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NHL Division Futures: Dark-Horse Candidates

NHL betting is back in business, but the shortened 56-game season means NHL Futures outcomes are right around the bend. online sports betting allows us to bet on just about anything, quick and easy, all with a few clicks. Our sportsbook offers several intriguing NHL Divisions odds options, with some high-reward dark horse teams to consider.

This article will identify one dark-horse candidate from each of the four NHL divisions. Quite often, the favorite doesn’t win when it’s supposed to, and there is money to be made on high-probability longshots. Let’s go hunting for the Golden Goose together.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Boston Bruins during the second period at TD Garden on January 28
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

NHL Central: Columbus Blue Jackets (+1100)

The Columbus Blue Jackets are a feisty bunch and have proven to be formidable. Last season, Columbus was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the eventual Stanley Cup champions 4-1. However, the Blue Jackets pushed the Tampa Bay Lightning to five overtime periods in that pivotal first game.

All four Columbus losses came by one goal, and Tampa Bay barely survived this matchup despite only losing once. The Blue Jackets forced OT again in the elimination game but eventually buckled under the Lighting’s overpowering pull towards destiny. Columbus is currently alone in first place atop the Central Division, two points ahead of Tampa Bay and Florida.

RW Oliver Bjorkstrand leads the team with eight points and seems to be taking his game to the next level. D Michael Del Zotto is playing phenomenal hockey since coming over from the Ducks and provides much-needed veteran blue-line depth. Columbus recently completed a blockbuster trade with Winnipeg, bringing in RW Patrik Laine and C Jack Roslovic for Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Blue Jackets are currently projected as the sixth-most likely team to win the Central, and are an excellent value pick at +1100.

NHL East: Pittsburgh Penguins (+385)

It would be straight-forward to select the Washington Capitals since they’re in first place and haven’t lost a game. However, the Capitals are likely to tumble to Earth as the shortened season wears on. The Penguins, meanwhile, might have just been thrust into a do-or-die situation for their current squad.

Pittsburgh’s GM Jim Rutherford shocked the NHL world this week by walking away from the team for “personal reasons”. There is legitimate speculation that if the Penguins don’t succeed this season, a bonafide rebuild may be in order. This rebuilding process would likely include trading C Sidney Crosby and/or C Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin is in the final year of his contract next season and would bring the Penguins several assets in return. Crosby still has four years left on his contract and has a full no-movement clause, but can approve a move. All of a sudden, Pittsburgh is pressed into a corner from a performance standpoint, which makes the Pens dangerous.

Remember, the core of this group has won two Stanley Cups together in Pittsburgh (2016, 2017). Crosby has had a hand in three Cup victories for the Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017), and this predicament favors him. Look out for Pittsburgh going forward. Check out the latest player props for the Devils vs Panthers game.

NHL North: Vancouver Canucks (+1000)

The Canucks completed a three-game sweep of the Senators, and are tied for second place in the North. Vancouver downed Winnipeg on Saturday and faces Montreal and Toronto five times next week. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs are certainly within reach, and the Canucks have already proven what they’re capable of.

Last season, Vancouver vanquished Minnesota 3-1 in the Qualifying Round, then eliminated the reigning Cup Champion St. Louis Blues 4-2. The Canucks lost in the Second Round to the Golden Knights, but it was an exhilarating series that went seven. Vancouver showed flashes of brilliance, and are an interesting wager to be the Kings of the North at +1000.

NHL West: St. Louis Blues (+385)

It’s strange to cast the St. Louis Blues as dark horses to win the West Division, but here we are. One season removed from being Stanley Cup champions, the Blues are rated as third-most likely to win the West. Both the Golden Knights (+135) and the Avalanche (+140) are projected as more probable to clinch the division.

St. Louis showed a lot of grit and skill in defeating Las Vegas 5-4 in a shootout on Jan 26. This Blues team is stacked with talent, and they’re the only squad that has proven their championship pedigree. In 2019, St. Louis hoisted the Stanley Cup, and in 2020 the Blues tallied more points (94) than anyone else in the Western Conference.

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