Best Underdogs to Watch This 2021-22 NHL Season

By in NHL on
10 Minute Read
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The NHL is back for its 105th season and unlike many pro sports’ championships, there are maybe a dozen teams who have a realistic shot of getting to and winning Lord Stanley’s Cup. Let’s examine six underdogs, all priced 18/1 or more at online sportsbooks who may be worth NHL Futures bets before others realize how good they may really be.

Despite TB Pursuit of Threepeat, Eastern Conference Wide Open

The oddsmakers usually always have it right, and if not bettors hammer individual games and Futures numbers by their betting action and make the numbers where they sit, like any true marketplace subject to some laws of Supply and Demand.

No demand on any Stanley Cup Futures odds for the Sabres or the Ducks?

Then raise the odds even more but also maybe give out complimentary bats for bettors to hit themselves on the head for making a Futures wager on Buffalo or Anaheim.

Even though there look to be maybe five to six real heavyweight teams in the NHL who oddsmakers have pegged to win the Stanley Cup, there seem to really be maybe 12 teams with a realistic chance of getting and winning that historic trophy. The Avalanche (5/1 to win Stanley Cup, Bovada), NHL’s two-time defending Cup-champion Lightning (+550), Golden Knights (7/1), Hurricanes (12/1), Maple Leafs (12/1), and Bruins (15/1) are considered the teams most likely to survive.

So that leaves a number of quality teams priced from 18-to-1 odds and higher left who are solid underdogs who can win it all and the Eastern Conference is loaded this NHL Regular Season season with more quality teams than Playoff spots.

So Eastern teams like the Capitals (25/1) with Alex Ovechkin and the Rangers (22/1) may have to claw for the East’s two Wild Card spots to make the Postseason.
With so many possibilities, let’s look at three solid underdogs priced 20/1 or higher from each conference who have the Rosters and an outside chance of getting to the 2021-22 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs in April and winning (surviving) all four rounds.

Eastern Conference Pittsburgh Penguins

The longer odds for the Penguins (25/1 to win Stanley Cup, Bovada) are partially due to the fact their two future NHL Hall of Famers, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin, are injured to start the season with respective Wrist and Knee issues. But ageless Pittsburgh (4/1 to win Metropolitan Division) is more than just Crosby and Malkin as the Penguins proved on Opening Night, upsetting the host and two-time defending champion Lightning in their own home on banner-raise night.

In that win at Amelie Arena in Tampa, Head Coach Mike Sullivan and Pittsburgh (3.45 GPG in 2020-21) showed it’s more than just a two-man team with Goaltender Tristan Jarry (25-9-3, 2.75 GAA) playing very solid, making 26 saves in a 6-2 win.

Worried about scoring options with 34-year-old captain Crosby (28/1 to win Hart Trophy) and Malkin (40/1 to win Hart Trophy) out, the Pens (Regular Season Point Total 97½, Under -130) got two goals each from Brian Boyle and Danton Heinen.

Star Defenseman Kris Letang (33/1 to win Hart Trophy; 45 points) had two assists in the game, which saw the betting odds close sharply—up over 145 cents from Open (TBL -145) to Close (TBL -290) at Bovada—on very heavy Lightning money.

The Penguins also got goals from Bryan Rust (200/1 to win Hart Trophy), Dominik Simon, Teddy Blueger, and Evan Rodrigues, but the 6-2 Final Score is somewhat deceiving as three of the Penguins six goals were into an empty VGK net.

“It’s a process but I think we proved that we can play against a team like that, we can play well and we can win,” Simon said afterward of the Lightning, who saw star RW Nikita Kucherov go the entire game without a single Shot on Goal.

When Crosby (62 points) and Malkin do return—Sid The Kid is expected back later this month while Malkin is reportedly out for two months—Pittsburgh (4/1 to win Eastern Conference) should be in the mix and earn a playoff berth and have hope.

Why? Because of depth, several solid lines, a confident coach on the bench, and a cast of talented players like Jake Guentzel (57 points), Jeff Carter (30 points), Letang (100/1 to win Hart Trophy), Rust (42 points), and netminder Jarry.

Guentzel (40/1 to win Hart Trophy) and the Penguins were also a dominating 22-4-2 at Home last season at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh and if everything goes right, this team could very well be in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Eastern Conference New York Islanders

The Islanders (22/1 to win Stanley Cup) probably now have the best Goaltending tandem in the NHL with Russians Seymon Varlaman (12/1 to win Vezina Trophy) and Ilya Sorokin and Head Coach Barry Trotz has to like that flexibility and options.

The Islanders (+275 to win the Metropolitan Division, BetOnline) are actually the favorites to win their division and went 21-4-3 record at Home last COVID-19 abbreviated season, finishing with a respectable 32-17-7 (156 GF-128 GA) mark.

This year, the Isles have the new UBS Arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY, but also have to deal with a historic 13-game Road Trip—the second-longest in NHL history to open up the new season, so this team will definitely be put to the test early on.

But General Manager Lou Lamoriello did a very job in the Offseason for the Islanders (10/1 to win Eastern Conference) by signing the likes of Kyle Palmieri (Devils), Goaltender Sorokin, Anthony Beauvillier, and Casey Cizikas.

And with Matthew Barzaz (20/1 to win Hart Trophy), captain Anders Lee (18 points) and the majority of the team back, this Islanders team can make a Stanley Cup run and measure up to all East competition as well as the two West heavies.

The Islanders (Regular Season Point Total 97½ points, Over/Under -115) were eliminated by the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Semifinals, but it took seven games and with the 33-year-old Varlaman (19-11-4, 2.04 GAA) in goal, all is possible.

Starter Varlaman boasted No. 2-ranked GAA last season (2.23) and with Sorokin as a backup, this team will be a hard one to beat at Home or on the Road, especially after the psychological burden playing those first 13 Away is in the rearview mirror.

Besides the Goaltending, new talent building, the Islanders also added a crucial piece to the puzzle, signing the NHL’s oldest player (44), former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chára to win to help shore up the defense, weak on the Penalty Kill.

Adding Chára was a brilliant move by Lamoriello and gives this defensive-minded team from the Metropolitan Division an honest chance at some Hockey history if they can somehow navigate the icy landmine that is the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

Eastern Conference Florida Panthers

The Panthers (18/1 to win Stanley Cup) had a great Preseason and also had a solid 2020-21 season and signed future NHL Hall of Famer Joe Thornton (Maple Leafs) to a one-year, $750,000 contract In hopes the 42-year-old can bring leadership.

Florida (+375 to win Atlantic Division) also re-signed Carter Verhaeghe (36 points), Anthony Duclair (32 points), Sam Bennett, and Brandon Montour, and should be able to score goals again (189 last season) and adding Sam Reinhart (Sabres) helps.

The Panthers (37-14-5) were eliminated by their Governor’s Cup rival, the Lightning, but were very protective of the Home ice (20-5-3 at Home) in what may be the toughest division with the Lightning, Bruins, Maple Leafs, and Canadiens.

Both participants in the 2020-21 Stanley Cup now call the Atlantic Division home.

With guys like Alexsander Barkov (28/1 to win Hart Trophy; 58 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (28/1 to win Hart Trophy; 61 points), Patric Hornqvist (32 points), and MacKenzie Weeger (40/1 to win Norris Trophy), this is a very underrated team.

Currently, the best Futures price on the Panthers to win the Stanley Cup at an online sportsbooks Bovada and BetOnline where Florida can be found at 18/1.

Oilers, Wild and Kraken All Worth a Look in Western Conference

Western Conference Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers (22/1 to win Stanley Cup) are an enigma in that they have two of the best five players in the NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but always seem destined to be or just settling for the third-best in the Western Conference.

And that’s not a slight at the potential super Centers McDavid (44½ Goals, Over -115) and Draisaitl (46½, Over -115), but more so the evolving reality that the Avalanche and Golden Knights will be hard to beat in the Western Conference.

But McDavid (+350 to win Hart Trophy) is only 24 and Draisaitl is 25 and given the goaltending and a path where Colorado (2/1 to win Western Conference) and Vegas (3/1) may collide in the Western Semifinals, Edmonton (10/1) could emerge.

McDavid finished with 24 goals and 72 assists last season for Edmonton and won the Hart Trophy and with Zach Hyman, Jesse Puljujärvi, Kailer Yamamoto, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers are prolific and entertaining if nothing else.

But can they really get by a potential Golden Knights West Semifinal series, a possible Avalance Western Conference Finals series, and then somehow beat whoever survives from the Eastern Conference? We will watch.

But think twice before backing Edmonton to win the Cup as Canadian teams have fared poorly in the Stanley Cup Finals, with these Oilers the last team from The Great White North to actually win it all way back in 1990, beating the Bruins.

Western Conference Minnesota Wild

The Wild (25/1 to win Stanley Cup) are led by electric Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov (34½ Goals Scored in 2021-22, Over -115) and are really the third-best team in the Western Conference and not the Edmonton Oilers, truth be told.

Minnesota (7/1 to win the Central Division) had an impressive season, with Kaprikov (40/1 to win Hart Trophy) and the Wild ending 35-16-5 record with a +21 Goal Difference (181 GF-160 GA) playing in the temporary West Conference.

Minnesota (12/1 to win Western Conference) went a combined 25-7 against Arizona (7-1), San José (5-3), Los Angeles (6-2) and Anaheim (7-1), so back in the Central Division, things may be a little bit harder although no more Avalanche?

Super Rookie Kaprikov (51 points) and the Wild (3.21 GPG) were a dominating 20-3-5 at Home at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and expect that to continue this season with a commitment to playing intense defense.

Along with Kaprizov, Minnesota is led by Kevin Fiala (40 points), Mats Zuccarello (35 points), Jordan Greenway (32 points), Joel Erikkson Ek (30 points), Marcus Foligno (26 points), and Nick Bonino (26 points), so the scoring is pretty balanced.

Cam Talbot (19-8-5, 2.63 GAA) and Kaapo Kähkönen (16-8-0, 2.88 GAA) were the Wild (Regular Season Point Total 97½ points, Over/Under -115) Goaltenders last season and like Trotz on Long Island, HC Dean Evason has a nice pair to look to.

It took the Golden Knights seven games to eliminate the Wild in the first round of last season’s NHL Playoffs, but expect Minnesota to advance farther this campaign and possibly take out the Avalanche, Golden Knights, or maybe both along the way.

Western Conference Seattle Kraken

The expansion Kraken (35/1 to win Stanley Cup) may be brand-spanking new and have some current COVID-19 issues, but GM Ron Francis and Seattle made the most of the Expansion Draft, signing an unprotected Philipp Grubauer (Avalanche).

So getting a good Goaltender like Grubauer (30-9-1, 1.95 GAA, 7 Shutouts with Avalanche in 2020-21) is a good thing, but going out and getting two to start your new professional Hockey team—the 32nd in the NHL—is even better. Much better.

Besides signing unrestricted free agent Grubauer (.922 SV %) to a very lucrative six-year, $35.4 million contract in July, Head Coach Dave Hakstol and the Kraken (8/1 to win the Pacific Division) also landed netminder Chris Driedger (Panthers).

In the Preseason, Seattle looked very extremely good (4-2-0, 15 GF-11 GA, +7 GD), notching two Road Shutouts. And on Opening Night, the Kraken rallied from a 3-0 deficit in Las Vegas to make the Golden Knights sweat in a 4-3 Seattle loss.

For the visitors, the Kraken lost that first NHL game to the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena but Ryan Donato scored the first goal in franchise history before Jared McCann and Morgan Geekie scored to tie it at 3-3 showing some resiliency.

Donato and Seattle (16/1 to win Western Conference) will play their first real Home game ever at Climate Pledge Arena in the Emerald City next weekend against the Canucks on Saturday, October 23 (ESPN+, Hulu, 10 pm ET/7 pm PT).

The Kraken (Regular Season Point Total 90½ points, Over/Under -115) play their first five games on the Road (VGK, Nashville, Columbus, Philadelphia, New Jersey).

A Seattle Kraken-Pittsburgh Penguins 2022 Stanley Cup Final showdown is now priced at 200/1 in the 2021-22 NHL Exact Stanley Cup matchups at Sportsbetting.ag

Conclusion

Because the Eastern Conference looks so deep, whoever can beat the two-time defending champion Lightning should be of concern to any Stanley Cup Futures bettors. And most are scared of Tampa Bay, but not the Panthers or the Islanders.

Nobody knows Steven Stamkos and the Lightning better than their Governor’s Cup rivals, Florida, who showed Tampa Bay what’s up last Regular Season, going 5-3 vs the Bolts before being eliminated by the Lightning in six games in the NHL Playoffs.

Florida is 71-48-10-17 lifetime against the Lightning in the Regular Season in Governor’s Cup play and will remember who eliminated them from the Playoffs last season and want some revenge should these Sunshine State teams collide again.

The Islanders also have that bitter Lightning-elimination taste in their collective mouths after being bounced in seven games by Tampa Bay after being eliminated by Andrei Vasilevskiy and Tampa Bay in six games just the season before.

The last time that the Islanders and the Lightning played in their normal divisions (2019-20), Varlamov and the New York Trotzes went 2-1 (11 GF- 6 GA), winning 5-1 and 5-2 in Tampa, so the site won’t NY should they meet TB way down the line.

2021-22 NHL Stanley Cup Underdog Winners

Florida Panthers 18/1

New York Islanders 22/1

Kevin Stott

Kevin Stott is a sports writer who has covered the Sports Gambling industry for over 20 years, handicapping sporting events for SportsbookReview, Gaming Today and Bleacher/Report and was an award-winning writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s View Newspapers. Stott is an avid sports bettor and a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. ...

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