The 2017/18 NHL season is in full swing and plenty of 888sport punters will be trying to predict the winner of this year’s Stanley Cup. Finishing top of your division is one thing but pipping 29 rivals to the crown is another – although that task became tougher at the start of this season with the introduction of a 31st team, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Most people expected plenty of glitz and glamour from the Vegas organisation but nobody truly expected the Golden Knights to compete at the NHL summit. Currently priced at 14/1 to win the Stanley Cup with 888sport, the Vegas Golden Knights are surely worth a small wager. After all, they may be inexperienced but they are hungry to make history.
Knights In Shining, Golden Armour For Neutrals?
Leading the Pacific Division by nine points at the time of writing, Vegas are in pole position to give themselves a good chance of going far in the playoffs. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning (175) have scored more goals than the Golden Knights (164) this season and they also boast the third best defensive record in the Western Conference.
With three players on the roster recording 40 points or more, it has been a real team effort for Vegas this campaign. David Perron, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault have been in supreme form and they are showing no signs of slowing down. On current form, the Golden Knights will take some stopping.
Flash of Lightning; Don’t Write Tampa Bay Off
The 2004 Stanley Cup winners look well placed to push on and challenge for ice hockey’s ultimate prize if they can hit top form at the business end of the year. Blessed with talent in attack and reliability in defence, Tampa Bay are arguably the most complete side in the NHL and that is why 888sport have priced the Lightning at 11/2 to go all the way.
Everywhere you look, Tampa Bay are stacked with game changers and match winners. From goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, currently leading the league in wins, to Nikita Kucherov, who leads the league in total points, the Lightning have enough quality to put most of their rivals to the sword. A second Stanley Cup beckons.
Led By Ovechkin, The Capitals Can Prevail
Washington have been THE standout team during the regular season in each of the last two years, winning at least 55 of their fixtures in both seasons. And the Capitals have wasted no time whatsoever in building a lead at the top of the Metropolitan Division once again; Barry Trotz’s side are six points clear after winning 29 of their 49 matches so far.
Not for the first time, Alexander Ovechkin’s prowess in front of goal is a major reason for their dominance. The Russian, selected by Washington with the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, is sitting pretty at the top of the goal scoring charts with 30. A first Stanley Cup title continues to elude their grasp but that could change with a bit of luck.
North Of The Border, Toronto Are In The Hunt
When you have Auston Matthews fully fit, anything can happen. The first overall pick from the 2016 NHL Draft has had to carry the weight of expectation but boy is he talented. It has been a frustrating year for Matthews; he has had to deal with a few injury issues but has still managed to notch 37 points (22 goals, 15 assists) in just 41 appearances.
At one stage, Toronto were neck-and-neck with Tampa Bay but the Canadian side have tailed off in recent weeks. The Maple Leafs have won just five of their last 10 games and this short break comes at a good time. Their 17/1 price is a good one but Toronto must regroup and focus on turning their form around – every victory is crucial.
Central Division: Experienced Predators Or Hungry Jets?
Take your pick here, it is very difficult to split the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets on current form. The Predators have finished inside the top four in each of the last three years and another playoff berth looks very likely indeed. Despite their recent struggles, you would still say that Nashville are perhaps better equipped to succeed in the playoffs.
And then we have the Jets. In years gone by, Winnipeg have struggled to inspire confidence in the NHL playoff race – the Canadian side have qualified for the postseason just once in six seasons. With 29 wins already and still 32 games to play, Winnipeg look well placed to set a new franchise record for victories in a single season. This division is up for grabs…
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*