NHL 2021 Betting: Central and West Division Breakdowns & Predictions

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NHL

We’re back with the Central and West NHL divisional breakdowns. We’ll break down each team’s chances to win their division, betting odds, and determine where you can find value when betting on the NHL in 2021.

If you’re a fan of teams in the East and the North, don’t worry. We have you covered with our other NHL divisional preview article.

Just like our last one betting preview, the odds on this page are courtesy of BetOnline.

Central Division Odds & Breakdown

  • Tampa Bay Lightning (+140)
  • Carolina Hurricanes (+400)
  • Columbus Blue Jackets (+475)
  • Dallas Stars (+475)
  • Nashville Predators (+700)
  • Florida Panthers (+800)
  • Chicago Blackhawks (+1200)
  • Detroit Red Wings (+3300)

Tampa Bay Lightning (+140)

Tampa Bay LightningThe biggest storyline for the defending champs heading into this 2021 campaign is the absence of Nikita Kucherov for at least the entire regular season due to a hip injury that required surgery.

The loss isn’t insignificant as only Connor McDavid has more points than Kucherov over the last three seasons, however if there’s an offense that can withstand such a seismic blow, it’s these Bolts.

They’ve led the league in offense each of the last two seasons and are coming off a campaign in which they ranked eighth on defense. Steven Stamkos will return to the lineup, but both the Norris Trophy (Victor Hedman) and Vezina Trophy (Andrei Vasilevskiy) favorites reside on this Bolts roster.

It’s a blow to be sure, but the Tampa Bay depth is unmatched in this league.

Carolina Hurricanes (+400)

The Central certainly doesn’t appear to be the strongest realigned division in the league and it’s likely the Hurricanes that give the heavy betting favorite Lightning the best run for their money.

The Hurricanes have long been a stout defensive team and they’ll return that way with one of the game’s best defensive personnel, so long as James Reimer and Petr Mrazek do their part in goal.

The surprise last season stemmed from an offense that ranked 11th on the back of a big-time season from Sebastian Aho while Andrei Svechnikov’s sophomore campaign was just what the doctor ordered for this franchise.

Reimer and Mrazek probably just need to be good enough, not great, to get these ‘Canes into the postseason in a weak Central.

Columbus Blue Jackets (+475)

Blue JacketsJohn Tortorella’s club hung in tough last season despite losing superstar talent in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrvosky in free agency and the laundry list of injuries they dealt with to boot.

They’re also one of the teams that will be in the spotlight given the reported trade request of No .1 pivot Pierre-Luc Dubois. It’s a team structured to succeed on defense and they got wonderful performances from the Joonas Korpisalo/Elvis Merzlikins tandem in goal, but even after adding center depth in Max Domi and Mikko Koivu, trading away Dubois isn’t ideal.

Nonetheless, Seth Jones and Zach Werenski will need a defense that tied for third last season, but whether or not they can repeat such success without any guarantee their offense moves past 27th this season is up for debate.

Dallas Stars (+475)

The Stars marched all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final last season as a team seemingly on the rise. Needless to say, they’re in an early hole this season.

Both Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop are set to miss the first half of the season after both underwent offseasons surgeries that carried five-month recovery timelines.

All the sudden, the league’s 26th-ranked offense from last season is without their best player and the Stars are an Anton Khudobin injury from throwing 22-year-old rookie Jake Oettinger into the fire.

If there’s a team in the league that can ill-afford to lose a player of Seguin’s ilk up front, the Stars would be at or not the top of this list while the oft-injured Bishop will have to appear in mid-season form if this Stars team wants to continue it’s stout defensive work over the last couple seasons.

Nashville Predators (+700)

Nashville PredatorsThe once-powerhouse Predators have slowly regressed of late to the point where they were ousted by the Arizona Coyotes in the league’s return to play last season.

It was also a team that saw their forward group disassembled this offseason, only to salvage it late. The team ended up re-signing winger Mikael Granlund and scooped up third-line center Erik Haula to inject some offense into a team that lost Craig Smith, Nick Bonino and Austin Watson.

All of the sudden, the offense isn’t shaping up too badly, especially if bounce back seasons from Matt Duchene and Viktor Arvidsson are considered.

Where I expect the most improvement is on the back end. Let’s not forget this is a team sporting a top-four defense corps of Roman Josi, Ryan Ellias, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro. While that group took a step back last season, so did Pekka Rinne as he plummeted to a career-worst .895 Sv%.

Juuse Saros is likely to get the 1A treatment this season after a strong finish in salvaging his 2019-20 campaign, and if the defense and goaltending can improve in tandem then these Preds could be a threat once again.

Florida Panthers (+800)

Last season, the Panthers ranked sixth on offense and tied for 28th on defense. If anything, I see these trends reversing this season.

The Panthers allowed Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov — their top two goal-scorers and major power play contributors — to walk in free agency, and replaced them with Anthony Duclair and Patric Hornqvist. That’s a big loss.

However, it’s also difficult to imagine Sergei Bobrovsky being any worse than his 3.23 GAA and .900 Sv% from last season. In fact, Bobrovsky will miss the start of the season, likely giving Chris Driedger the first crack at the 1A spot after he impressed to a 2.05 GAA and .938 Sv% in 12 NHL games last season while even eating some of Bobrvosyk’s lunch down the stretch.

Despite a lack of improvement to their blueline, I do see the Panthers’ improving, at least some, on the back end. However, it will be real interesting to see what this offense can accomplish with two of their top four point producers from last season now playing elsewhere.

Chicago Blackhawks (+1200)

BlackhawksThe Stars aren’t the only team dealing with pre-season injury adversity as the Blackhawks have been dealt a trio of blows on that front.

No. 1 center and cultural leader Jonathan Toews is sidelined with an undisclosed illness, second-line center Kirby Dach is out for the season after breaking his wrist in a World Junior exhibition and 22-year-old Alex Nylander is also out for the year following knee surgery.

Now, the Blackhawks are a firm one-line team up front and boast perhaps the most suspect back end in the NHL.

It’s a defense that gained Nikita Zadorov at the expense of Brandon Saad in the offseason, but also a group that ranked dead last in allowing 35.1 shots against per game, and I am cringing at the thought of the Malcolm Subba/Collin Delia duo in goal feeling the force of that workload.

This defense is shaping up to be one of the worst in the league and the injuries up front are already devastating.

Detroit Red Wings (+3300)

The Red Wings were historically bad last season, but GM Steve Yzerman has supplanted his roster with some NHL veterans in hopes of bridging the rebuilding gap towards contention.

Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Troy Stecher, Marc Staal, Jon Merriell and Thomas Greiss are some names that were brought in by Stevie Y as he looks for some of the prospects such as Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen and Evgeny Svechnikov — brother of Andrei — to take that much-needed developmental step forward. They aren’t ground-breaking additions to be sure, but reliable ones nonetheless.

We don’t know how much they can improve on their league-worst offense and defense given the offseason additions, but if you’re in the side-bet discussion with anyone, I’ll take the Wings to finish ahead of the Blackhawks this season.

Central Division Predictions

Division Winner – Tampa Bay Lightning

No surprise here as the Lightning are clearly the best team in this division.

Perhaps the offense regresses some, but it’s not going to be by a lot. There are three scoring lines and some deadly power play options in this team, so don’t go expecting a significant drop off for this Bolts offense.

The defense lost names such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Bogosian, but Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, among others, will be just fine, as will Vasilevskiy in net as he chases down his second Vezina in three seasons.

At this point, we don’t need to overthink anything here and simply roll with the NHL betting favorite at what I believe are valuable odds.

Value Pick – Nashville Predators (+700)

For about 90% of the offseason, I was about as bearish on these Preds as possible. While I don’t believe Granlund and Haula are worthy of the main reason as to why I’ve turned the corner on the club, they certainly add to a forward group that was looking awfully thin for much of the winter.

It’s the anticipated defensive improvement I expect to be the catalyst towards a potential upset. Goaltending was a major issue for much of the 2019-20 season before Saros got hot late, but there’s no way Rinne is going to put forth an .895 Sv% again. Not even at 38 years old.

The 25-year-old Saros will get the lion’s share of starts and I view him as a Vezina longshot behind this blueline.

From the 2017-18 season through 2018-19, the Predators were the league best overall defense in allowing 2.54 goals per game. Last season, they fell all the way to a share of 19th alongside the Canadiens and Canucks. The fact that number came along with a .901 Sv% — also finished in a share of 19th — is no coincidence.

Better goaltending and improved work from the elite aforementioned top-four on the blueline will be the catalyst towards success. Add in potential bounce backs from Duchene and Arvidsson to help the top-six get back in order and I believe the Preds are the best bet to pull off any upset of the defending Stanley Cup champs.

West Division Odds & Breakdown

  • Colorado Avalanche (+160)
  • Vegas Golden Knights (+375)
  • St. Louis Blues (+375)
  • Arizona Coyotes (+1000)
  • Minnesota Wild (+1000)
  • Los Angeles Kings (+1600)
  • San Jose Sharks (+1800)
  • Anaheim Ducks (+2000)

Colorado Avalanche (+160)

At +600, BetOnline.ag has the Avs as the Stanley Cup favorite and it’s not difficult to see why.

After all, they ranked fourth on offense and sixth on defense last season and boast one of the best players on the planet in Nathan MacKinnon.

The offensive supporting cast got stronger with the addition of Saad to the top-six while the defense added Toews despite losing the physical play of Zadorov.

There’s little reason to doubt the Philipp Grubauer/Pavel Francouz tandem in goal as they helped the Avs share fourth-place with a .913 Sv% last season as the roster that was one of the most balanced in the NHL only got stronger.

Add in better injury luck after some long-term injuries to the likes of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Nazem Kadri last season and the Avs are primed to roll again this time around.

Vegas Golden Knights (+175)

Golden KnightsNot to be denied themselves, the Golden Knights were able to lure the top defenseman on the free agent market in Alex Pietrangelo to Sin City, and despite needing to dump the salaries of Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt as a result, I believe most teams would have followed suit.

The Knights are strong up front on the flanks, but center ice depth is certainly a concern. After William Karlsson, it’s Chandler Stephenson, Cody Glass and Tomas Nosek down the middle. For a team boasting Stanley Cup aspirations, it’s certainly an uninspiring group.

Therefore, I suspect they look to win on defense after re-signing Robin Lehner in the offseason to lead a goaltending tandem ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury on the depth chart.

The Golden Knights are a major threat to be sure, and we’ll see if the center ice depth issues come back to haunt them as the season moves along.

St. Louis Blues (+375)

The Blues might have lost Pietrangelo to what is now a division rival, but they fared pretty well this winter themselves.

The quickly struck a long-term deal with Torey Krug and more recently added sniper Mike Hoffman. The Blues ranked third on the power play last season, and with those two additions it looks as if GM Doug Armstrong has no plans to regress. Krug is tied for the league lead in power play points among defenseman over the last four seasons and Hoffman ranks fourth in power play goals throughout that same span.

It’s certainly a deeper offense with Hoffman’s signing and the mid-season expected return of Vladimir Tarasenko.

Some will question the defense without Pietrangelo and the now-retired Jay Bouwmeester, however this is a Blues defense built on structure over individual talent. Add in a bounce back from goaltender Jordan Binnington and the Blues could be in business again this season.

Arizona Coyotes (+1000)

CoyotesThe Coyotes almost escaped a bottom 10 offensive finish last season, but didn’t and now Taylor Hall plays for the Sabres.

Newly-minted GM Bill Armstrong solidified his depth up front rather than chase down a Hall replacement in free agency, and it makes sense considering the club’s results defensively.

The Coyotes tied the Blue Jackets for third defensively last season, but given some mediocre advanced metrics they might need another brilliant effort from their goaltending — a group that combined to rank third with a .919 Sv% last season.

An anemic offense is almost certain to return, but I wonder if the goaltending is going to be able to bail that group out to the extent they were able to last season.

Minnesota Wild (+1000)

The once-stout defense of the Minnesota Wild regressed substantially last season as they finished in tie with the Rangers for 23rd league wide.

However, given the fact they ranked first in scoring chances against/60, high-danger chances against/60 and expected goals against/60 at 5v5, as per Natural Stat Trick, look no further than the 29th-ranked .897 Sv% they received from their goaltending as to the sole cause of their defensive demise.

The top-four quartet of Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeron, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin will produce results again this season and it will be up to newcomer Cam Talbot and young backup Kaapo Kahkonen to hold up their end of the bargain.

The Wild actually ranked 12th on offense last season and 11th on the power play, but with Staal and Koivu departing this offseason the center position is also a concern up front despite winger Karill Kaprizov making his long-awaited NHL debut this season.

Los Angeles Kings (+1600)

Things don’t look great for the California residents this season, beginning with the Kings who continue their rebuild with an impressive prospect pool, albeit one that is unlikely to contribute this season.

They returned to an above-average defense last season, but scoring goals was a major issue after finishing 30th in total offense with very little help coming this offseason.

The prospect will continue to marinate as the Kings look towards another losing season.

San Jose Sharks (+1800)

SharksThe Sharks went from the 2019 Western Conference Final to the basement of the Western Conference standings in short order.

They struggled mightily at both ends of the ice, and the goaltending situation doesn’t look much better after acquiring Devan Dubnyk from the Wild. Dubnyk and Martin Jones were two of the worst three goaltenders of the 45 that played at least 30 games a season ago.

Brent Burns is on the decline and while Erik Karlsson is still wildly productive from the blueline offensively, both are defensive liabilities.

The offense has some pieces up front in Logan Couture, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane, but the bottom six is paper-thin once again.

It certainly doesn’t appear that the Sharks gained much of anything that we should be considering their futures at this point.

Anaheim Ducks (+2000)

The Ducks’ prospects for improvement are about equally as slim as their California counterparts, but at least they have John Gibson.

Gibson endured the worst season of his NHL career last year, however also owns a 2.53 GAA and .904 Sv% across 287 career regular-season appearances. He’ll need far more help from the players in front of him, but he remains one of the more underrated goaltenders in the league.

While the team has some upside in a handful of prospects, The Ducks finished 29th on offense and 30th on the power play for a reason. The need for development of Sam Steele, Max Jones, Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras comes at the same time Ryan Getzlaf declines rapidly, so we certainly have a team caught in transition here, very much like the Kings.

West Division Predictions

Division Winner – Colorado Avalanche (+160)

I wouldn’t blame you for backing any of the ‘Big 3’ in this division, but this is Colorado’s division to lose.

The Knights are close, but they’re depth down the middle is razor thin and it’s not often you see a team win division titles with center as their weakest spot on the roster.

The Avs have depth to spare both up front and on the blueline while their goaltending was among the league’s best a season ago.

Don’t bet against Nathan MacKinnon when betting on your favorite NHL betting apps this season.

The guy carried the Avs to within two points of the Blues — with a game in hand — despite all the injuries to his usual linemates. With increased health, the Avalanche were easily the top seed in the west last season.

Joe Sakic has done a wonderful job as the helm of his team, and he and his players are going to enjoy plenty of regular-season success en route to a West division crown.

Value Pick – Minnesota Wild (+1000)

Your best bet in this division is the Avalanche, or one of the Knights or Blues, depending on how you feel. However, if there’s a miracle to be had this season, it’s coming from the Wild.

Minnesota WildThey were not nearly as bad defensively as their surface numbers will tell you. This is why teams are relying more and more on analytics as they tell a much different story than you may see on the surface.

GM Bill Guerin knew this and three key decisions: Traded Dubnyk, signed Talbot and did not trade Dumba. The veteran of more than 1000 career NHL games knows his defense is as good as it gets, but he couldn’t let goaltending spoil the prime seasons from his group, especially before Suter shows serious decline.

I’m not a fan of the depth down the middle, and I’ll admit I see regression for this offense as a result.

Still, this team is not going to be easy to play against and if Talbot can come close to his .919 Sv% from last season with the Flames, the Wild are going to make some noise.

As a result, you might want to lock them in as +1000 longshots before these odds shrink.

James Peralta

As a recent addition to the GamblingSites.org team, James Peralta has been covering everything about casinos, sports, and laws that are specific to online gambling in Canada. James started writing about sports in 2007 during his first year at U of T Mississauga. ...

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