While the 2021 NHL entry draft isn't viewed as being as deep as the 2020 class, as with Alexis Lafreniere last season, there appears to be a consensus No. 1 - Michigan's Owen Power. The Wolverines freshman defenceman didn't look out of place playing with the men at the IIHF world championship, winning a gold medal skating for Canada, playing in the top defensive pairing. Power is almost certainly going to the Buffalo Sabres.
NHL Expansion: How Seattle Franchise Changes The Game
Seattle Team Will Create Chaos in The West
When Seattle finally joins the league, the NHL will have an even 32 teams, which will be great for scheduling purposes. The burning question here is: what will the Seattle expansion team do to the Western Conference or the entire NHL in terms of where they are actually located?
Seattle is naturally a Pacific Division team although that division already has eight teams. This means Seattle will either join the "Central" division or one of the Pacific Division teams move. This is tricky as the Pacific Division's teams are all located close to each other while if Seattle joins the Central, they will stick out like a sore thumb and there is quite the distance between them and teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.
Regardless, Seattle's addition will likely force the NHL to change its scheduling and game structure similar to what happened when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated and became the new Winnipeg Jets. Expect a rebooted NHL when Seattle joins and a potentially more chaotic Western Conference.
Can the Seattle Team Replicate Vegas's Success?
Anyone who predicted the Vegas Golden Knights to dominate the NHL like this is either a) lying; or b) a time traveler from the future. Even the shrewdest pundits couldn't have seen this season's expansion team not only do amazing but change the way the game is played.
Through 66 games, Vegas is tied for fourth in the league in points (89) and is second in goals scored (226). The Knights had help from the NHL who made the most players available for an expansion franchise and current salary cap restraints forced teams to let good players go. More importantly, the Knights' front office led by team owner Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee built a great team.
The Knights play a fast-paced aggressive game as coached by Gerrard Gallant and have a combination of solid veterans with plenty of championship experiences like goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and promising prospects-turned overnight stars like William "Wild Bill" Karlsson. The Knights are exciting and good and they offer a blueprint for success for the upcoming Seattle team.
A key ingredient to Vegas's success is how they quickly established their identity as a hockey team. They wanted to play fast and they wanted skilled players and they took them. They got a solid goaltender and threw in some veterans who still had plenty left in the tank. Seattle doesn't need to follow this exact same formula but they need to assemble a roster and personnel who share a similar philosophy.
Seattle has strong hockey grassroots and is close to Vancouver and Portland, two different hockey markets but nonetheless potential fanbase. The novelty factor will be enough to carry the team even if they aren't quite as good as Vegas and resemble a more traditional expansion team (i.e. not that good) but ultimately, Seattle has to build a team with a long-term vision.
It is exciting times for Seattle and the new team should quickly look to assert itself in the ever-competitive NHL where teams can go from good to bad and vice-versa almost overnight.
The State of the NHL's Western Conference
*All odds via SportsInteraction
The Central Division looks like the "Division of Death". The once-mighty Chicago Blackhawks are dead last and are still better than seven teams in the league. Ten of the 15 Western teams have a positive goal differential and only four teams won't be in the playoff race if they played in the East. The Nashville Predators (+175), last year's Stanley Cup runner-ups, are the favourites to return to the championship series.
The Pacific Division, while not as stacked as their Central counterparts still boast a deadly bunch of teams that are grouped within the California-Nevada area. The Knights (+425) lead the division but teams like the Los Angeles Kings (+1300) and Calgary Flames (+2500) are a lot better than their records indicate and could be dark horse Stanley Cup contenders.
With the trade deadline passed, teams are now gearing up for one final push to make the playoffs. Regular season records go out the window as the Kings proved when they became the first eighth-seeded team to win it all in 2012.
Betting On The NHL
The one stereotype about Canadians that remains true is their passion for hockey. Not just NHL hockey either. Whether it's the AHL, the KHL, or CHL, Canadians can't get enough. A lot of them head to online sportsbooks and put wagers getting better returns than their provincial counterparts.
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Canadian hockey fans have it made. There is no shortage of ways on how to watch the NHL. Whether it's TV stations or online streams, fans can tune in using their phones, tablets, or kick it old school by watching on television. Gone are the days where you had to go to one room and wait for one time to watch the NHL. Here are the many ways to watch the NHL in Canada.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from capturing their second straight Stanley Cup title. They lead the best-of-seven Cup final series against the Montreal Canadiens by a 3-0 count. In the Cup final for the first time in 28 years, Montreal has lost nine of 33 previous Stanley Cup final series. However, the Canadiens have only ever been swept in a final series one time in their history.
The Stanley Cup has gone through some unique firsts during the past two NHL seasons thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year's Cup final series didn't end until September. This year, with the launch of the regular season delayed until January, the Cup final series is stretching into July. One facet that hasn't changed, though, is that no matter when wagers are placed on the games, the bettors want to be certain that they are placing those wagers with the best betting sites for the Stanley Cup Finals.