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NHL handicapper Pete Truszkowski makes his debut on Oddschecker with his early analysis on the Stanley Cup futures market. He picks three outsiders worthy of a wager

Recommended Stanley Cup Longshots:

Minnesota Wild 50/1 (+5000) - Click Here To Bet

New York Islanders 50/1 (+5000) - Click Here To Bet

Florida Panthers 66/1 (+6600) - Click Here To Bet

NHL hockey hasn’t been played in a competitive fashion since March 11th, over 4 and a half months ago. The league returns 24 of it’s 31 teams to play a tournament beginning in August to crown a Stanley Cup Champion. In a sport that already lends itself to randomness, variance and luck when played under normal circumstances, these new factors only increase those factors.

When you hear words like random, variance and luck thrown around, your mind should immediately turn to longshots. Teams you usually wouldn’t give a real chance can surprise in these extenuating circumstances. During a normal season, teams get into a rhythm and we can evaluate their form and where they stand. We’re going in blind here. I’ve listed three lottery tickets who are currently priced at 50-1 or better that I think are worth a punt.

Minnesota Wild (+5000)

Minnesota was right on the playoff bubble when the season was suspended, and if they continued to play the way they were playing they likely would have made the playoffs. The Wild won 8 of their last 11 games, but let’s be honest, that hardly seems relevant at this point almost 20 weeks later.

What is relevant is that this is a team that severely underperformed based on their underlying metrics. Minnesota was the second best team in the league in terms of expected goals allowed per 60 minutes according to Evolving-Hockey. Over the last three seasons, they are the best team in that category, with an expected goals against of 1.97 per game. The Wild are an elite defensive team that has received average at best goaltending. Devan Dubnyk, in particular, struggled. He was league worst in ‘goals save above expected’

In terms of team performance, they were the best team in the league in terms of percent of high danger chances with near 57%. They were the 4th best team in the league in expected goals percentage. This is a team that has been brought down by their goaltending, but thankfully they are a team that limits high quality chances against them. When you control the quality of chances like Minnesota does, you’re worth a shot at 50-1.

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New York Islanders (+5000)

Full disclosure: I am a fan of the New York Islanders. You can disregard this if you wish.

Now, let me make my case.

In this bizarre world where hockey is played in August and Opening Day is actually the playoffs and there’s no crowd and you’re secluded in a bubble in Canada, things like experience, maturity and leadership might matter more than they usually do.

The Islanders General Manager is Lou Lamoriello. Lou is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder. He’s known for his military-like approach to team culture. The Islanders head coach is Barry Trotz. Trotz won the Stanley Cup with Washington in 2018. In 2019, with the Islanders, he won the Jack Adams trophy, given to the league’s top head coach. The Islanders have one of the oldest teams in the league when you look at average age.

In addition, when you look at the Islanders, there is absolutely nothing about this team that stands out. They are a pretty poor team when it comes to puck possession. They are below average when it comes to expected goals. They are average when it comes to high danger chance rates. They are 10th in terms of 5on5 save percentage and 19th in 5on5 shooting percentage, both on the outer-edges of what one would consider average. Outside of Mat Barzal, nobody on the roster “wows” you with their talent.

However, this is a team that plays low-scoring, close games. This is a team that bought into their coaches’ system that keeps them in every single game. We talked about variance and randomness, and the Islanders are definitely a team that plays a system that lends itself to that.

Finally, the Islanders started the season 16-3-1. They had a 17 game point streak. So this is a team that has shown they can come out of the gates red hot, and this is a team that has shown they can go on an extended streak. These are two factors that lend itself towards success in a tournament like this.

Florida Panthers (+6600)

Wait, how are you going to hype up the Panthers when you just hyped up the Islanders? Don’t they play each other in round 1? Yes, yes they do. I just told you I absolutely don’t think the Islanders are anything special. That series is a toss-up, as can be seen by the series price (Isles are -120 favorites.)

The Florida Panthers are absolutely more talented than the Islanders. They have offensive weapons like Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Hoffman, Alexander Barkov and Evgeni Dadonov. They were 6th in the league in goals per game scoring 3.3 goals per game. They might not be a team that stands out in terms of underlying statistics, where they are below average basically across the board.

The weirdest part of this whole tournament is that it’s playoff hockey (which has a reputation as low-scoring, grinding hockey) but it’s also season-opening hockey (October is always the highest scoring month in the NHL as teams and goalies shake off the cob-webs). Nobody could honestly tell you which style we will see in this tournament. If it’s October hockey, you can see high scoring games across the league. This is a situation where the Panthers can keep up with any team.

The Panthers had the lowest 5on5 save percentage of any team in this tournament. This must be extremely disappointing for the organization considering prior to this season, they paid goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. He received a 7 year, 70 million dollar contract. Bobrovsky was the weakest link on this team all season long. What we do know from the past is that Bobrovsky is obviously capable and up until the last season or two, was considered one of the best goalies in the league. He has won the Vezina trophy as the league’s best goalie twice in the past seven years. It is definitely possible that Bobrovsky can find his game after four-plus months off. If Bobrovsky can get hot for two months, which he’s definitely capable of, then this poor first season will be forgotten.

66-1 odds implies a probability of 1.5% and I think any team that can score like the Panthers and has a goalie with the known ability of Sergei Bobrovsky has a higher chance than that to go on a run.


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