Year Of The Dog? 2017 NHL Futures

You know, the only thing tougher than being a Dolphins fan is being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Anyone who knows hockey (and especially any Canadian) knows the significance of the year 1967. No, it's not quite as noteworthy as the Cubs century streak. But 1967 was the last year the Leafs won the Stanley Cup.  There were only six teams in the league at the time. Since then, not only have the Loafs (no that's not a typo) never won a Cup, they've never even played in the Finals. Beyond embarrassing. But after years, decades even, of incompetent management, the Leafers' front office finally got their act together with the hiring of the legendary Brendan Shanahan and head coach Mike Babcock. And they've built a team of incredible young stars who have finally turned this franchise around in the self-proclaimed center of the hockey universe. William Nylander, Mitch Marner and the stallion out of Phoenix Auston Matthews. These kids took the President's Trophy winner Washington to the brink last year, so you shouldn't be surprised if they make a deep run this year. Yes, there are some questions on defense and between the pipes, but the value is there. I'm going with the Toronto Maple Leafs (+1400) to finally lead that mythical parade down Yonge Street as NHL Stanley Cup Champions.

If you're looking at some of the top contenders and thinking about making a more conservative play, you've got some options. Obviously, the Pittsburgh Penguins remain a major threat to repeat. Sidney Crosby is still the most talented player in the game today (sorry Connor…McDavid not McGregor). Kessel and Malkin round out an offensive threat that is simply unmatched. Speaking of McDavid, Edmonton will be everyone's worst nightmare in the playoffs. They're young like the Leafs, but far more experienced and with more depth. And Ovechkin and the Capitals are always a threat in spite of their post-season incompetence. But I'm going with a semi-unconventional pick. This might be Steven Stamkos' last chance in Tampa Bay, I like all-star defenseman Victor Hedman and this could be a breakout year for goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. I'm striking out with the Tampa Bay Lightning (+1100).

Now, for those high-risk, high-reward types out there, I've got to say that hockey is not like football. Hockey is definitely more unpredictable and while I would be shocked if any of these teams makes a run, in the immortal words of Angels in the Outfield: "It could happen". Anything that is over +3000, I wouldn't even consider. But if you insist, why not the Vegas Golden Knights at +12000? I mean, you could say that what happens in Vegas means your money's staying in Vegas. But there is one line that really jumps out at me. I really like the value on the Boston Bruins (+2500). This team still boasts some wily, hard-nosed veterans like Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand (perhaps the most irritating player in the entire league). And I actually really liked the acquisition of David Backes last summer. Goaltender Tuukka Rask has over fifty playoff games under his belt. This team doesn't exactly possess the talent, but they definitely possess the requisite grit and determination necessary for a deep playoff run.