Bodog NHL Futures: Eastern Conference Ultimate Roundup
Atlantic Division Odds
- Favorites – Tampa Bay Lightning / Toronto Maple Leafs
- Best Dark Horse Bet – Montreal Canadiens
- Most Improved – Toronto Maple Leafs
- Most Likely To Fall – Ottawa Senators
The Toronto Maple Leafs went from the worst team in the league to a genuine cup contender in two years. Adding Patrick Marleau and Ron Hainsey in the offseason was a “win now” move designed to provide veteran support for an elite group of young stars.
Tampa Bay was one of the hottest teams at the end of last season, nearly displacing the Leafs from the playoffs. Nikita Kucherov turned into an elite scoring force and Victor Hedman secured his spot as a top-three NHL defenseman. With Stamkos back in the fold, TB could end up ruling the east.
Under the guidance of coach Claude Julien, Montreal will be one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. Adding Karl Alzner gives the Habs an impeccable top four on the backline. Trading for Jonathan Drouin helps to replace the scoring of Radulov with a younger, faster offensive presence.
It’s tough to see Ottawa doing any better than they did last year, especially with the loss of Marc Methot and the injury to Erik Karlsson’s ankle. The Senators weren’t active in the offseason, and an extra top six scorer would’ve added much needed depth. After a miracle 2016-17 season, the Sens could drop off precipitously.
The Sabers have a good young team that could surprise a lot of people in the NHL, but they’re a year away from growing into a playoff squad. Boston will be a competitive team again, earning a playoff spot in a relatively weak eastern conference, but they won’t win big this year.
Florida appeared lost last year, a trend which continued into the offseason when they allowed Jonathan Marchessault and Jaromir Jagr to escape. Detroit’s firmly planted into a rebuild cycle for the first time in decades. Don’t expect the Detroit Red Wings or Florida Panthers to challenge the rest of the Atlantic Division.
Metropolitan Division Odds
- Favorites – Pittsburgh Penguins / Columbus Blue Jackets
- Best Dark Horse Bet – New York Rangers
- Most Improved – Columbus Blue Jackets
- Most Likely To Fall – Washington Capitals
Life’s easy when you have one of the best players in NHL history on your side. Nobody doubts that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be among the top two teams in the eastern conference, barring a series of unfortunate and unforeseen events. There’s nothing to indicate that the team will falter this year. If anything, they might be better than last season if Kris Letang stays healthy.
Columbus nearly broke Pittsburgh record for consecutive wins, falling one short of the 17-win streak by the 1993 Pens. The Blue Jackets aren’t in a glamorous market, but they have a terrific lineup of young talent, including sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski. This team improved by snagging Artemi Panarin from the cap-crunched Blackhawks, becoming a deadlier offensive crew.
The Washington Capitals lost a lot of depth over the offseason because of the salary cap. Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson left the squad, while deadline acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk was signed by the rival New York Rangers. Washington’s still a good team, but they won’t be able to keep pace for the Presidents’ Trophy. After multiple playoff failures, they’re likely to fall from their status as an elite club.
The New York Rangers finally added a top offensive defenseman to their lineup, which will help their speedy forwards break out more often. If Henrik Lundqvist plays as well as he did during the playoffs, the Rangers should be considered a dark horse candidate this season. The other New York team remains mediocre, as the Islanders continue to waste the prime years of John Tavares.
Carolina quietly put together a superb second half of the season last year. When the Hurricanes allowed their young guns to have more ice time, they rewarded their coach with superb production. Don’t bet on the Philadelphia Flyers making the playoffs, unless goaltender Brian Elliott has the best season of his career. As usual, Philly’s defined by their dedication to average goaltending.
New Jersey’s an underpowered team that hopes first-round pick Nico Hischier pulls an Auston Matthews to solve offensive woes. As such, it’s fine to ignore the Devils this season, unless you’re betting against them.
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