Divisional Previews

The divisions for the 2021 NHL season will be look entirely different than fans will historically remember. We’ve got the East, Central, West and North divisions laid out to start the year off. Canadian fans will get their share of historically significant matchups with eastern fans tuned in towards Toronto/Montreal while out west Edmonton/Calgary see their paths also cross 10 times.

NHL North Division

Odds and photo credit to Vegasinsider.com
Toronto Maple LeafsDivision Odds +150Stanley Cup Odds +1100

Toronto gets due credit as the team favored to win the division and is a top 5 contender for the Stanley Cup this year. Led up front by (C) John Tavares (C) Austin Matthews and (RW) Mitch Marner the team is loaded with talent. What sets them apart from some other contending teams is the depth that they’ve smartly added (D) TJ Brodie, (LW) Joe Thorton and (RW) Wayne Simmonds. These additions to an already stout team give them the depth, size and veteran presence to take them deep into the post season as Canada’s most well-rounded team.

Edmonton OilersDivision Odds +300Stanley Cup Odds +2700

The Edmonton Oilers aim to assert themselves as the top team in the west. Headlined by Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and one of the top powerplay units across the entire league the Oilers are looking to take a step forward to potentially win the division. The additions of (C) Kyle Turris and (D) Tyson Barrie look to be positives from a contract and lineup standpoint. The Oilers will be without (D) Oscar Klefbom this season as he was placed on the IR this week. Well known to Oiler fans for the minutes he logs and the shots he blocks this will be a big loss for the team looking and it will leave a big hole on the team’s top defensive unit.

Vancouver CanucksDivision Odds +450Stanley Cup Odds +4000

In Vancouver the Canucks will continue with familiar faces filling their roster. The lone big move of the teams offseason was the signing of free agent (G) Braden Holtby. Moving on from Jacob Markstrom the Canucks will be hoping to capitalize on the experience and competitive nature that Holtby possesses. (RW) Tyler Toffoli, who seemed to be a good fit with the team down the stretch in 2020 left as an RFA and is now with Montreal. (C) Elias Pettersson is the face of the franchise and will be one of the top Fantasy options for 2021 and could even enter the conversation as a top-5 center by the end of the 2021 season.

Calgary FlamesDivision Odds +550Stanley Cup Odds +3700

Calgary and the Flames project in the middle of the pack in the North Division. The addition of Jacob Markstrom in goal looks to address the biggest area of need for the Flames. Lately we’ve heard talk about Monahan and Gaudreau being split up with the idea of splitting the talent between the team’s top two lines. The Flames will be an interesting watch early in the season, though starting as a mid-range team in the division they have the potential to realize considerable success or plummet down the standings if they can’t keep up in scoring with the other teams in this high power division.

Montreal CanadiensDivision Odds +650Stanley Cup Odds +3200

The Montreal Canadians have found a group of players who they feel highly about this season and have signed multiple players to long term contracts. (RW) Josh Anderson 7yrs, (RW) Tyler Toffoli 4yrs, (D) Jeff Petry 4yrs and Brendan Gallagher 6yrs. They weren’t done there, also adding veteran wingers Corey Perry and Michael Frolik to give the team a well rounded pair of players who can play throughout lines 2-4. The identity of the Franchise has been (G) Carey Price and his tremendous performances year in year out. While Price is now 33y/o he still has the ability to steal a game in any given matchup.

Winnipeg JetsDivision Odds +900Stanley Cup Odds +4000

The Winnipeg Jets come into the 2021 season with long odds to win the division even only two years removed from being considered potentially the top team in Canada. The Jets have been stuck in a difficult spot defensively after Dustin Byfuglien left the team in what was quietly swept under the rug as an ugly scenario between team and player. With a below average defensive corps its difficult to trust that Winnipeg can look to contend with Toronto and Edmonton in the division. The jets traded to get Paul Stastny back in a move that should have many Jets fan enthusiastically reminding themselves of the previous success Stastny enjoyed as a high end two-way center in the NHL for a variety of NHL teams. The identity of the Jets in 2021 looks to be the performance of the top power play unit featuring superstars (C) Mark Scheiffele, (RW) Blake Wheeler, (RW) Patrik Laine and (LW) Kyle Connor.

Ottawa SenatorsDivision Odds +2000Stanley Cup Odds +20000

The Ottawa Senators will be glossed over by most hockey fans as being a down market club in a full fledged rebuild. Looking down the roster for the Senators nearly every second player is a new face for the team. (LW)Brady Tkachuk, (D)Thomas Chabot and (RW)Evgenii Dadonov lead the way for the Senators while young prospects like (LW)Tim Stuetzle and (RW) Colin White offer some reasons for optimism beyond 2021. Look to avoid the Ottawa Senators in your coming fantasy hockey drafts and tread carefully with expectations for (G) Matt Murray who came over from Pittsburgh in the off-season via trade.

NHL East Division

Odds and photo credit to Vegasinsider.com
Boston Bruins Division Odds +250Stanley Cup Odds +1400

Boston opens the season as the odds on favorite to win the East division which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. They’ve confidently won the division title 5 times in their last 12 seasons and look to be a Stanley Cup contender as they are well-built from the crease outward and boast one of the NHL’s best top lines. According to the latest news from the team Brad Marchand will be ready for opening day but they will be without their star RW, David Pastrnak for an undetermined amount of time. The team announced January 2nd that he had been placed on the Injured Reserve while he continues to recover from off season surgery in September.

Philadelphia FlyersDivision Odds +350Stanley Cup Odds +1700

Close behind is a group of teams who are division contenders led by the Philadelphia Flyers who notably exceeded expectations as an outstanding post season team in 2020. Carter Hart is one of the leagues top young goalie’s and will surely be as one of the NHL elite’s by the years end. The Flyers were quiet in the off season, most notably extending (D) Philippe Myers by 3yrs.

Pittsburgh PenguinsDivision Odds +450Stanley Cup Odds +2200

Pittsburgh said goodbye to (G) Matt Murray who departs to Ottawa and looks to go forward with (G) Trystan Jarry between the pipes as he signed a 3yr extension. On their blue line the Penguins finalized a 6yr extension with John Marino who exploded last season and looks to be the cornerstone of the team’s defensive corps.

Washington CapitalsDivision Odds +500Stanley Cup Odds +2000

Washington, a perennial playoff contender, adds (D) Zdeno Chara on the blue line gaining a veteran presence who is still regarded around the league as one of the most difficult defenders to play against. (G) Braden Holtby heads out west to Vancouver, the team will move on with (G) Ilya Samsonov as their starting goaltender. (D) Justin Schultz comes over from Pittsburgh on a 2yr deal.

New York IslandersDivision Odds +600Stanley Cup Odds +3000

The New York Islanders had a quiet off-season, making most minor moves with players on two-way contracts. (D) Ryan Pulock stands out as the most notable move to date when he signed a 2yr deal with the team. Overshadowing a quiet off-season, we are currently waiting on (C) Mathew Barzal to predictively receive a contract extension before the start of the NHL season. It’s worth note that Barzal is on the ice at training camp.

New York RangersDivision Odds +800Stanley Cup Odds +3300

The New York Rangers enter the season with (LW) Alexis Lafreniere, the 1st overall pick from this season’s expected to take the ice in the teams season opener. Lafreniere brings a lot of excitement to a team that found its stride offensively in 2019-2020. He will join (RW) Kappo Kaako and (D) Anthony Deangelo as exciting young players already making an impact at an NHL level. Should the Rangers exceed expectations with their young goalies (G) Georgiev and (G) Shesterkin, the ceiling for their success could be near the top of the division.

Buffalo SabresDivision Odds +1400Stanley Cup Odds +6000

The Buffalo Sabres were one of the leagues most exciting teams in the off-season adding (LW) Taylor Hall and (C) Eric Staal to a group of forwards which already included (C) Jack Eichel, (LW) Jeff Skinner and (RW) Victor Olofsson. The area of weakness for the Sabres appears to be in the crease as they will be relying on the pair of (G) Linus Ullmark and (G) Carter Hutton to backstop them to any type of success they hope to realize. From a fantasy perspective Buffalo is intriguing as it can ice an elite level powerplay group and has elite level talent developing on the blue line in Rasmus Dahlin.

New Jersey DevilsDivision Odds +2000Stanley Cup Odds +7000

Things aren’t very bright in New Jersey this season as the team is moored in a rebuild, especially on the wing, as (RW) Kyle Palmieri has played nearly the same amount of NHL games as the rest of the teams starting lineup combined. A few bright spots do exist for the team as (G) Corey Crawford who signed a 2yr deal in October looks to be clear from his concussion problems which he’s battled of the past few years. (C) Jack Hughes will be a player to watch in 2021 as he enters his second season in the NHL. To begin the year a lot will be asked of Hughes as Nico Hischier will not be ready to start the season for the Devils. (RW) Nikita Gusev is a player who is could give you an edge in Fantasy drafts this season as he plays the point on the Devils top power play unit and top line.

NHL Central Division

Odds and photo credit to Vegasinsider.com
Tampa Bay LightningDivision Odds +125Stanley Cup Odds +750

Tampa Bay retains its odds as the division favorite in 2021 even with the recent announcement that (RW) Nikita Kucherov will miss the entire 2021 season having surgery on his injured hip. This is a crushing blow for Tampa Bay as a significant amount of the offense flows through him 5 on 5 and on the powerplay. For many teams this would be impossible to recover from but for Tampa Bay who is flush with superstars in (G) Andrei Vasilevsky, (RW) Steven Stamkos, (C) Braden Point, (D) Victor Hedman along with a blend of youth and veteran experience. Tampa Bay can still be regarded as a top option in the NHL from a playoff and Fantasy perspective.

Carolina HurricanesDivision Odds +400Stanley Cup Odds +2000

The Carolina Hurricanes surmount the Dallas Stars as the second favorite team in the central divsion from an odds perspective. The Hurricanes are a very well balanced team between their forward and defensive groups. (D) Dougie Hamilton revived his career in 2019-2020 and became, once again, regarded as one of the leagues elite offensive defenders. The year over year development of (C) Sebastian Aho, (RW) Teuvo Terravainen and (LW) Andrei Svechnikov is no longer an unknown presence to hockey fans across North America. The trio finished the season just under a point per game from an offensive perspective and combined to be a +39 in regular season action.

Dallas StarsDivision Odds +500Stanley Cup Odds +2500

The Dallas Stars come in 3rd in the pre season odds to win the Central division after charming fans with a Cinderella like playoff performance before eventually running into the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals. (G) Ben Bishop had surgery on his right knee in late October and his time table to return is March 2021. This projects him to miss 1.5-2.5 months of action in a condensed season. Bishop has been a big part of the Dallas success over years past turning in one of the leagues best save % and GAA. Fortunately, Dallas has been able to rely on the elite level play from Anton Khudobin who we hope can make it to training camp in time to shake off the dust before the regular season kicks off. Unfortunately for Dallas (C) Tyler Seguin also had surgery on his injured hip and is projected to miss 5 months of action in 2021.

Columbus Blue JacketsDivision Odds +700Stanley Cup Odds +4500

The Columbus Blue Jackets made some news in the off-season acquiring (C) Max Domi from the Montreal Canadians in exchange for Josh Anderson. The deal looks to be one which is aimed at shaking up Domi on a new club with new team mates. Multiple forwards look to try and bounce back this season for the Blue Jackets who come in with one of the least enticing groups from a skill perspective after the departure of Artemi Panarin prior to the 2019-2020 season left them lacking in production up front. Conversely the defensive group for Columbus is stout and contributes offensively lead by (D) Seth Jones and (D) Zach Werenski. Young goaltenders (G) Joonas Korpisalo and (G) Elvis Merzlikins are by league standards average goalies. If one can take a step forward in 2021 this team can compete for a playoff position.

Nashville PredatorsDivision Odds +700Stanley Cup Odds +2600

Nashville and the Predators have bolstered one of, if not, the top defensive group in the NHL for years. In October that group got even stronger by the addition of (D) Matt Borowiecki from Ottawa on a 2yr deal and unsung (D) Matt Benning from the Edmonton Oilers. The transition for the Predators has been taking place in net as Pekka Rinne has lost the regard we are used to holding him in and is now considered even with or to be backing up Jusse Saros going forward. Nashville may lack the talent levels through their 2nd and 3rd lines to be able to compete with the other playoff level teams but will benefit themselves from being able to hold off opposing offences through a stout defensive structure and roster.

Chicago BlackhawksDivision Odds +1200Stanley Cup Odds +6500

Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of a potentially rocky start to the 2021 season as (C) Johnathan Toews has been placed on the IR with and Illness, (C) Kirby Dach is also on the IR with a wrist injury suffered in a pre-tournament game for team Canada in WJHC and will miss a considerable amount of time in the condensed season. The Blackhawks will feature Malcom Subban in net this year after he signed a 2-yr contract as a free agent. To start the 2021 season Chicago will lean heavily on (C) Dylan Strome to log considerable minutes playing along side (RW) Patrick Kane, (LW) Alex Debrincat and the young star we saw explode last season, (LW) Dominik Kubalik.

Florida PanthersDivision Odds +1200Stanley Cup Odds +3500

For the Florida Panthers 2021 projects to be a difficult year where they look to find a spark from newly acquired (RW) Anthony Duclair and young hopeful (LW) Owen Tippett. (G) Sergei Bobrovsky remains in town with high expectations and an even higher contract as he is signed through 2026 when he will be 37y/o. For the Panthers they will likely be on the outside of playoff contention and will surely struggle in a division where they will face Tampa Bay and Carolina 9-10 times each.

Detroit Red WingsDivision Odds +3000Stanley Cup Odds +35000

Rounding out the divisional projections are the lowly Detroit Red Wings. Its hard to get excited about much this year in Detroit as one of the leagues proudest and longest standing playoff dependable teams is knee deep in efforts to rebuild the club around young talent and promising goaltending. Enter (G) Thomas Greiss who came over from the Islanders after signing a 2yr contract. Greiss will surely see plenty of action this year behind what projects to be the weakest defensive corps in the NHL. While on offense the Red Wings have talented names such as (C) Dylan Larkin, (RW) Anthony Mantha and (LW) Tyler Bertuzzi they lack the depth as it carries through their lineup to be able to line-match with any NHL teams. This is sure to be a painful season for Red Wing fans.

NHL West Division

Odds and photo credit to Vegasinsider.com
Colorado AvalancheDivision Odds +150Stanley Cup Odds +600

The Colorado Avalanche open the 2021 NHL season as the odds on favorite to win the Stanley cup and are regarded by many as the leagues most complete roster. Lead by (C) Nathan Mackinnon who plays on a line with (LW) Gabriel Landeskog and (RW) Mikko Rantanen the Avalanche have one of the leagues best first line. Complementing the high end offensive skill is (C) Nazem Kadri who has earned a name for himself as one of the leagues best shut down centermen. Kadri will open the season with (RW) Brandon Saad, whoe came over in a deal for (D) Nikita Zadorov, and (LW) Andrew Burakovsky. The defensive unit for Colorado is very well rounded with +/- leader (D) Ryan Graves emerging in 2019 as a reliable shut down defender paying dividends with (D) Cale Makar showing that he deserves consideration as one of the leagues elite offensive defensemen even at the young age of 22.

Vegas Golden KnightsDivision Odds +180Stanley Cup Odds +900

Nipping at Colorado’s heals and also a betting favorite for the Stanley cup finals are the Vegas Golden Knights who made waves in the postseason, going forward with (G) Robin Lehner as their starter. (G) Fleury, a hall of fame level goaltender could serve to be one of the premier trade targets in 2021 should a team be in need of an upgrade towards the playoffs. For the Golden Knights the team remains very similar with the only note worthy mention being the 7 year contract signed by Alex Pietrangelo. The forward group remains very similar to last season and continues to be one of the leauges premiere goal scoring groups.

St Louis BluesDivision Odds +300Stanley Cup Odds +2000

Seemingly impossibly close to both Colorado and Vegas the St Louis Blues have lost nothing in the way of steam heading into 2021. 2 years removed from their Stanley Cup win the Blues are backstopped by star (G) Jordan Binnington. The Blues are one of the leagues best at line matching with opponents, especially while at home given the upside of having the last change. The departure in 2019-2020 of (D) Alex Pietrangelo would seem impossible to overcome from a defensive standpoint but somehow the Blues managed to land (D) Torey Krug in the off season and add him to a group that already has (D) Colton Parayko and (D) Justin Faulk under contract. Offensively the Blues have their fair share of firepower but look for star Vladimir Tarasenko to recover from his second shoulder surgery and be able to rejoin the team in 5 months time for a playoff run.

Minnesota WildDivision Odds +1800Stanley Cup Odds +5000

Minnesota and the Wild project as the next team up following a significant drop off in divisional odds. To say that he Wild look to be irrelevant amidst the superstar teams in the West would be a stretch but they lack the offensive upside that the previously mentioned group boast and have some questions about the shape of their Goaltending group for 2021. (G) Cam Talbot takes the place of (G) Devan Dubnyk and will lead a timeshare with (G) Alex Stalock through the 2021 season. Both goalies have had stretches of success in their careers but are going to need to receive some run support in order to hang tough with some of offensive lineups they will face. Mats Zuccarelo is still recovering from surgery that sidelined him before he could gel with his new team in 2020 and is projected to miss considerable time in 2021. Minnesota projects to be one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL this year.

Arizona CoyotesDivision Odds +1800Stanley Cup Odds +600

Arizona Coyotes evenly slated with the wild come in with the leagues least recognized superstars in (G) Darcy Kuemper. Through the loss of Taylor Hall in the off season they are now a different team offensively as Hall will no longer be driving the teams top line. The strength of the Coyotes skaters can be found on defense with (D) Oliver Ekman-Larsson and (D) Jacob Chychrun are two of the league capable in terms of an offensive / shut down pair. While each plays on a separate pairing the Coyotes are strong from the crease out and should limit scoring from opponents. Up front the forward group has a mix of veterans like (RW) Phil Kessel and (C) Derek Brassard combined with some young talent in (LW) Clayton Keller, (RW) Conor Garland and rookie (C) Barret Hayton. A year worth of development at the NHL level for these young players would go a long way towards realizing successes and identity up front.

Los Angeles KingsDivision Odds +1800Stanley Cup Odds +8500

Los Angeles Kings come in as another long shot in a division of super power teams. Quinton Byfield may be the most exciting player yet to come for this organization who has seen veteran forwards like (C) Anze Kopitar, (RW) Dustin Brown as perennial place holders for the team as they work through the second half of their careers. Defensively (D) Drew Doughty is still the identity of this franchise and is one of the hardest players to play against for opposing superstars. The Kings appear to be outmatch in a division with Colorado, Vegas and St Louis.

San Jose SharksDivision Odds +1800Stanley Cup Odds +550

Curiously the San Jose Sharks project in the same mix of teams as Los Angeles, Arizona and Minnesota but flash some incredible name value presences along both their blue line and up front. (D) Brent Burns and (D) Erik Karlsson are two of the NHL’s most amazing players and are capable of adding an incredible element to their teams along. Add in the talent levels of the returning forward group for the Sharks which includes (C) Logan Couture, (LW) Evander Kane, (LW) Timo Meier and (C) Tomas Hertl and many pieces of the puzzle are already in place for a high scoring offense. (G) Martin Jones and (G) Devan Dubnyk will need to rebound this season after horrible 2019-2020 campaigns if the Sharks have a chance to make the playoffs.

Anaheim DucksDivision Odds +3000Stanley Cup Odds +6000

Anaheim and the Ducks rank down near the bottom of the league with the Red Wings for the likely lottery front runners for the 2021 NHL draft class. The team projects to be weak up front and conversely unlikely to be able to keep up with many divisional opponents in scoring. While familiar names and faces from their 2014-2016 group have moved on or fizzled out the Ducks have yet to find players capable of replacing them at the high level that the NHL demands. For the 2021 season the Ducks will look to re-tool and develop some of their young talent such as (C)Sam Steel but will need a few years worth of drafting and free agent acquisitions to become once again, playoff relevant.

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