colorado also allowed the eighth-fewest goals against last season and had the fifth-best collective GAA. Nothing has changed on that end of the roster so if Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz can pick up where they left off last season, the Avs could coast to the finals.
The only weakness at this point is injury (knock on wood).
Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season record: 43-21-6
Leading scorer: Nikita Kucherov – 85 points
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a roster deep enough to win back-to-back Stanley Cups this year but it’s not going to be easy. Of all the teams on this list, the Bolts saw the most roster changes, most recently trading both Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette to the Ottawa Senators. Captain Steven Stamkos will come into this season healthy but their leading scorer for the past two seasons Nikita Kucherov will miss the entirety of the season due to needing hip surgery. That’s a massive blow to the team.
Kucherov aside, this is still a competitive team. They have the second-best odds to win and that’s AFTER the Kucherov news came out. The team finished first overall in goals scored last season, first in shooting percentage, and had the fifth-best power play. No wonder they went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Kucherov aside, the biggest weakness facing the Bolts is their defense. They have a solid, Vezina-winning goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy but the blue line showed a few glaring weaknesses last season. They struggled killing penalties, finishing 13th-worst in PPG-against and they also allowed the 10th-highest total of short-handed goals against. The good thing for Tampa Bay is that these problems are quite fixable. They just need to make some salary cap and RFA adjustments.
Vegas Golden Knights
Last season record: 39-24-8
Leading scorer: Max Pacioretty – 66 points
Is it already safe to say that the Vegas Golden Knights are the most successful team in the NHL? They made the Stanley Cup finals in their first year in the league. They made the playoffs the next year but were eliminated in the first round – not without controversy. They then made the conference finals last year.
This team boasts an incredible offensive lineup. They have a great mix of youth and experience. Players like Max Pacioretty lead the way for the likes of William Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Jonathan Marchessault. The big news item to watch for, however, is Pacioretty. Trade rumors have been circulating for much of the off-season that has many believing the team’s leading scorer could be traded before the start of the season. We have to admit that getting rid of some salary at this point in time could benefit the team, but will they be the same without ‘Patches’?
With that said, there are no other obvious and glaring holes for Vegas heading into this season. They have reliable goaltending in Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner and a defense corps that includes Stanley Cup winner Alex Pietrangelo, Carl Dahlstrom, and Alec Martinez.
This team could make a few trades and tweaks throughout the season but the 2021 season should easily see them going 4-for-4 when it comes to team history of making the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season record: 36-25-9
Leading scorer: Auston Matthews – 80 points
Last season was a tale as old as time for the Toronto Maple Leafs. A promising start to the season was sullied by a lackluster second half and the team eventually lost in the qualifying round for the Eastern Conference playoffs. Although the state of the world played its part, this is still a rather inconsistent team despite all the talent that the roster boasts. Oddsmakers thus far have them ranked with the fourth-highest odds to win the 2021 Stanley Cup but if there is any team on this list that could miss the playoffs entirely, it’s this one.
There is no question that the team has an offense. Leading scorer Auston Matthew potted 47 goals and the team had the second-highest goal total last season. They also ranked sixth on the power play and fourth on shots. That’s all good news and rather expected when your roster includes Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares. The Leafs also acquired Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton, and Jimmy Vesey in the offseason. All good news.
But the Leafs also allowed the seventh-most goals against last season, had the 11th-worst penalty kill and ranked 20th-overall in save percentage. The offensive additions are nice but the blue line is still lacking. The addition of T.J. Brodie is the shining light here and hopefully, his confidence and leadership on the blue line can help this team from crumbling under pressure.
Last season record: 44-14-12
Leading scorer: David Pastrnak – 95 points
One of the most consistent teams over the past few years, Boston’s biggest concern heading into the 2021 season is that of injury. Last year’s leading scorer, David Pastrnak, had off-season surgery and may not be back on the ice until February – possibly even later. They could also see themselves starting the season without Brad Marchand as well, who is recovering from a sports hernia surgery. Although Marchand should be back on the ice at some point in January, missing these two players for any stretch of time, no matter how short, is likely to have an impact.
But let’s look at the positives. The Bruins had the highest goal total last season and the second-highest power-play goal total (and the second-best power-play percentage overall). They could also play defense, boasting the third-best penalty-killing percentage of 2020 and allowing the least goals against of any team all season.
They have one of the best goalie tandems in the league in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. The two combined for a .921 save percentage last season which was the best in the league. They also led with eight shutouts.
The thing to note is that former captain Zdeno Chara will no longer be on the team. The Bruins opted not to re-sign the giant d-man, who later signed with the Washington Capitals. Chara is a future Hall-of-Famer but this was the right move for Boston and it shows their commitment to building up their young talent.
Dark Horse Teams to Watch in 2021
Last season record: 38-25-5
Leading scorer: Sebastian Aho – 66 points
The Carolina Hurricanes were a highlight for several reasons last season, from their talent on the ice to their post-game “storm surge” celebration which everyone loved (with Don Cherry being the only exception).
They have one of the youngest teams in the league being coached by one of the best to ever play the game in Rod Brind’Amour. Their top line alone consists of leading scorer Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov. Those three combined for 190 points last season. That’s just one line.
The defense, on top of being young, is also incredibly deep. Carolina is a team that could actually get away with one of their d-men getting injured (again, knock on wood). The oldest player on their backend is Jake Gardiner and he’s just 30-years-old.
We just hope that they can manage to sign or make a trade for a more solid goaltender. The biggest weakness on paper for this team is that they are relying on a goaltending tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer.
We’ll see them in the playoffs for sure but a change in net could have us seeing them in the Stanley Cup final.
New York Rangers
Last season record: 37-28-5
Leading scorer: Artemi Panarin – 95 points
We said it last season and we’re doubling down: the New York Rangers have what it takes to go the distance – even if they did lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern conference qualifying round.
A team that saw a lot of changes last season (more like the past two or three), the Rangers seem to have completed the fastest team rebuild in league history. They’ve made several trades over the past several seasons that saw them lockdown core talent such as Jacob Trouba and have made big free agency splashes including the signing of their now leading scorer Artemi Panarin last season. They also held the second-overall pick last season and drafted the talented Kaapo Kakko and boasted this year’s first-overall pick with which they selected the highly touted Alexis Lafreniere.
The team did lose goaltending mainstay Henrik Lundqvist, but it was the team’s decision – letting the veteran goalie explore free agency (he signed with the Washington Capitals). The Rangers still have goaltenders Alexandar Georgiev and sophomore sensation Igor Shestyorkin. If these two can play the way they did last season, seeing the blue shirts in the Cup finals would almost be expected.
Last season record: 36-27-6
Leading scorer: J.T. Miller – 72 points
That’s right – it’s the team that knocked out the previous year’s champions: the St. Louis Blues. Not only did they eliminate the defending Cup champions, but the feisty Vancouver Canucks also gave the Vegas Golden Knights everything they could handle in the second round, pushing them all the way to a game seven before ultimately being beaten.
The Canucks entered last season with one of the most entertaining collections of youth players that all now have another season of experience under their belt. They’ve now been there, done that. And their batch of youth covers both ends of the ice, boasting goal scorers, solid d-men, and those who can do it all. These names, of course, include Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, and Brock Boeser.
The Canucks did lose an integral part of their team in the off-season to free agency in goaltender Jacob Markstrom. However, the team replaced him with an all-star and former Stanley Cup champion Braden Holby. Holtby struggled last season with the Washington Capitals but the desire to compete and rebound as well as the change of scenery could see him return to form. He’ll also be backed up by Thatcher Demko who had a 0.64 GAA in last year’s playoffs.
The Canucks are a well-balanced team and if last year’s leading scorer for the team J.T. Miller can keep up the same pace as last season, the Canucks making the Stanley Cup finals shouldn’t seem like an episode of the Twilight Zone.