The 2021-2022 NHL season is scheduled to start on Tuesday Oct. 12, and it’ll be an exciting day for DraftKings Sportsbook bettors and hockey fans alike, as the season begins with two intriguing games. The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning will be facing off against the Pittsburgh Penguins, followed by the first ever game for the Seattle Kraken, who will be on the road against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Eastern Conference Alignment
NHL conferences are once again realigned heading into the 2021-2022 season, as this will be the second year in a row with large-scale changes to the structure of the standings. In last year’s shortened season, the NHL decided to move to four distinct divisions and eliminate conferences altogether, keeping teams contained within their own divisions to avoid excess traveling and potential COVID issues. A more normal schedule will return for the coming season, but realignment was necessary again with the Seattle Kraken entering the NHL as an expansion team.
Eastern Conference Odds
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2021, the Lightning begin the 2021-2022 NHL season as the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference. It seems perfectly reasonable, as this roster has had virtually no relevant changes from last year to this year, and the biggest difference is that Nikita Kucherov will actually be on the ice for the regular season. Kucherov was a major contributor in the playoffs and is obviously one of the best players in the NHL, but the Lightning managed to finish near the top of the standings last year with Kucherov playing a total of zero regular season minutes due to a hip injury. Kucherov returned for the playoffs and made a sizable impact, and his presence surely helps to explain why Tampa Bay is favored to come out of the East in 2021-2022.
The Lightning are followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins in terms of betting odds at the top of the board, and it makes sense as those two teams have been regular contenders for the last few years. The newest team to emerge as a conference favorite is actually the New York Rangers, as they’re the only team in the top 10 odds that didn’t make last year’s playoffs. The Rangers have plenty of top end talent, led by Artemi Panarin, but they have a handful of prospects who oddsmakers clearly seem to think are ready to make a significant impact this season.
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