The puck drops on the 2021 NHL regular season with five games Wednesday. The Colorado Avalanche open as the +700 Stanley Cup favorites at William Hill Sportsbook. The Avs winning a title would be a bad result for the book in terms of futures action taken thus far, as would the Vegas Golden Knights (+800) winning their first championship or the Toronto Maple Leafs (+1200) ending the NHL's longest title drought.
The 31 teams have realigned in four new divisions for this season only, including one for the seven teams based in Canada. All teams will play 56 regular-season games – in theory, although there likely will be postponements/cancelations as is happening in the NBA right now – and all inside their division. The top four teams in each division will qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Colorado is usually in the Central Division but will play in the West this year with a handful of usual Pacific Division teams minus the Canadian clubs as well as former Central Division clubs Arizona, St. Louis and Minnesota. The Avs reached the Western Conference semifinals last year and lost to Dallas in seven games. Colorado is mostly back intact after finishing fourth in scoring in the 2019-20 regular season.
At William Hill, eight percent of all tickets sold to win the Stanley Cup are on the Avalanche as is eight percent of all money wagered. Those totals are second on both lists. Colorado hasn't been to the Stanley Cup Final since winning it in 2001.
The Golden Knights were the William Hill favorites to win the Cup entering the 2020 bubble playoffs, but they lost in the conference finals to Dallas in five games. Vegas was involved in the biggest free-agent signing of the offseason, landing former Blues captain and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo on a seven-year, $61.4 million contract. Vegas also re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner, a midseason trade addition from Chicago who supplanted Marc-Andre Fleury as the No. 1 in Sin City.
Vegas has taken a league-high 11 percent of all tickets sold at William Hill to win the Cup and is third in money wagered action at eight percent. The West Division looks like it could be very tough at the top with the Avalanche, Golden Knights and Blues (+2000 to win Stanley Cup). Colorado is a +160 division favorite.
No team from Canada has won the Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993, and the Leafs have by far the shortest odds of any of the country's seven teams this season. Toronto's last Cup win was in 1967. That drought includes the entire expansion era, and all of the other Original Six teams have won at least one Cup since.
The Leafs have made the playoffs four straight seasons but have flopped in each, going one-and-done. They were upset by the Columbus Blue Jackets in their five-game qualifier back in August even though the Leafs were playing on home ice.
Toronto has not advanced since knocking off Ottawa in Game 7 of a 2004 first-round series. However, a league-high 13 percent of all money wagered at William Hill to win the Cup is on the Leafs.
The defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning are +750 to repeat but aren't in the top five of tickets sold or money wagered at William Hill. Tampa Bay will unveil its Stanley Cup banner Wednesday night before hosting Chicago even though no fans will be allowed in attendance. The Lightning suffered one massive offseason hit when superstar Nikita Kucherov was ruled out for the regular season due to hip surgery. He might be back for the playoffs.
In 2018-19, Kucherov won the Hart Trophy as MVP and Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer when he had a career-high 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) in 82 games. His 529 points over the past six seasons are tied with Chicago's Patrick Kane for the most in the NHL through that span.
William Hill Stanley Cup favorites
- Avalanche +700
- Lightning +750
- Golden Knights +800
- Maple Leafs +1200
- Bruins +1200
- Penguins +1600
- Flyers +1600
- Capitals +1800
- Stars +1800