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Exclusive NHL 2020-21 Season Preview with Betting Predictions

Last updated: 12 Jan 13:05

The long wait is over soon as the 2020-21 NHL season begins on 13th of January 2021. As we are three months late in terms of season start, the regular season will be played with a shorter schedule to avoid playoffs being played in August or September. We have 31 teams who are looking to win the all-so-wanted Stanley Cup, but there’s a long road ahead before we even reach the playoffs. One of the hottest topics is the all Canadian “North Division”, which gives us ten Battle of Alberta’s and nine Toronto vs Montreal rivalries for example. There’s not much more a hockey fan could hope for no matter which team you support yourself.

So, let’s jump into the amazing world of the NHL now. Some quick information and things about the up-coming season, divisions, teams, a look into the past season and what to expect from this one. Our betting predictions with favorites, contenders and dark horses and much more!

NHL Quickies
  • Founded: 26.11.1917
  • Country: USA & Canada
  • Teams: 31
  • Regular season games: 56 (Normally 82)
  • Reigning champion: Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Most titles: Montreal Canadiens, 25
2020-21 NHL Season in a Nutshell
  • Due to the pandemic and delayed start to the season, instead of 82 regular season games, each team will only play 56.
  • During the regular season teams are playing exclusively intra division games, meaning that before the playoffs they don’t play against teams from other divisions.
  • Divisions are set based on geographical conditions to minimize travel. Canadian teams are all in one division, as the pandemic travel restrictions between the US and Canada would make the season almost impossible otherwise.
  • Teams are expected to play in their own arenas, but some of them won’t allow any fans in the stands, and the ones who do will have limitations.
  • The only notable change in rules is the new offside rule. Now players only have to break the plane of the blue line to be ruled onside instead of having to actually touch it with their skate.
  • To cover some of the lost revenue due to season being played (mostly) in empty arenas, NHL allowed the teams to get sponsors for the players helmets. On top of that, each division has their own name sponsor.
  • Islanders return to Nassau Coliseum for the 2020-21 season.
  • Stadium-series, Winter Classic and All Stars weekend are all cancelled for this season.
  • You can expect postponements to games if and when teams have positive COVID19 test results and they have to quarantine their players.
  • First two rounds of playoffs will be played in divisional format, so division winners face each other in the conference finals before the Stanley Cup final, as per usual.
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NHL 2020-21 Teams and Divisions

The 2020-21 NHL season is going to be different in many ways from what we are used to. Less regular season games and new divisions without conferences, per se. As the pandemic ravages the world and travel restrictions make things harder, the Canadian teams are all put into one division and the rest are distributed into three American divisions based on the geographical locations.

North Division

  • Calgary Flames
  • Edmonton Oilers
  • Montreal Canadiens
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Winnipeg Jets

West Division

  • Anaheim Ducks
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Colorado Avalanche
  • Los Angeles Kings
  • Minnesota Wild
  • San Jose Sharks
  • St. Louis Blues
  • Vegas Golden Knights

Central Division

  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Dallas Stars
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Florida Panthers
  • Nashville Predators
  • Tampa Bay Lightning

East Division

  • Boston Bruins
  • Buffalo Sabres
  • New Jersey Devils
  • New York Islanders
  • New York Rangers
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Washington Capitals
NHL 2019-20 Season Recap

The 2019-20 NHL season could’ve ended before it had even started, as the collective bargaining agreement signed during the 2012-13 season lockout between the NHL and the NHLPA had expired. Both the NHL and the NHLPA quickly got into an agreement, as the NHL announced that they wouldn’t opt out from the deal on 30th of August 2019, and the NHLPA announced them not opting out from the deal on 16th of September in the same year. This meant that the season was ready to start in early October as it was planned for.

The 2019-20 regular season started on October 2nd 2019 and it was expected to run until 4th of April 2020, but the season was cut short as the COVID19 pandemic stopped the world. On 12th of March 2020 NHL announced that the season was suspended and less than two weeks after that the league announced that the regular season would not be finished at all.

In May 2020 the NHL announced that they were working with the NHLPA to framework a 24-team playoffs format which would allow them to finish the 2019-20 season and crown the champs. They made this happen by using each team’s points collected percentage compared to their games played. Essentially this meant that for the first time in the league's history there were teams who had played more games than others, hence why the need for the percentage of points became more important than the actual point amount. The top four seeds from each conference got a bye, while the rest of each conference were to play a best-of-five play-in series to get a spot in the playoffs themselves.

Eastern Conference teams who got into the playoffs directly were Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia. Eastern teams that got into the play-in stage were Pittsburgh, Carolina, New York Islanders and Rangers, Toronto, Columbus, Florida and Montreal.

From the Western Conference St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas got direct invites to the playoffs. The following Western teams played in the play-in stage: Edmonton, Nashville, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Arizona and Chicago.

Teams that did not participate in the play-ins or playoffs at all were Buffalo, New Jersey, Ottawa, and Detroit from the east, and Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose from the west.

To cut some corners and get to the important part of the playoffs, the conference finals were played between New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning in the East and between Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars in the West. Tampa won their series 4-2 against the Isles, while Dallas got their spot in the Stanley Cup finals with a solid 4-1 win over Vegas.

The finals themselves were great and tighter than the 4-2 final score would imply. The Stars won the first game 1-4, and the Bolts took the second 3-2. Then Tampa won two straight (5-2, 5-4) to get a 3-1 lead in the series. Stars did bounce back in the 5th game by winning it 3-2, but they couldn’t overcome the harsh reality that they needed to win three straight to hoist the cup. Tampa went on to win the sixth game, and with that the Stanley Cup too.

NHL Season 2020-21

Everything said next is more often than not “tentative”, as the pandemic is doing it’s thing so changes should probably be expected, but we will do our best to make sure that we are providing the most accurate and up-to-date information to you. One thing is for certain, and that’s the fact that the 2020-21 NHL season will start on Wednesday 13th of January. The regular season is expected to end by 8th of May, but as we already have teams who had to postpone games before the season has even started I would imagine we will be in late May when the regular season actually ends, but we will see how it plays out in the progress.

As a part of the new CBA (Collective bargaining agreement), the salary cap will remain at $81.5 million through this season. Future increases to the salary cap will come in time after the league has recovered from the financial impacts of the pandemic.

Interesting new technology has been added, which might actually become interesting from a betting point of view. For the first time in its history, the NHL has planned to start using a player and puck tracking system in all of its 31 arenas. The system will allow on-air features to the live feed which might turn into new betting markets in the not-so-distant future. Speed displays, puck tracking graphics, and marker graphics hovering over players. This means that we could get betting markets for the fastest skaters in each game as well as fastest shots etc. Something to keep in mind and enjoy while watching the NHL this season surely!

Six NHL teams have made changes to their coaching staff: Calgary, Dallas, Minnesota, New Jersey, San Jose and Washington all have new head coaches behind their benches. Some of them started mid-season last year, and all of them are known names from before. Peter Laviolette is in for a challenge in Washington and the return of Lindy Ruff (NJD) is interesting to say the least. Whether either of the two guys named can take their teams to the playoffs and furthermore towards the cup is something that remains to be seen.

Best bonuses for NHL betting

The NHL season doesn’t just offer great entertainment and a rollercoaster of emotions, it’s also quality time for punters. The NHL season brings the largest amount of betting markets we see in ice hockey, and because we have games played pretty much every night throughout the season, it’s also a great time to wager bonuses. We recommend using accounts on multiple platforms, as that way you never miss a good bonus when they are offered, and it also allows you to compare odds and always bet on the highest possible to maximize profits.

Now, there are quite a few different kinds of bonuses available, starting with the welcome bonuses. Most often when you open up an account, you get a juicy welcome bonus that you can wager in most sports via betting. First and foremost we recommend checking the welcome bonuses, as we have negotiated exclusive offers with our partners to ensure that our users get the most bang for their buck. So if you are missing accounts from some of the better betting sites, make sure you make an account and make use of their welcome bonuses, whether it is a deposit bonus or free bets.

When it comes to different promotions, special offers and such, you should check our Special Bonuses section, in which we feature all the best promotions available for sports, ice hockey and NHL betting. In addition, you find our honest and reliable bookmaker reviews from the same section, which helps you determine which operator(s) would suit your betting needs the best.

By the way, if you are new to ice hockey and NHL betting, we recommend you read our Full Ice Hockey Betting Guide!

Best odds for NHL betting

One of the key things in betting is ensuring that you always bet on the highest available odds to maximize your profits. A -0.05 difference in odds might not sound like much, but if you place each of your bets with that instead of the 0.05 higher odds, you are losing serious cash in the long run. Comparing odds can be time consuming and annoying, we know that from experience, and because of our past frustration with comparing odds, we decided to do something about it.

Betting.com offers a completely free odds comparison tool, in which you see the odds directly from your own market and the operators that are offering them. In a TV-commercial way: and that’s not all! We have been able to establish full cooperation and sync with a chosen few operators, which means that you can actually place bets without leaving the betting.com website.

So to get most out of our services, make a free account on our website and start using the odds comparison tool. As you have come this far, it makes sense to also take the next step as a punter towards becoming a beneficial punter if you aren’t one already. Instead of playing around with complicated excel sheets, you can use our free betting portfolio tool that allows you to track and analyse all your betting activities. With the help of the odds comparison tool and the bet tracker you can easily tweak your betting activities and get rid of habits that might’ve had a negative impact on your results in the past.

Odds Favorites to Win the NHL 2020-21 season

As NHL is division and conference based, it means that there are quite a few outright markets to bet on. Obviously the first choice is to pick a Stanley Cup champion, but you can also bet on division winners. So first things first we go over the biggest odds favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season. After that we pick our favorites to win each division and then finally the underdogs that might surprise everyone and reach the Stanley Cup finals.

Stanley Cup Champion Odds Favorite

For the Stanley Cup Champion we are going to pick one team who we think is going to excel and win it all. The Colorado Avalanche has been a team on the rise for quite a few seasons already, and they have just gotten a little bit stronger during the break again. There has not been any other team who has gotten gradually better every season for the past five or so years. Now, with another new piece to the puzzle, it finally feels like a finished product ready to take the one last step to become Stanley Cup Champions again. They should win their division and with the highest seed the first two rounds of playoffs would favor them heavily. Due to that, our pick for Stanley Cup champion in the 2020-21 NHL season is the Colorado Avalanche.

  • Avs to win the NHL with odds from 7.00 to 8.00

North Division Favorite

The Canadian Division in the North on paper feels like the easiest one to predict. Toronto Maple Leafs has only gotten stronger over the break and even though their playoffs were another massive disappointment, Kyle Dubas’ roster is a monster. The additions of Wayne Simmonds and Joe Thornton are signs that it’s now or never in Toronto. They have the perfect mixture of young superstars, Stanley Cup winning veterans, a strong defensive core and their special teams, especially power play, is among the best in the league. Toronto should, by all means and factors, win the North Division and advance to the playoffs as the top seed. In my opinion the biggest question mark with the Leafs is Fredrik Andersen. If the Dane can take a step forward in his career to become an elite NHL goalie, it’s quite likely that Leafs will be the best Canadian team this season.

  • Leafs to win North Division with odds around 2.2

West Division Favorite

Over the past few seasons the Colorado Avalanche has gotten better and better. They have re-built the team by adding one piece to the puzzle at a time and made the necessary adjustments on the go. Their top line is among the most dangerous ones in the league and you can expect some insane MacKinnon-Rantanen magic throughout the season. Cale Makar is one year older and more experienced, which makes him even a possible Norris Trophy contender in my books. Brandon Saad feels like a good addition to the lineup, as he brings a lot of toughness to the team as well as some old school grit, which is needed if you wish to win the Cup in the NHL. St. Louis and Vegas are the two teams that can challenge Avs in the regular season, but I doubt they will be able to actually compete for the 1st seed of the division.

  • Avs to win West Division with odds around 2.5

Central Division Favorite

With the Central Division, I think my pick might surprise a bit. Tampa is the odds favourite with odds a bit over 2.2, but I don’t personally see them as strong as they were last season. The loss of Kucherov will have a significant impact, and that alone is something that takes its toll on the Tampa Bay team. With that being said, we are going to travel to Raleigh and pick the Carolina Hurricanes as our division winner. Sebastian Aho is considered in the top 10 of the NHL centers and with Niederreiter and Teräväinen on his side, they are ready to tear opponents apart, again. Canes have the depth on their roster to challenge the bigger names on the list and their defence looks as solid as ever. The question mark with Canes is between their pipes, as their goalie tandem Petr Mrazek - James Reimer is definitely not among the best in the league. But, we have seen bigger things happen than a goalie taking a step forward in their career, so it’s possible. At the end of the day the odds for Canes are not that high, so even that tells us that we might be onto something here.

  • Canes to win Central Division with odds around 5.1

East Division Favorite

In the East Division Boston is the odds favourite, which is fair, but Philadelphia Flyers has had a good thing coming for a while now, and it seems they might have finished the puzzle. One of Philly’s downfalls has been the lack of a proper starting goalie, but that misery seems to be over as Carter Hart has taken the necessary steps to become part of the NHL’s elite. It won’t be easy for the Flyers, but with Oskar Lindblom back in the top line after beating cancer and overall a quite deep lineup Philly is definitely among the best teams in the division. If Nolan Patrick stays healthy Philly will have three lines with serious scoring power and their defence with Provorov, Braun, Sanheim, Myers and Hagg is definitely good enough to challenge the other top teams in the division.

  • Philly to win East Division with odds around 4.75
Underdogs of the NHL 2020-21 (to reach the Stanley Cup final)

The Cinderella stories that we all love don’t happen often, and when they do they rarely get the cherry on top of the cake, but the stories are always remembered. Like Vegas Golden Knights in their first season reaching the Stanley Cup finals. That’s a story we won’t be forgetting anytime soon. One team from each division will have a chance to get into the Stanley Cup finals, and with that comes a chance for a surprise. The teams chosen for this section are not favorites, nor are they even real contenders on paper, but their rosters have enough juice to possibly surprise during the short season. All four will never happen, one of them getting actually close might happen, but that’s why they are the underdogs.

After careful consideration we picked one team to represent their respective division, and here they are with a short description for the “why?” -part of things, and odds added on the side.

North Division Underdog

Winnipeg Jets with odds around 23.00 - The Jets have had a somewhat quiet off-season as their roster saw very few changes. It might sound quite farfetched to see them as a contender even, but there are few spices in the mix that might turn the tables. Patrik Laine has been training harder than ever and the young Finnish sniper is looking to play the best season of his career. Paired with the returning Stastny and his good friend Ehlers on the other wing Jets do have the scoring power to challenge the big ones. Their downfall is their defensive end, as they still haven’t been able to replace the empty spots that Big Buff, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba left behind them. Niku is expected to break into the big league, which can help, and there’s also the youngster Ville Heinola waiting to get a chance to prove himself again. Getting 20+ odds for Winnipeg to reach the Stanley Cup final is fair, unlikely but fair.

If their 2nd line finds each other from the get-go, there’s a possibility that Jets surprise in the North division.

West Division Underdog

San Jose Sharks with odds around 33.00 - The San Jose Sharks are an interesting breed. They let some guys go over the break, and the only “real” addition to the lineup is the defender Fredrik Claesson who joins Sharks from the New Jersey Devils. Earlier last year they got Devan Dubnyk from Minnesota Wild which ensures that Martin Jones has a proper backup. Sharks’ core group is very solid and their blueline is among the scariest in the league with Burns and Karlsson. The West Division as a whole is very top heavy, as Avs, Vegas and Blues are the three teams that should be walking into the playoffs. After that it’s Arizona, Minnesota, Los Angeles and San Jose. Kings need a new fresh start, Minnesota is still a bit of a mess and even if Arizona has strengthened over the past couple of years, the quality and experience of San Jose pulls ahead in my books.

Again, 33.00 are very high odds, so if you believe in Sharks make sure to place the bet on a small stake.

Central Division Underdog

Florida Panthers with odds around 23.00 - The doors of the Panthers locker room have been wide open and quite a few players have switched scenery. Alexander Barkov has new linemates as Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair joins the Finn in the Panthers first line for this season. Their 2nd line center, Alexander Wennberg is accompanied by Huberdau and Patrick Hörnqvist, while Eetu Luostarinen is expected to take the 3rd line centerman position. The addition of Markus Nutivaara is also noteworthy, as the Finnish defenceman joins Panthers from Columbus. The thing is, Panthers is like sleeping giant. If Sergei Bobrovsky finds his Vezina level again, and Barkov gets some help from the rest of the team, they might surprise. Barkov is among the best centers in the world, but coach Q wasted him in front of the net on power play instead of letting him run the pp unit.

Will Barkov take his team to the playoffs and beyond? Unlikely with their roster, but a short season probably holds more than one big surprise, so who knows.

East Division Underdog

Buffalo Sabres with odds around 26.00 - Laugh all you want, but Sabres is probably the underdog with the biggest chances of surprising. They are in a tough division, but the short season will play into their favor. Looking at their stats from the previous regular season for example, they were going to the playoffs after 50 games played, and only dipped after that. They have strengthened their core with Taylor Hall which makes their offense actually look scary. If Hall and Eichel find each other and the second line with Olofsson, Staal and Reinhart plays on their expected level, Buffalo might be in for something. Don’t forget that they also have Jeff Skinner with a nine million salary in their fourth line, and on the blueline there’s Rasmus & Rasmus, Dahlin and Ristolainen. Ullmark has shown that he can be a winning NHL starter, so the soup that’s stirring in the shadows of Buffalo might be spicier than a lot of people expect.

2020-21 NHL Awards Favorites

After each season NHL awards players for their success and many other achievements. This is also something that you can place bets on, mostly before the season starts. Some of them can be easier to predict than others, but overall you can never be sure, as one injury might turn the tables upside down. But there are always favorites, and we have picked three candidates for each category that are likely to have a shot at winning the said trophy.

Art Ross Trophy (Top Point Scorer)

  • Connor McDavid
  • Nathan MacKinnon
  • Leon Draisaitl

Calder Memorial Trophy (Best Rookie of the Season)

  • Alexis Lafreniere
  • Igor Shestorkin
  • Kirill Kaprizov

Hart Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable for his team)

  • Connor McDavid
  • Nathan MacKinnon
  • Artemi Panarin

James Norris Trophy (Best Defenceman)

  • Victor Hedman
  • Cale Makar
  • Quinn Hughes

Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (Top Goal Scorer)

  • Alexander Ovechkin
  • Auston Matthews
  • Leon Draisaitl

Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)

  • Andrei Vasilevsky
  • Connor Hellebuyck
  • Carter Hart
Author:

Teemu Maarela

Esports & Ice Hockey Specialist

Bio:

Teemu is an enthusiastic Finn who spent his childhood around ice hockey and video games, and he has 10+ years of experience with sports betting industry. Teemu specialises in analysing esports and ice hockey games. He contributes to Betting.com website in English, writing about his two passions - ice hockey and esports.
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