What is the structure of the 2021 NHL season?
With hopes of returning to a normal 82-game schedule for the 2021-22 season, the NHL will play an abbreviated schedule consisting of 56 regular season games this year. The regular season begins on January 13 and will end on May 8, 2021. The structure of the league has changed dramatically as the Eastern and Western Conference setup has been eliminated for the 2021 season. In its place, the league is setup with four divisions based largely on the teams geographic locations.
The eight teams in the East, Central and West divisions will play each other eight times during the regular season. The seven Canadian teams have been placed in the North Division and will play each other either nine or 10 times. Barring any COVID-19 related complications; the schedule consists of 868 games that will be played over 116 days. The Stanley Cup playoffs are scheduled to begin on May 11 and the top four teams in each division will advance to the postseason.
Playoffs will feature four best-of-seven rounds and the top four teams in each division will be seeded according to their regular season record. The team with the best record in each division is the top seed and will play the fourth seed while the second seed will play the third seed in the opening round. Winners advance to second round, which will determine the four semifinal teams. The teams that win their division will then be re-seeded for the final two playoff rounds.
Colorado and Tampa Bay are Top Preseason Stanley Cup Favorites
Bookmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook have posted Colorado (+700) as the preseason favorite to claim the Stanley Cup. The Avalanche are seeking their third championship and first since the 2000-01 NHL season. As defending champions, Tampa Bay (+750) is the second favorite. The Lightning will aim to be the first back-to-back Stanley Cup winner since Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017. Prior to that, no team had won two straight NHL titles since Detroit back in 1997 and 1998.
Vegas (+1000) is posted as the third favorite. The Golden Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup final in 2018 and lost to Dallas in the Western Conference finals last season. Toronto (+1400) is listed as the fourth favorite. The Maple Leafs own the longest active streak without an NHL championship as their last Stanley Cup title was during the 1966-67 season. Tied with the New York Rangers, who ended their drought in 1994, the 53-year run of futility is the longest in NHL history.
Boston (+1400) and Philadelphia (+1600) round out the top six favorites. The Bruins defeated Carolina (4-1) in the first round of the playoffs last season, but were eliminated by Tampa Bay (4-1) in the second round. The Flyers, who played above expectations last year, defeated Montreal (4-2) in the opening round before losing 4-2 to the Islanders in the second round. Below, we list the top 10 Stanley Cup favorites and bettors can visit DraftKings to view the odds for all 31 teams.
Stanley Cup Champion Pick: Colorado Avalanche (+700) at DraftKings
NHL North Division Championship Futures Odds
While expected to be in place for just one year, NHL fans in Canada are being treated to a season like no other. For the first time in history, all seven Canadian teams will battle each other exclusively during the regular season. That includes long time rivals Toronto and Montreal, plus Calgary and Edmonton, playing each other ten times this season. The Maple Leafs are listed as top favorites to win the North Division while the Canadiens and Oilers round out the top three.
North Division Pick: Edmonton Oilers (+450) at DraftKings
NHL East Division Championship Futures Odds
Consisting of six teams from the Metropolitan Division, plus two teams from the Atlantic Division, the East Division is stacked with playoff caliber teams. That includes Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and Pittsburgh who are listed as top 10 contenders to win the Stanley Cup. Additionally, the Rangers and Islanders both made the playoffs last year. Buffalo and New Jersey face a challenging season in the East, which will feature playoff style action on nightly basis.
East Division Pick: Washington Capitals (+400) at DraftKings
NHL West Division Championship Futures Odds
Extremely close at the top, DraftKings has Colorado (+165) and Vegas (+175) as near co-favorites to win the West Division. The Avalanche finished second in the Central Division last year while the Golden Knights won the Pacific Division. After winning the Stanley Cup two years ago, and finishing first the Central last season, St. Louis (+500) is the third favorite. The other five teams finished in the bottom six overall last season and missed the Western Conference playoffs.
West Division Pick: Colorado Avalanche (+165) at DraftKings
NHL Central Division Championship Futures Odds
Given their top chalk status to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, it’s not a surprise that Tampa Bay (+125) is the top favorite to win the Central Division. Carolina (+350) and Dallas (+500) round out the top three teams. In a rematch of the 2020 Stanley Cup finals, the Avalanche and Stars will play each other eight times this season. It’s worth noting that Detroit is the only team in this division that missed the expanded playoffs and did not have a winning record last year.
Central Division Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning (+125) at DraftKings